Starting in December, The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will be introducing a new system that will change how people hunt and fish in Oregon. A new electronic licensing system, which includes an app for use on smartphones and tablet computers, will allow for hunters and anglers to purchase and store their ODFW tags, licenses and other validations online.

Currently, there are three ways of purchasing all the necessary paperwork needed to hunt and fish in Oregon: online, by mail or in person from a ODFW license agent or at a ODFW office. The new app, once downloaded, will allow people to also purchase these ODFW documents from their electronic devices. The app will be able to display these documents, even in areas without cell service or access to wireless internet or Wi-Fi.

When using a physical tag today, a person would attach it to the carcass with all the necessary information when required. But with the new electronic tag, all this information would be typed into the app. Then, the person would write this information, along with their name ODFW ID, date of birth and harvest date onto a piece of paper, duct tape, plastic bag or anything else they could write on and attach to the carcass.

Larry Averett, owner of Larry’s Guide Service in Roseburg, said he sees the electronic tagging system as the start of the ODFW going totally paperless and thinks they could potentially phase out the physical tags completely in the future.

“I can imagine that the government is going more paperless,” Averett said. “I imagine that later down the road that you may not even be able to get paper.”

Tom Kress, owner of Waldron’s Outdoor Sports in Roseburg, said as long as people have the option to use physical paper tags and talk to agent in person, the new electronic system will work. He’s worried that the move to a completely paperless system could be a step toward eliminating the current agent system, something he sees as a necessity for providing localized information to hunters.

“I do still think there’s gonna be a pretty significant portion of people who wanna come to an agent and have their tags printed off. I think that one thing the ODFW is missing here is that agents are quite a informational tool,” Kress said. We constantly talk to people, give them advice, tell them how to navigate the system, especially new people to it. They’re gonna miss that if they don’t [have agents].”

In addition to the electronic license system, ODFW documents will no longer be required to be printed on specialized paper. As so, people who purchase their licenses and tags online can now print them off at home with personal printers and standard printer paper. This will allow people to get their paperwork anytime of the day or week.

With the new system comes some new rules from the ODFW. It is unlawful to print off multiple copies or photocopy a tag printed off at home. Each time the tag is reprinted, the unique barcode on it changes, making it so only the most recently printed off tag is valid and usable. Oregon State Parks and ODFW will be able to scan these barcodes on the printed and electronic tags in order to ensure they are valid, even in areas without cell service of Wi-Fi. If a person loses a tag or needs one reprinted, they can go to a agent or a ODFW office and get it reprinted for a $2 fee.

While some may be against the ODFW’s move toward digital, both Averett and Kress see the changes as inevitable.

“Not everybody is computer literate or tech savvy,” Averett said. “Smartphones, not everybody has them, but it’s like everything else. Nobody had home computers 30 years ago, now you can’t hardly find a house without one. It’s progress, and there will be some growing pains, there always is. And hopefully people will become more knowledgeable about the system and how it operates.”

“There’s a generation who doesn’t wanna carry their smart phone into the woods, I’m one of them,” Kress, said. “I think that there’ll be people who still want the printed ones, but there are people who think, why do I have to carry around all this paper? So it is the move that probably needs to happen.”

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Eric Schucht is the Charles Snowden intern at The News-Review. He recently graduated from the University of Oregon.

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