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Saturday, February 02, 2008

The New License System is Finally Here

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, Warren, PA, Feb. 2, 2008.)
If you are not tech-savvy, don’t worry. You won’t have
to struggle through a difficult self-service computer system.
At last. The “point-of-sale” system for buying hunting licenses will arrive in time for the 2008-2009 license year.

Pennsylvania sportsmen are finally entering the electronic age as the Pennsylvania Game Commission and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission replace their respective paper-based licensing systems with a common computer-based automated system.

If you are not tech-savvy, don’t worry. You won’t have to struggle through a difficult self-service computer system. And you won’t have to stand before the issuing agent and answer a load of questions about yourself.

When you stop into a store to buy your hunting license, you’ll just swipe your driver’s license through a magnetic reader – similar to the credit card reader at most store checkouts. (Obviously there will be a little more to it if you don’t have a driver’s license.)

The agent will then offer you the opportunity to confirm current personal data (such as name, address and date of birth), make corrections, choose your licenses and stamps, and make the payment. Everything (including harvest tags) will be printed on waterproof, tear-resistant material.

Once you buy your first license under the new system, all the personal data the licensing agent asks for will be in the system, eliminating the tedium of answering personal questions about your height, body weight and eye color.

With this streamlined system you’ll always receive the same license number, just as you do with your driver’s license. Once you’ve purchased a license under the new system, you’ll no longer have to give your social security number to the agent. And hunters will now have the option of submitting big game harvest reports using the Internet.

The benefits are not only to the hunter. The licensing agents and the Commission will enjoy some pluses. Auditing and reporting information to Harrisburg will no longer be a manual process for agents. The Commission will gain easier access to demographic information about who is buying licenses – including age, gender, dates of purchase and other data.

Knowing who is buying licenses and when they buy them are important to the Commission’s ability to market its services – and might help stem the downward trend in license sales.

Although antlerless licenses can’t at the present time be included in the point-of-sale system (because state law prevents it), a hunter will now be able to mail an antlerless application to any county treasurer – regardless of the Wildlife Management Unit he or she plans to hunt in.

The new system will eliminate the task of resubmitting antlerless deer license applications for second and third choices of Wildlife Management Units. The hunter will indicate first, second and third preferences on the first application.

Be warned that antlerless application deadlines will be earlier – the first round deadline will be the third Monday in July. Check your Hunting and Trapping Digest for the complete timeline.

One more thing the PGC should do: eliminate the back-tag and allow the hunter to carry his license in a wallet. At least three times, I’ve lost my license when my holder tore or became unpinned from my jacket. Each time I was lucky enough to find it. Once, I was walking across a field with my back to the wind, and someone’s license came blowing by me. I ran to pick it up and discovered that it was mine. Good thing the wind wasn’t blowing another direction.

That proves first, that sitting with my back to a tree calling a turkey is hard on my license holder. Second, that duct tape is one of the hunter’s best friends. And third, that sometimes hunters need to be lucky.

Speaking of luck, realism says this system will probably need a little luck to iron out any wrinkles. Optimism says this new system is sure to be better than the old one. If you have difficulty the first time, exercise some of the patience that hunters and fishermen are famous for.


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