Big changes will affect hunting licenses this year
June 21, 2009


With the first official day of summer just passed, it seems dreadfully early to start talking about buying our new hunting licenses, but several circumstances this year probably make that necessary.

The 2009 hunting licenses went on sale last Monday, and this year, buying your hunting license will be totally different from what we have always been used to. The Pennsylvania Automated Licensing System is now fully operational for issuing all types of hunting licenses. Fishing licenses have been processed through this electronic system for several years, but it took until now to finally work out all the bugs to facilitate issuing the many different types of hunting licenses and permits through PALS.

Gone is the cardboard back tag along with all the assorted stamps and stickers used for the various other license and permits. All of those, along with any necessary carcass tags, will be printed out on the same yellow stock that has been used for fishing licenses. And all tags will come printed with your name and address on them. We will still be required to wear our hunting license, but the new licenses will fit in a smaller holder. Fortunately, there has been some discussion in the legislature about changing the law to eliminate the silly requirement of wearing a hunting license in future years.

PALS should streamline the issuing process tremendously. All the required personal information can be obtained directly from your driver's license. The issuing agent then enters whatever license you wish to purchase, and the machine will print out all those licenses and tags, including your doe license application. After that, you pay the required fees, and you're on your way. And speaking of fees, there is now an extra 70 cents per license tacked on to cover the costs of all this electronic convenience. For example, let's say you buy your general hunting license, an archery license, a muzzleloader license, and a bear license. That would be considered as four license purchases, so an additional $2.80 will be tacked onto the total price of those licenses.

All issuing agents will also be able to issue just about every hunting license and permit available, including lifetime licenses; mentored youth hunter permits; special spring gobbler licenses; even resident landowner reduced fee hunting licenses and Deer Management Assistance Program harvest permits. Even elk and bobcat drawing applications will now be submitted directly online at any issuing agent rather than through the mail.

PALS has also made it possible to report deer and turkey harvests online instead of by sending in the report cards that the majority of hunters fail to do each season. Online reporting has been possible for DMAP permit holders for the past several years. I have used that option and am delighted to see it incorporated into the system as a whole. Hopefully this improvement will also up the reporting rate. For those folks, who aren't computer literate, there will still be paper report cards in the Hunting and Trapping Digest that comes with your license.

I suppose it's no surprise that the major speed bump in the new electronic licensing process is antlerless deer licenses, and that's because state law mandates that all antlerless deer licenses must be issued by county treasurers. Not only is that requirement outdated and just plain stupid, but it also robs Pennsylvania hunters of nearly $1 million every year. Can't we find a few good legislators with the guts and common sense to step up and have this worthless law changed?

But for this season, we are stuck with yet another incarnation of the real-life game show, "Do you want to apply for a doe license?" If you do, here's a quick look at how to do it.

First, we will be back to sending the applications directly to a county treasurer and not to the Game Commission. Any County Treasurer can now issue a doe license for any Wildlife Management Unit, so it doesn't matter what county you apply to. You will be able to list your first, second and third choice of WMU on your application. If your first choice is sold out when the application is processed, the treasurer can submit your second or third choice, if necessary.

In order to accommodate all the extra time and handling that the county treasurer connection brings to the table, the whole application process will be moved up about three weeks this year, with the first round of resident applications being accepted on July 13. The dates for nonresident and unsold license applications have been moved up by the same window.

So as I mentioned at the outset, it may seem early to be thinking about buying a new hunting license, but if you are planning to apply for a doe license, that time is just three weeks away.


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