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Internet services help outdoorsmen

February 27, 2005

The Internet and the services offered on it have really changed our lives. Examples of the way we can use the Internet include researching and purchasing almost anything related to outdoors recreation.

A good example occurred this past New Year's Eve, when I needed to find a license agent in order to go goose hunting in West Virginia on New Year's Day. (The hunting license in West Virginia runs on a calendar-year basis).

The answer was on the Internet. In a matter of five-to-10 minutes, I was on the West Virginia DNR Web site and purchased a 2005 hunting and fishing combo license along with the needed tags.

I have also used the Internet to buy hunting and fishing licenses from Virginia. This is a very nice and very convenient service.

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The Maryland DNR has recently added this online or phone license buying capability. Unfortunately the system, as described in the DNR news release, appears so bureaucratic and convoluted that it will be of little value or convenience.

To buy your license on the Internet you will need to go to the the Web site http://www.wildlifelicense.com/md. You can also order by phone by calling 1-800-918-2870. The DNR reports that after you complete your purchase, you will be issued a Temporary Authorization Number that will serve as a valid license for up to 14 days from the purchase date.

In contrast to neighboring states, many Maryland licenses will not be available to print immediately. Fishing licenses can apparently be printed immediately, as well as short-term hunting licenses and permits. (You can't wait for 10 days to receive a five-day license).

But, according to the DNR release and Web site, if you are planning to hunt deer or turkey within the 10 days following the purchase day, you will need to find a license agent. Annual hunting licenses purchased online or by phone will be mailed to you. The reason given is that the DNR must be sure that you receive important documents such as the Hunting and Trapping Guide, harvest report cards and game tags. The fact that other states provide this material online apparently escaped the decision-makers in Annapolis.

The other particularly ludicrous aspect of this new program is that you must also pay a "convenience fee" for using the online ordering system. The DNR says the total will be based on 2.5 percent of your order, plus $1, plus 75 cents for a fishing license or $1.50 for a hunting license. Maybe it's me, but I'm not seeing any convenience in waiting seven-to-10 days to receive my license via U.S. Mail. I certainly don't feel like paying extra to wait seven-to-10 days.

Maryland's hunters and fishermen deserve a better Internet system.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail.

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