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Licensing method computes

Pa. Automated License System will increase data about hunters on their demographics and interests.

Beginning this year, hunters purchasing a 2009 hunting license will do so through a new automated system. The licenses will be yellow just like a fishing license, and they must be displayed while hunting.

Paul Scavone, co-owner of J & S Sporting Goods in Wilkes-Barre Township, uses a new computer system for selling hunting licenses.

Clark Van Orden/The Times Leader

By name alone, the new method to purchase a Pennsylvania hunting license sounds daunting.

The Pennsylvania Automated License System, which will be up and running when 2009-10 hunting licenses go on sale June 15, seems like a confusing high-tech process in which a license buyer can easily get lost.

But in reality, it’s really quite simple. If you can use an ATM, you can use PALS.

Rather than enter personal information into a cumbersome book, license-issuing agents will just swipe the purchaser’s driver’s license into a computer, enter their Social Security number and ask them what tags (archery, muzzleloader, etc.) they want printed on the license.

And it gets easier from there.

The following year, hunters who have already purchased a license through PALS will simply need to swipe their driver’s license, enter their Customer Identification Number and choose their tags. No Social Security number will need to be entered a second time.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Pennsylvania Game Commission spokesman Jerry Feaser. “It’s been at least two years in the making and it’s something our hunters have wanted.”

And so has the agency.

PALS will provide the game commission, and hunters, with new insight into the demographics of license buyers. It’s an aspect that for decades has been lacking simply because the agency didn’t have the computerized database that PALS will create.

Feaser said the information generated by PALS will enable the agency to fine-tune where license buyers reside, where they hunt, what firearm (rifle, bow, etc.) they hunt with and what species they hunt.

If you want to know how many license buyers reside in your region compared to the rest of the state, PALS can tell you.

“It’s not going to be Big Brother or anything like that, but it does have the ability to exponentially increase the amount of information we have about our hunters and what they think and do,” Feaser said. “Once you develop that database, it’s basically limitless what you can pull out of there.”

It will also make it easier for the agency to survey hunters and get their opinions.

According to Feaser, when a hunter buys a license through PALS, part of the process might include a single survey question to get their opinion about an agency practice, a particular season or a potential change.

And with the issuing of a Customer Identification Number, the agency can also ask hunters who don’t buy a license every year, why.

But first, the PGC simply wants to get the system up and running and get a year of license sales under its belt before it gives PALS a true test ride.

“We’re not going to try to get everything out of it in the first year,” Feaser said. Still, there is plenty more that PALS will be able to do in its first year.

The computerized database will instantly identify a person who had their license buying privileges revoked in the event they attempt to purchase a license.

It will also print a license buyer’s personal information – name, address, date of birth, etc., on the license and tags, thus limiting the amount of information that needs to be filled in while in the field.

Perhaps the biggest change in the new system pertains to antlerless license applications. Previously, hunters could begin sending in their antlerless license applications on the first Monday in August. Now, the date has been pushed up to July 13 and the applications will be sent directly to county treasurers and not the game commission.

Feaser said the change was made to accommodate the early archery season in the special regulation areas. By moving the acceptance date up three weeks, it will give county treasurers more time to process antlerless license applications for all Wildlife Management Units.

Also, those applying for an antlerless license will need to list their top three WMU preferences in the order of where they want to hunt.

If the antlerless licenses are sold out for the applicants first choice, a license will be issued for the second choice or third, whichever is available.

“It’s important to prioritize your picks,” Feaser said. “You should also plan on buying your hunting license earlier so you can get your antlerless application in for July 13.”

A PALS-issued license will resemble the current licenses issued by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, which already uses the system.

Hunters will still be required to display their license, and harvest tags will still have to be attached to any big game.

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