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Doug Leier: Online lottery applications continue with spring turkey season

The North Dakota spring turkey application deadline is coming up on Feb. 14. N.D. Game and Fish Department photo

West Fargo

The North Dakota spring turkey license application period is open right now, and for most hunters, the process will be business as usual.

For spring turkey last year, and for all other lottery licenses in 2017, just about 90 percent of prospective hunters submitted their applications online. The other 10 percent filled out and mailed in a paper application, but that option is no longer available this year, as the state Game and Fish Department is continuing its transition of all licenses and applications to its electronic system.

The only place you can apply for a lottery spring turkey license this time around is through the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov or via the toll-free instant licensing phone number at (800) 406-6409. The phone option is not available for gratis licenses; those must be completed on the Game and Fish website.

Game and Fish started its transition to online-only lottery applications last summer, first with swan, followed by fall turkey. This year that transition continues with spring turkey, and will also include moose, elk and sheep in March, and deer gun, muzzleloader and deer gratis in June.

This gradual transition has its roots in 2015 legislation that required the Game and Fish Department to develop an all-electronic licensing system and phase out the old paper license books. That went into effect April 1, 2016, so for nearly two full years now all license buyers have had to purchase their hunting and fishing licenses through the Game and Fish website, at license vendors who are linked into the Game and Fish electronic licensing system, or by calling the Game and Fish toll-free instant licensing system.

Another part of that plan was that Game and Fish would eventually phase out paper applications for lottery licenses within a few years as well.

With a significant majority of hunters already comfortable with online applications, and the smooth transition for swan and fall turkey application periods last year, Game and Fish administration feels it is the right time to take the next step.

One of the notable benefits is that Game and Fish will realize significant cost savings from not having to print and distribute paper applications, and not having to hire as many temporary employees to key in all the data contained in paper applications.

Another major benefit is a shorter turnaround time between the application deadline and when the lotteries are run, so hunters will find out sooner if they got a license.

One big challenge the Game and Fish Department is starting to address early is moving gratis applications online. Last year, approximately 3,000 of 13,000 gratis deer license applications came in via paper. We're starting early to try to get the word out, so most people have time to line up alternatives if they don't have access to a computer, and aren't taken by surprise as the various deadlines approach.

The spring turkey application deadline, the first of those benchmarks, is coming up on Feb. 14. Apply online right now at www.gf.nd.gov.

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