In 2015, the North Dakota Legislature passed a law that required the North Dakota State 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. Another part of that plan was to eventually phase out paper applications for lottery licenses, which includes spring and fall turkey, deer gun, swan, pronghorn and moose, elk and sheep.
That transition is in progress now, as only moose, elk and sheep this month, and then deer gun and muzzleloader in June remain to complete the move to online only.
Here's some frequently asked questions. More information is available on the Game and Fish Dept. website, gf.nd.gov.
Q: Why now?
A: In 2017, more than 90 percent of regular lottery applications, and nearly 75 percent of gratis applications, were already submitted online/electronically. In addition, starting last summer Game and Fish moved the nonresident deer, swan and fall turkey applications to online only with few associated problems.
With a significant majority of hunters already comfortable with online applications, and relative success with the other seasons last year, Game and Fish administration felt it was the right time to take the next step and go to online-only for the high volume deer and moose, elk, sheep lotteries. This will mean a 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 that the turn-around time between the application deadline and when lotteries are run should be reduced considerably.
Q: Will this new initiative also include gratis applications? Will the deadline remain the same?
A: Yes, all gratis applications will now have to be submitted online only using the Game and Fish website,gf.nd.gov. The deadline for gratis deer license applications is the same as for regular lottery applications, which is June 6 this year. However, Game and Fish is planning to start taking gratis deer license applications approximately April 1.
Q: Do gratis applicants have to submit legal land descriptions if they've applied on paper before?
A: Whether previously submitted online or on paper, gratis land descriptions are electronically entered into the Game and Fish system. Gratis applicants will be able to copy the land description from the previous year into this year's application by clicking a button. However, previous gratis applicants will still have to bring up their land descriptions and add the number of acres for each tract. In addition, any changes to land included on a gratis application from a previous year will have to be made online.
Q: If someone doesn't have a computer, what are the other options?
Among the options are using the toll-free instant licensing phone number, though this number is not set up to take gratis applications; having a friend or relative submit the application for you; go to a public service location such as a public library; or stop at any Game and Fish district office for assistance. Leier is a biologist for the Game and Fish department his blog is at dougleier.areavoices.com.