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DOUG LEIER: Definition of success varies among hunters and anglers

Odds are if you asked three different hunters and anglers for their definition of quality and success, you'll be hard pressed to find any consensus. (N.D. Game and Fish Department photo)

Quality and success are two of the more difficult terms that confront fisheries and wildlife managers. In fact, many hunters and anglers probably would nod in agreement that defining quality and success is about as easy as explaining a "normal" weather pattern.

It boils down to each hunter's and angler's personal definition of what makes a quality outing or a successful hunting or fishing trip. Trying to meet those expectations is an ongoing responsibility for natural resource management agencies.

Webster's defines success as a) degree or measure of succeeding; or b) favorable or desired outcome. Quality is a) degree of excellence.

During a typical North Dakota deer season, the state Game and Fish Department expects hunter success to come in at about 70 percent. Even at that high level, however, about 30 percent of hunters don't fill a tag.

If you think about it, though, not everyone who gets a deer is completely satisfied or feels they had a quality hunt. On the other hand, some people who don't get a deer have much more positive experiences than others who are successful.

The bottom line is, simply filling a deer tag is not the only factor defining quality or success. It's kind of like going to a restaurant. If your only expectation was to leave the place no longer feeling hungry, you'd be pretty easy to please. Wouldn't matter if the food was cold, or you had to eat out of a pot with 10 other guys at the same table.

But if you wanted a choice of steak, chicken or seafood, with a side salad and a table by yourself, all with red carpet service, you'd go to a place with higher expectations for quality.

So it is with most types of hunting or fishing. Some people go fishing with hopes of catching two walleyes, and if they catch three, they feel more than successful. Someone who expects a limit and only gets three might call the Game and Fish Department to complain about the lack of fish. Or, they might catch zero fish and call it the best outing of the year because the weather was great and they were outside enjoying it.

Some hunters would rather walk several miles to a place isolated from vehicles, just so the potential for interaction with other hunters is limited. Others prefer a two-track trail on which to drive to closer proximity of their hunting stand.

Keep this in mind through all of your outdoor adventures, from late-season pheasants and archery deer into ice fishing or winter predator hunting and trapping. Only you are in control of your expectations and attitude.

Also, remember that most natural resource management agency employees also don camouflage and cast Zebco reels. They face the same obstacles and also have varying definitions when the terms success and quality are thrown around both in business and pleasure circles.

Odds are, if you asked three different hunters and anglers for their definition of quality and success, you'll be hard- pressed to find any consensus.

We're fortunate in North Dakota to have enough wildlife and space so most hunters and anglers can have a reasonable chance for achieving their personal expectations. The challenge for managing agencies is to maintain that variety so most people -- we'll never please everyone -- are satisfied with their outdoor experiences ... most of the time.

Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. Reach him by email at