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Doug Leier: Upgrade to Game and Fish Department's online licensing system simplifies process for hunters and anglers

I don't remember the year, but I do remember the scenario when I bought my first fishing license online. It was one of those spring days that wasn't supposed to be spring. Early April and the sun was shining, the snow was all but gone and my budd...

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department first started selling licenses online in April of 2000. N.D. Game and Fish Department photo
A lot has changed since the North Dakota Game and Fish Department started selling licenses online in April 2000. (North Dakota Game and Fish Department photo)

I don't remember the year, but I do remember the scenario when I bought my first fishing license online. It was one of those spring days that wasn't supposed to be spring. Early April and the sun was shining, the snow was all but gone and my buddy said the river was running and the walleyes were ready.

But I wasn't. I needed a new license before I could make my first cast of the season, and the first convenience store I stopped at on my way out of town was not a vendor. Neither was the second.

Rather than taking my chances and hoping I would find a vendor along the route on which I was headed, I was still close enough to home to turn around and try the new online option the North Dakota Game and Fish Department had launched.

I went back home, sat down at the computer and quickly bought my license online and printed it. The ease and convenience was priceless. I was hooked, and I started explaining to everyone the advantages of the new system and never turned back.

Since that day more than 15 years ago --- Game and Fish first started selling licenses online in April 2000-a lot has changed. Starting April 1 last year, paper licenses were eliminated, and in December, Game and Fish launched a major update to its online licensing system, which makes the process even better for hunters and anglers.

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As the 2017-18 licensing year gets underway, and people start buying their new fishing licenses that are needed after April 1, more and more North Dakota anglers and hunters are getting their first experience with the new system. For most people, it's working great, with the most notable advantage that personal information already in the system doesn't have to be re-entered with every future transaction.

Basically, you enter your name, date of birth and last four digits of your Social Security number, and up comes the rest of the information necessary to complete a license purchase.

Game and Fish IT supervisor Brian Hosek said the new system so far has met expectations and is working well. "The majority of users, such as people renewing their boat registrations and spring turkey applicants, have experienced a smooth transition, but with a major overhaul like this we expect some issues to arise that need to be worked out," Hosek said.

Game and Fish wants to identify and fix those issues, so anyone who experiences problems is urged contact the department's licensing section at (701) 328-6335.
Some other benefits of the new system include:

• Customers are able to view licenses, lottery applications and results, bonus points, boat registration, magazine and calendar orders, and more, all in one place.

• Replacement hunter education cards can be printed directly from your account page.

• Email and text notification preferences can be managed from your account page, in addition to the ability to sign up for Game and Fish news and other information delivered via email or text.

• Ability to purchase and renew magazine subscriptions and purchase North Dakota OUTDOORS calendars online.

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• It's more mobile friendly - making it easier to conduct business on a smartphone.

• A "Help" page and tutorials are available for anyone experiencing problems.

It didn't take me long to get used to the new system with my recent purchase of necessary licenses for 2017. Like other improvements in online purchasing over time, changes are incremental, and it makes you wonder how the process will continue to change in the next 15 years.

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