Much was made, and understandably so, of the decision a few years back to do away with the requirement that Pennsylvania sportsmen display their hunting license on their backs.
That had been the rule for decades, after all. You bought a license, you stuck it in a holder and you pinned it to your back. Many hunting jackets even came with loops so you didn’t have to run the pin through the material.
Now, of course, Keystone State hunters can carry their license in a pocket or even their wallet.
That’s worked out OK, for hunters and law enforcement officers, so much so that, periodically, people ask why they have to wear their Pennsylvania fishing license, or at least a fishing license button.
Interestingly, one state’s gone even further.
Starting this year, South Dakota’s Game, Fish and Parks Department is allowing hunters to log into their online licensing account on their smartphone, view their small game, fishing or trapping license and take a picture or screenshot of it. Having that picture on their phone counts the same as carrying a paper license when afield.
Conservation officers can scan a bar code in the upper right hand corner of that electronic license to do things like check its validity.
The electronic version of a license isn’t all-encompassing, necessarily. Hunters still need to carry paper versions of federal waterfowl stamps and tags and licenses mailed from the agency – much like doe tags are mailed here.
And those hunters who choose to rely on a paper license can still do so.
But the agency is trying to be customer friendly.
“As technology evolves, (Game, Fish and Parks) is committed to actively engaging with hunters, anglers and trappers across the state to provide them with the digital services that make it easier to do business with us,” reads a press release from the agency.
The electronic license won’t be foolproof, I’d guess. What if you’re hunting legally, but your phone battery dies in the woods, for example? If you’re stopped by a conservation officer who asks to see your license, what happens?
But nothing’s ever perfect. Even now, a hunter can forget a paper license at home, or – as happens here often, according to conservation officers – forget to replace their old license with their new one.
Credit Game, Fish and Parks for at least being forward thinking.