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MT FWP is switching to regular paper licenses

Posted at 4:04 PM, Feb 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-07 20:00:07-05

Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks announced this week that it will be switching to using regular paper licenses in 2020. The new licenses will be printed on 8.5” x 11” paper. This includes all carcass tags.

Licenses, carcass tags, and permits will be available to all hunters to print immediately after purchasing online or at the successful completion of a drawing. Hunters will be emailed a link that they will follow to print their carcass tags only once.

FWP provided the following information in a news release:

Why is FWP making the switch now?

FWP is making this switch for two main reasons: customer convenience and associated costs and technology.

Once the change is adopted, we believe the ease of use for most customers will be an incredible benefit. Customers will now be able to print licenses and carcass tags immediately after purchase, unlike previous years when they waited for them to be mailed from FWP headquarters.

Additionally, the cost of the thermal paper used for many years for our licenses and carcass tags continues to increase along with the problems of our aging equipment, i.e. the seemingly disappearing ink debacle on last year’s licenses due to the aged thermal printers not being able to “burn” hot enough. Additionally, we can no longer obtain replacements for the printers we currently use. They’ve become obsolete, making them impossible to replace not only at FWP offices, but also at our external license providers across the state.

Will there be additional changes coming when our new licensing system, ExploreMT, comes online?

We will eventually be adding a digital carcass tag option but are likely several years out from getting entirely away from paper carcass tags. We anticipate a mix of usage among customers that use digital tags vs. paper tags.

Seems like the paper tags won’t hold up in the Montana weather. What should you do?

Customers will be encouraged to keep their licenses and carcass tags in plastic bags both before and after validating and attaching to a harvested game animal. In fact, you can pick up small, sealable baggies to put your licenses in at the time of purchase.

What happens when I’m out in the field and my license gets wet and unreadable? Will I get a ticket?

FWP wardens have always used discretion when encountering situations like this. Even with the old paper, it wasn’t uncommon to have situations with tags that were unreadable or difficult to discern. The intent with this change is not to make it easier for wardens to write more citations. FWP wants hunters to enjoy their hunts, follow the law, and get home with some great wild game for the freezer. This small change in license paper should not get in the way of that.

Do any other states do this? What is their experience?

  • Alaska – Transitioning toward electronic/mobile device licenses, currently prints licenses on plain white paper.
  • Arkansas – Moved to plain white paper licenses in 2017. First year was met with public resistance, but now hardly any complaints as the public realized how convenient it is.
  • Delaware – Plain white paper for 10 years. They recommend hunters use a protective plastic bag to keep licenses secure.
  • Maine – Has used regular paper for years.
  • Ohio – Has used plain paper for years. There were and are some durability concerns, but free reprints help.
  • Many states have hybrid systems with paper licenses and digital carcass tags.States who use regular paper licenses found the change to be challenging for their customers initially, but now it is not an issue.

Are tagging requirements still going to remain the same?

Yes. It is Montana law that a hunter attaches a validated carcass tag to the animal before moving it from the kill site or leaving the kill site. Having the carcass tag safe and secure inside a plastic baggie is vital at this step.

Doesn’t this increase the possibility of license fraud?

We don’t think so. We know most people want to follow the law. We also know that there are criminals who already look for ways to take advantage of the system. That isn’t likely to change.

FWP’s Licensing and Technology Services Division have worked diligently to come up with several layers of fraud prevention, including:

  • The link in the e-mail the customer receives at the conclusion of the transaction that prints out their carcass tag is only available once, then cannot be accessed again.
  • Watermark on the carcass tag that alters when copied.
  • Each new tag will generate a unique identification number when a tag is reprinted.

How will customers buy licenses now?

The change is going to make it simpler and more convenient for most of our customers. Already customers can keep a digital version of their license listing on their phone. At the start of the new license year on March 1, customers will also be able to print carcass tags from home immediately after purchase, alleviating the need to go to a license provider or FWP office. This will also greatly reduce the wait time for the customer after a successful drawing and eliminate the logistical problems of mailing and receiving licenses and permits.