When I heard that Charles Fox, president of the Board of Game Commissioners, at their July meeting directed agency staff to explore the potential for issuing antlerless deer licenses directly through the commission, I thought, “Not again – the lawmakers will never allow the county treasurers to be cut out of the process.”
But then I realized, with COVID-19 concerns changing everything, this is the perfect time to push for the needed change to bring antlerless deer license sales into the internet era. Such a move would save the Game Commission money that could be better spent on hunting- and habitat-related needs and provide doe license buyers safer, faster, better and more reliable service.
Maybe Fox’s move is really genius – the right action at the right time. The COVID-19 crisis has shown us all how online and direct purchases can be safer and better for most products.
The mail-in antlerless application process is mandated by state law, and changing it would require legislation, Fox conceded, but he asked staff to “proactively explore the possible alternatives for application and award of licenses should the law permit changes.”
Commissioner Fox noted that the commission has heard from many hunters who would support revising the current system in favor of a more customer-friendly process for applying for an antlerless license. So far as I can tell, this is the fourth time since the Game Commission changed to a computerized point of sale licensing system in 2008 that an effort has been made to cut the county treasurers out of the antlerless deer license sales process.
In each case, lobbied by the County Treasurers Association, lawmakers refused to allow the changes. It’s all about money. Selling doe licenses is a money maker for the treasurers’ offices. Licenses cost $ 6.70; 70 cents of that goes to the company that runs the electronic point of sales licensing system and $ 5 goes to the Game Commission. Treasurers collect the other $ 1 from every license sold. That adds up to about $ 1 million spread amongst the counties each year.
The first serious attempt I can recall to cut the county treasurers out of doe tag sales was made in 2009 by former state representative Ed Staback, who was then majority chairman of the House Game and Fisheries Committee.
“Now when hunters can sit at home or walk into a store and buy their licenses in minutes electronically online or using the point of sale PALS system – requiring hunters to mail in paper applications to county treasurers, then wait weeks to find out if they were awarded a doe license, is wasteful, unnecessary and outdated,” he told me.
“It’s quite possible,” Staback added, “that we’re at a point where that doesn’t make as much sense as it once did.”
Ya think? And that was 11 years ago! But back then Ed, who was a Democrat, couldn’t get enough of his comrades in his party to support such a change, let alone enough Republicans, who were said at the time to be very sympathetic to county treasurers’ worries about losing revenue in their offices.
The measure didn’t even come up for a vote, and it hasn’t the other handful of times over the years when a few lawmakers have had the temerity to bring the idea up and advocate for a change.
Even in years when treasurers’ offices made major screw-ups that resulted in many hunters not getting antlerless licenses they should have, initiatives to cut county treasurers out of antler license sales went nowhere.
So, forgive me if I am not optimistic about Fox’s effort. But maybe COVID-19 might show lawmakers it’s high time to let it happen.
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