Friday, November 11, 2011

Paperless Licenses Likely In Sportsmens' Future

While most hunters and anglers are still using the services of a licensing vendor to buy their documents the winds of change are beginning to blow.

Research conducted by and has found that 58 percent of those hunters surveyed still purchase their licenses through a retailer, while 61 percent of surveyed anglers bought theirs at a local store as well.

Retailers often count on their role as a sporting license vendor to lead to additional sales of hunting- and fishing-related equipment when consumers visit to buy a permit, the survey polling firm says.

At the same time the Southwick and Associates’ two-survey program say that as many as 24 percent of hunters and 25 percent of surveyed anglers reported purchasing licenses online.

Which hardly surprises Korey Brown, the Ohio Division of Wildlife administrator in charge of Ohio’s all-new Internet-based license-issuing system.

Additionally, more than 17 percent of hunters and just over 14 percent of fishermen bought permits directly through a game agency or government office or through some other source.

“Although paperless licensing is not a stated goal, it is certainly in the conversation,” Brown says.

“The day that we can bridge the communications gap - guaranteeing that law enforcement officers have 100-percent cell phone coverage and/or have the ability to remotely access the central license database, is the day we’ll begin to talk seriously about paperless licensing.”

Brown bases this assumption partially on what has happened to the airline industry. In the span of just the past 10 years the airline industry went from mandatory multi-layered paper-tickets to mandatory paperless e-tickets, Brown said.

“Against this backdrop, paperless hunting and fishing licenses don’t seem all that farfetched,” Brown said.

Indeed it does not, agrees Rob Southwick, President of Southwick and Associates.

“Retail license purchases will probably never die,” Southwick says. “However, the proliferation of high speed internet connectivity, the widespread acceptance of e-commerce, and the incredible increase in smart-phone usage indicate that it’s just a matter of time before Internet purchases eclipse retail purchases as the most popular method of transacting.”

And yet Southwick notes that even though every state game agency in the country now providing regulations, season dates, bag limits and other hunting and fishing information online - as well as the popularity of digital products such as websites, apps, mobile phones and smart tablets - “it is interesting to note that the printed regulations book remains a critical resource to today’s hunter and angler.”

“More than 84 percent of surveyed hunters said they had received or expect to receive the regulations booklet,” said Southwick. “And of that number, a whopping 96 percent said they have read or plan to read the booklet, with more than 54 percent revealing they read it more than once and nearly 24 percent citing they use it as a resource throughout the season.”

On the fishing side, 89 percent of survey respondents said they have read or plan to read the regulations booklet, with more than 54 percent revealing they read it more than once and 17 percent saying they use it as a resource all season, says Southwick.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

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