With the Massachusetts deer and duck hunting seasons in full swing, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) last week announced significant changes in licensing and the checking in of game animals.
Beginning in 2012, DFW will eliminate the sale of handwritten hunting licenses and season permit stamps. All sporting licenses, including hunting and fishing, will only be available electronically: online through the DFW website, at the offices of participating town clerks, and at authorized vendors, generally large sporting goods stores.
Only the town clerks in Chilmark and West Tisbury will process state hunting licenses electronically, according to the DFW.
Also, with the exception of shotgun week, in 2012 hunters will not have to transport their game to an official check station but will be able to check in game animals online. “The reason for that is we need to get the biological data we collect from the check stations during shotgun season to drive the whole system,” Wayne MacCallum, DFW director said in a recent telephone conversation with The Times.
Online checking will be particularly good news for Island hunters who often faced a time-consuming task following the recovery of a deer. Currently, only Larry’s Tackle in Edgartown and the Wampanoag Tribe natural resources department in Aquinnah provide fixed hours when a hunter can check in a deer outside of shotgun season.
The change to an all electronic system DFW calls “MassFishHunt,” is part of a nationwide trend among wildlife agencies that includes contracting with an outside vendor to process all license sales. The move will save money and provide added convenience, wildlife officials said.
“Most of our licenses are being sold by the big-box vendors now, the Walmarts, the Dick’s, Bass Pro,” Mr. MacCallum said. “That’s because they are open seven days a week at convenient hours.”
Licenses and archery, waterfowl and primitive firearm season stamps are now available any time to anyone with access to the Internet and a printer. This is particularly useful when you want to go duck hunting on New Year’s Day and realize you have forgotten to get next year’s license.
Mr. MacCallum said the new system assigns the customer an identification number and that number is used for all transactions. A lost license is easily replaced and the number allows for easy verification by game officers.
Mr. MacCallum said the system significantly reduces costs for the division so that the maximum amount of money will go to programs and not to collect money. That license revenue and a tax on sporting purchases fund DFW programs that benefit sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts across the state.
In the last fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2011, DFW sold a total of 212,000 fishing, hunting, and trapping licenses for total gross license sales of $4,842,270.
Stamp sales added another $1,304,297 to the coffers.
Two federal programs that benefit fishing and hunting programs through an excise tax on sporting purchases generated more than $5 million for DFW programs.
“All of the money that we use to operate comes out of the pockets of the sportsmen and women in Massachusetts that buy a hunting or fishing license or buy any equipment associated with fishing or hunting through the Pittman Robertson programs,” Mr. MacCallum said.
In 1934, the federal Migratory Bird Stamp Act created a stamp that waterfowl hunters must purchase and which generates funds to underwrite the Migratory Bird Conservation Act.
The stamps are the subject of an annual art competition. Since 1934, sales of the Federal Duck Stamp have generated $750 million to conserve 5.3 million acres of America’s wetlands.
In 1974, Mass lawmakers approved a similar measure, the Massachusetts Waterfowl Stamp program. The model for the painting was required to be a working decoy of a duck, goose, or shorebird made by a known or unknown deceased Massachusetts decoy maker.
A painting by Randy Julius of East Bridgewater, of a Brant goose decoy, carved by Joseph Lincoln of Hingham captured the top honors in the 2011 Massachusetts Waterfowl Stamp competition.
In 1960 DFW issued archery stamps. In 1980, with the newly established primitive firearms deer hunting season, the state created an archery/primitive firearms stamp. In 1996, two stamps were created; one stamp for archery and a separate stamp for the primitive firearms season.
The annual sale of archery stamps and primitive firearms stamps generates over $250,000 for wildlife research, management and restoration, according to DFW.
Jeffrey Klinefelter of Etna Green, Indiana, won the 2011 archery stamp competition with his painting of four deer against a sunset sky. The 2010 archery stamp featured a goache of a bounding buck by Mr. Klinefelter.
Mike Brown of Canton, Georgia, won the Primitive Firearms stamp competition with a painting of a pair of whitetails in the snow.
The stamp art competition program will now end.
“No longer will there be an art competition or a run of full-color stamps (and we will miss both of these elements),” Ellie Horwitz, DFW chief of information and education said in a published piece. “Instead, the Massachusetts Waterfowl Stamp will be imprinted directly on the license, and more of the funds collected will be put ‘on the ground’ for waterfowl and associated wildlife habitat.”
DFW still issues special stamps for the archery, muzzle loader, and waterfowl seasons. However, instead of a piece of original artwork pasted into a license that hunters and non-hunters admired and collected, the hunter now sees a typed line verifying the purchase of a season stamp on a plain piece of printer paper.
Generally speaking, hunters value tradition. They are also quick to embrace new technology. Mr. MacCallum is among the many hunters who value the convenience of the new system but agrees that the transition has its drawbacks.
“Do you agree with me,” I asked, “that it is sad to see the stamps disappear from the license?”
“Very much,” Mr. MacCallum said, “especially when I go home and look at them.”