Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fishing license sales nosedive; hunting license and duplicate sales soar

With the fishing season rounding its final bend sales of the required documents are well off last year’s pace.

In virtually every fishing license segment the sales declined from the same period last year, including sales of the all-important resident annual fishing licenses.

These sales are down by 56,871 documents for a decline worth more than $1 million, or off 9.54 percent.

Up, though, are sales of nearly every type of hunting license, including sales of the various deer tags though the first season for hunting white-tails is still almost six weeks away.

And for some reason or another sales of duplicate licenses have risen dramatically, especially for duplicate hunting licenses whose sales have gone through the roof.

For the period Feb. 15 to July 31 the Ohio Division of Wildlife sold 539,537 annual resident fishing licenses. During the same time frame in 2010 the agency processed 596,408 documents.

Down as well were annual non-resident fishing licenses (off 1,945 documents), non-resident three-day licenses (a decline of 3,298 tags), and one-day fishing licenses (a drop of 4,563 permits).

Up, however, were the issuances of duplicate fishing licenses: from 4,202 documents during the Feb. 15, 2010 to July 31, 2010 period and compared to the 5,091 duplicates issued from Feb. 15, 2011 to July 31, 2011.

More on this point in a moment.

In all, the Ohio Division of Wildlife has seen its income derived from sales of fishing licenses tumble 9.09 percent, or in real dollars, a drop of $1.25 million.

“You’d like a steady income but that’s not always possible,” said Vicki Ervin, spokeswoman for the Wildlife Division. “It was pretty much weather-related; it’s been a tough year, weather-wise, that’s for sure.”

However, sales of hunting licenses are improving even though the bulk of these documents have yet to be sold.

But the advance signs point to good hunting document sales, and that is encouraging news for the Wildlife Division.

Resident hunting license sales increased from 62,708 documents sold for the Feb. 15, 2010 to July 31, 2010 period and compared to the 64,832 resident hunting licenses issued for the same time frame this year.

Up as well are sales of non-resident hunting licenses, general either-sex (special) deer tags, antlerless-only permits, state waterfowl stamp, state wildlife stamp, youth-only deer tags, and reduced rate senior citizen deer tags of both kinds.

The bottom line is that the Wildlife Division has issued 9,297 more hunting documents than for the same period in 2010. The net result is a revenue increase of $143,881.

“It is encouraging that hunting license sales are up, and maybe it’s because of the new system of buying licenses,” Ervin said. “It’s a tough call.”
nterestingly enough, however, is that the number of duplicate hunting license documents has soared by a factor of 739 percent. In real numbers that translates into 607 duplicate licenses being issued from Feb. 15, 2010 to July 31, 2010 to 5,092 such duplicate licenses issued for the same period this year.

“The fact that the duplicate license sales are up doesn’t surprise us but the number is,” said Kory Brown, the Wildlife Division’s license manager.

Several reasons are cited by Brown for why so many duplicates are being printed.

They include because of the new license-issuing system but also because hunters are coming to find that the documents themselves “aren’t very durable,” Brown said.

“And they weren’t designed to be,” he said.

Thirdly, says Brown, individual license-issuing agents are using their own equipment and have seen challenges in printing them on the paper stock given them by the Wildlife Division.

“We’re going to be reviewing our business rules as they relate to how long issuing agents have to void a license should they have a printing problem. I believe we’ll see a major improvement next year where we’ll all go to plain white copy paper everywhere,” Brown said.

Brown said also that he personally expects that at some point the agency will adopt a paperless license-issuing system, depending nearly entirely on electronic technology.

“And it probably won’t be that long; maybe 4 or 5 years where you’re given a number for your smartphone and it can be checked through a computer,” Brown said. “But there are logistical problems now but I think we’ll always have a printed option.”

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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