New online fishing, hunting licensing system unveiled: be patient – The Columbian

A new online licensing and hunter reporting system was rolled out this week by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Washington and Idaho have revised online licensing systems with more security features in the wake of a hacker attack that breached user data in August.

Like most new online systems, they will be a tremendous time-saving convenience – but only if you can refrain from punching your fist into the computer monitor as you slog through the start-up kinks.

I didn’t need to test Washington’s new online license purchasing features since I have all of the licenses I need in 2016. So I logged on Monday to see how the system works for reporting my big-game hunting success, or lack thereof.

Filing a hunting-seasons activity report online or by phone at (877) 945-3492 is mandatory for Washington hunters.

It took me roughly 15 minutes to wade through the new system and give state wildlife officials the humiliating confirmation that I did not fill my elk tag this year.

In the past, I’ve been able to get this ego-deflating report done in a couple of minutes, usually before being totally overcome with shame and depression.

Fifteen minutes is long enough to get all stewed up. It gives your spouse time to note that in about the same time she can drive up to Egger’s and pick up some fresh well-marbled steaks.

It offers plenty of time for family members to question the $40,000 four-wheel drive pickup you tried to justify for unsuccessful elk hunting.

But I’m buoyed by the prospect that reporting hunting activity in the future will take very little time, and buying licenses will be easier and more secure than in the past.

Even veteran hunters will have to do a little initial groundwork to update their accounts under the new system. As in the past, everyone must enter a WILD ID number plus name and birth date. Then the system directs the user to set up a new user name and password.

I had some stall-outs going through the steps, but when I closed and reopened my browser, it worked smoothly.

However, the system delivered a different twist to a friend who was trying to sign on and report his big-game hunting activity at the same time.

After putting in his WILD ID, name and birth date, a window came up asking for the “document number” from any WDFW license or tag he had purchased in the “past three years.”

He entered the “Doc #” on his 2016 deer tag, but it didn’t work.

After several tries, he called the “customer help” number and within a few minutes was getting assistance. A glitch in the system was not allowing entry of documents from 2016. Only documents from 2013-2015 would suffice.

Whoa! Many hunters don’t keep tags, fishing report cards and license documents from previous years, save for the bloody tag that might be in the freezer with the meat that came back from the butcher.

And why did my buddy get the prompted for a document number while I did not?

I made a call to the top to get to the bottom of this.

“That’s a glitch that you can’t use a document from this year,” said Peter Vernie, WDFW Licensing Division manager.

“But at this time, you can call customer service and they will give you a number from a past document so you can type it in and get you going,” Vernie said, noting that a lot of problems in the rollout are being solved with customers and license dealers this week.

The reason my friend was prompted for a document number is interesting.

“It means that he was exposed in the data breach we had earlier this year,” Vernie said. “It’s a way for the system to get more specific information to confirm that someone isn’t using his identity.”

All sportsmen who purchased hunting and fishing licenses in Washington, Idaho and Oregon in recent years should have received a letter from Dallas-based ACTIVE Network, the company that ran the online licensing system that was breached this summer.

The company offered free identity theft services to license buyers whose personal information, including Social Security numbers, may have been compromised by a hacker’s August attempt to access the online license systems.

The offer, announced in September, is for consumers who purchased or applied for hunting and fishing licenses, through systems operated by ACTIVE Outdoors, in Washington prior to July 2006 and Oregon and Idaho prior to July 2007. The company said it would notify those potentially affected.

More than 2 million hunters and fishermen apparently are involved through Washington’s license sales alone.

DFW sells about 2.5 million hunting and fishing licenses and related recreational permits a year, generating about $55 million for fish, wildlife, habitat management and enforcement activities. Licenses are sold online, by telephone, and through a network of 600 business vendors across the state.

Because of the new system rollout, most hunting and fishing licenses for 2017 are not yet being sold, setting back a tradition some families have had for buying licenses as Christmas gifts.

Vernie said most licenses will be available in mid-January for the 2017-18 hunting and fishing seasons that begin April 1. The exceptions are the 2017 multiseason elk and deer licenses, which are already available.

More features to the online licensing system will be added in phases. “We didn’t want to make a lot of changes in the rollout and make things more complicated for our business vendors during the busy holiday season,” Vernie said.

Next year, hunting special permit applications will be added to the system and a page for ordering pamphlets and documents.

Phase 3 of the system rollout may include an app that allows customers to purchase licenses online, and maybe even a roadkill salvage permit from a mobile device.

Meanwhile, it’s time for hunters to file their mandatory reports. The good news is that if you have any hassles with the system, you have somebody on your side at Licensing Customer Service, (360) 902-2464. Do it.

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