Monday, February 27, 2017

Ohio's anglers, hunters increasingly going digital for their tags and licenses

Ohio’s angling and hunting license buyers increasingly are working at the speed of “E.”
With the state having gone to the use of an electronic-based system in 2004 – presumably one the Russians won’t see any value in hacking – the number of both hunters and anglers phoning in or clicking a computer mouse to obtain their required paperwork continues to rise.

Hunters also are more inclined to obtain their documents on-line than are anglers who more often than not visit one of the state’s approximately 1,100 brick-and-mortar businesses and which are state-sanctioned license-issuing agents.

“We believe that has to do with the fact that anglers have to stop into a store to buy bait anyway, so they buy their licenses while they are there,” said John Windau, the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s communications manager.

“Hunters on the other hand, already have their gear at home and don’t need to stop at a store before heading out.”

Even so, the numbers do clearly show that senior citizens rely on electronic means much less frequently as a percentage than does the rest of the hunting and angling population.

For resident anglers in 2016 – and as a percentage – 1.6 percent fewer eligible Ohio resident senior citizens bought their reduced cost fishing licenses via the Internet than did resident adult anglers as a whole. For resident hunters the gap was substantially greater: 8.9 percent.

Also, less than one percent of those eligible to buy a reduced cost/senior citizen hunting license last year employed a mobile device such as a cell phone or tablet.

No group, however, utilizes on-line license buying more than do non-resident anglers and hunters. In 2016 fully 36.4 percent of non-resident anglers bought their annual fishing licenses on-line. Another 8.6 percent did so using their “smart phones.”

By comparison, only 16.4 percent of adult Ohio residents bought their fishing licenses on-line and 5.8 percent utilized a mobile device. For those Ohioans eligible for the state’s reduced cost licenses the figures are even smaller: 14.8 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively.

For hunters, however, all of the numbers are greater; including for non-resident hunters. In this category, nearly 41 percent of non-resident hunters last year used the Internet to buy their general hunting license while 7.1 percent used a mobile device.

And the sale of resident hunting licenses via the Internet eclipsed those sold to resident anglers, too, as last year 24.7 percent of them were sold over the Internet. Another 5.1 percent utilized a mobile device, a slightly smaller figure than for resident anglers.

Again, though, non-resident deer hunters were more likely to employ the Internet than were Ohio residents. Last year 25.1 percent of Ohio resident either-sex deer-hunting tags were sold via the Internet and another 4.7 percent via mobile device.
The number was 39.2 percent when it came to either-sex deer tags being sold to non-residents via the Internet, however, with another 6.6 percent by the use mobile devices.
Although sales of both spring and fall turkey-hunting permits still favor brick-and-mortar locations, Internet-based sales are robust. In 2016, 33.6 percent of resident adult spring turkey permits were purchased on-line. A figure, by the way, which jumped to 49.5 percent for adult non-resident turkey hunters.

Fall turkey hunters rely more on the Internet than do spring turkey hunters, too. Last year 42.9 percent of Ohio adult resident fall turkey-hunting permits were sold via the Internet. Meanwhile, 55.4 percent of adult non-resident fall turkey-hunting permits were sold by means of the Internet.

And in very nearly every category the number of both hunters and anglers reaching for their cell phones or using their home computers to buy their necessary licenses and tags has increased since 2014. Examples include for resident anglers where the rise was 2.4 percent and resident hunting licenses with an increase of 2.7 percent.

In fact, Windau says, the growth in Internet/mobile device sales of all licenses and tags is demonstrating a growth rate on the order of one percent-plus annually.

Expect nothing but further development in this arena as well, though the state legislature will have a big say in any expansion.

“Internet sales are a way for the Division of Wildlife to better serve our customers,” also says Karen Norris, Wildlife Division communications specialist.

“As technology improves we would like to continue to make things more convenient for our customers. Someday this might be to have a paperless system. Currently, under the Ohio Revised Code, hunters are required to validate their deer and/or turkey tags.

This requirement limits the Division from being completely paperless now.”
In all last year, Ohio issued 388,036 general hunting licenses and excluding such special tags as those required to trap, hunt deer, turkey and waterfowl and also shooting range permits; along with issuing 885,641 fishing licenses of all kinds.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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