More than 68,000 licensed hunters across the state received an email Tuesday morning with a unique link to the 2016-17 Big and Small Game Harvest Survey, and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is encouraging everyone to take the time to fill it out.

Larry Reynolds, the LDWF’s waterfowl study leader, said there was some confusion because the email survey, which is being conducted by the LSU School of Renewable Natural Resources for the Department, went out under a student worker’s name. 

So it showed up in hunters’ inboxes from someone they likely don’t know — rather than coming from LDWF or LSU.

“The first wave of response I got was, ‘Is this legit?’ Reynolds said. 

It is, and he said the email component of the survey that went out Tuesday supplemented a mail out survey that was delivered about three weeks ago to a random sample of 6 percent of state hunters. 

“This is the department’s annual harvest survey,” Reynolds said. “The intention is to estimate the number of days hunted and the number of animals killed. That’s the goal.”

It takes only about 10 minutes to complete, Reynolds said. He hopes one day email-delivered surveys will eventually replace traditional mail out campaigns. 

In the 2015 Waterfowl Hunter Survey, he said the Department found that data gathered from email-generated responses was almost identical to mailed-in returns relating to hunting activity and attitudinal questions — for example, how satisfied hunters were with season dates — at a fraction of the cost.

“The email survey was only 37 cents per usable return, as opposed to $85 dollars per usable return for the random mail survey,” he said. 

The huge price difference is because workers have to manually open the mail and then spend months inputting data, while the online email survey uses Qualtrics software that instantly summarizes survey responses.

If you didn’t receive an email survey on Tuesday, Reynolds said it’s likely because the Department doesn’t have a valid email address on file for you. To be considered for future surveys, just go to the LDWF website here and update your information.

“There’s a big banner that says you can buy your hunting licenses or update your contact information,” he said. “If you click there, you can add an email address ….

“If I could draw this up, I would like to have every single hunter have an email address in the LDWF license database. In that case, I could take a truly random sample of all Louisiana hunters and send them a survey by email — and it would be cheap.”

In about 24 hours, as of Wednesday afternoon Reynolds said they had already received more than 7,000 email survey responses. 

He encouraged everyone who got an email invite to fill it out electronically by May 31, when the survey closes.

“Obviously, we’d like as high a response rate as possible,” he said. “Ultimately, we’re going to compare the results from the email survey and the mail out survey and use that information in future designs to generate the highest quality, most cost-effective estimates we can get.”