Most local outdoor stores will still sell 2019 fishing and hunting licenses after the state Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) debuted a new smartphone app in hopes of saving the state $2 million a year.

But the process — which can be done at home — will be a bit different.

The new licensing system went into effect Dec. 1 when the agency penned an eight-year contract with JMT Technologies; it will cost the ODFW $1.15 million per year in that time. The Hunt Valley, Maryland-based geospatial technology company operates primarily throughout the Eastern Seaboard and the South, but has penned a similar agreement with the state of Washington.

The use of smartphones is what prompted ODFW to consider the change, its website reads, along with providing better customer service, reducing operating costs and modernizing the system. The system will also allow ODFW and Oregon State Police to look up licensing information while in the field and offline, which is not possible under the current system.

“Customers will be able to buy and print their documents directly from home, 24 hours a day, without waiting for them to be mailed like under the current system,” the website reads. “Or, customers can choose to buy and immediately use an electronic document, keeping licenses/tags/validations on their smartphone instead of in their pockets.”

The savings will come from eliminating the use of the specialty waterproof paper and computer equipment.

How it works

With the new app, available at MyODFW.com, fishermen and hunters can either sign up as a new customer or access their existing or old license information. Much of the information is tied to a hunter’s email address.

“The email address is one way customers can be found and identified in the new system and tied to their specific licensing information,” ODFW officials said. “Also, with the new system, ODFW is switching its primary communication method with customers from mail to email for cost savings and efficiency.”

The ODFW office in Gold Beach is a full-service office and will continue to sell licenses for those without smartphones, internet, “expertise or confidence,” the ODFW said.

Bi-Mart and Chetco Outdoor Store in Brookings and Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach will offer the services at their stores. Fred Meyer is still working to incorporate the program.

Once licenses and tags are stored on a smartphone, paper documents will no longer be required, although users can still print them out — and in some cases might prefer that as a backup method in case a phone battery dies.

The new licenses, however, are being printed on regular, not waterproof paper, thus requiring fishermen and hunters to keep it dry; ziploc bags has been suggested as a solution.

The ease of tech?

Many people are finding the process daunting, from the would-be license sellers which are balking at changes in how the fees are transferred from them to the DOW, down the line to the first-time and out-of-state fisherman.

“A new angler, visiting from out of state, may have to spend half an hour trying to figure out how to buy a one-day license and download the app,” said Wild Rivers Fishing charter owner Andy Martin. “There are longtime license agents (such as) mini markets and tackle shops across the state deciding to no longer sell fishing and hunting licenses because of the change.”

The ODFW reported that, in 2016, the latest year for which figures are certified by the federal government, there were 335,543 hunters and 650,435 anglers in Oregon, with 223,589 of them holding combination licenses.

It will take a year or two, to see how many make the switch from paper to smartphone app, said department spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy, adding that the department expects most will negotiate the technical threshold.

“There’s bound to be confusion in a couple of weeks, as with anything new,” she said.

To record catches, anglers enter them on the app, even if they are out of cellphone range; the app will store the information until they get within range. The system also allows people to “pin” where they caught their fish, but also acknowledges that secret fishing holes might not want to be revealed, so the precise spot where the fish was landed isn’t required to be reported.

Hunting is more complex.

Tag information will be on the app, but hunters must bring something to fix to the animal bagged. One suggestion bandied about is the use of duct tape, on which the hunter must right down their tag number.

Another challenge is that each licensee — whether on paper or app — will need their own email, complicating things for parents of up-and-coming anglers and hunters. Those without computers can get help from ODFW offices.

And come March, people can purchase licenses or tags for others as gifts.

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