Last year marked a major milestone for MassWildlife and the sportsmen and women of the Commonwealth as we made a complete and successful transition to the electronic issuance of licenses, permits, and stamps through the MassFishHunt system. One of the new developments it brought was Instant Award of antlerless deer permits. This meant that, for the first time, deer hunters could apply electronically for antlerless deer permits when (or anytime after) they purchased their hunting license, and could then purchase their permits instantly after the application period deadline. Many sportsmen have told us they appreciate the convenience of this process.
Starting with the 2013 spring turkey season, successful hunters will be able to experience the convenience of yet another new development: online game checking! At the time of the writing of the 2012 Guide to Hunting, Freshwater Fishing and Trapping, MassWildlife anticipated that online game checking would become available to hunters starting with the 2012 spring turkey season. However, the process to establish new regulations to allow online game checking, as well as the need for continued refinement and testing of the system, took additional time to ensure as smooth and trouble-free a transition as possible. We believe that hunters will find the results worth the wait.
The establishment of a new regulation now allows you to report your harvest online. The plan is the same – successful hunters will have two options for checking in deer, turkey, bear, and most furbearers:
Here is a quick summary of the regulatory requirements for tagging and reporting your harvest online:
For Black Bear, White-tailed Deer, or Eastern Wild Turkey:
For bobcat and otter:
Printing of Tags
Tags for deer, bear, and turkey are printed along with your license at the time of purchase. Some hunters have expressed concern that plain paper licenses and tags will not last under field conditions, but commercial plastic license holders or simple Ziploc-type bags have proven reliable protectors under tough field conditions. Using them will help ensure that tags affixed to game are protected and readable during transport and early possession (before butchering/mounting). Keep in mind that your ability to reprint or produce copies of licenses, permits, and tags does NOT authorize you to use more than the legal number of tags issued to you.
How to Check Game Online
Reporting your game harvest online can save you travel time (and fuel) to a traditional game check station and can be done at any hour of the day or night. It is easy to report your harvest through the internet using online game checking. Once you are in the MassFishHunt system, here are the 5 quick steps to report a harvest:
The questions that you will be asked to answer online are essentially the same ones sportsmen have always been asked at traditional game check stations. For example, if you check in a turkey, you may be asked to measure and report the spur length and indicate if the bird is an adult or a juvenile. The DFW will provide helpful guides online on how to measure and collect this biological information.
After you completely answer the online game check questions, a confirmation number will be issued to you for that animal. Writing the confirmation number on the paper tag from your permit or license (which should already be attached to the animal) will constitute the official “seal”. Like an official metal or plastic seal, the tag with the confirmation number written on it must remain on the animal until it is butchered, skinned, or otherwise processed. The tag with the confirmation number will show proof that you are in legal possession of the game and have fulfilled the requirements of checking the animal within 48 hours after harvest. As with metal or plastic seals, confirmation numbers are non-transferable to other game.
Although tags for furbearers are not issued with the license, all furbearer pelts must be accompanied by the specific confirmation number issued for each particular pelt or carcass when it is reported. We suggest that you write it on a tag of your own making, or print out your harvest report summary, highlight the confirmation number of the corresponding animal, and attach the tag or highlighted harvest report summary to that animal or pelt.
Benefits of Online Game Checking
Reporting your harvest online should prove a great convenience, as it can be conducted from home or anywhere else an online computer is available. This option can save fuel and travel time – a real savings given increasing fuel prices. Traditional check stations may also choose to use the online system in order to eliminate conventional paperwork, and MassWildlife will assist those stations that would like to use the MassFishHunt system. If you check your game at a MassWildlife office, the online game checking system will most likely be used.
In addition to saving the sportsmen time and money, online game harvest reporting also benefits our MassWildlife biologists and the Environmental Police. For example, once the hunter submits the game harvest report, a law enforcement officer in the field can call in or access the computer database for an instant enforcement check in a way very similar to how a traffic police officer can check driver’s license and vehicle registration information.
MassWildlife biologists will also have instant access to game harvest reports, enabling a significant increase in the efficiency and speed of harvest data collection. Under the traditional system, biologists have had to enter and analyze data from over 15,000 handwritten data cards every year. With online reporting, they will receive the data more quickly and in a form they can readily analyze, thus reducing data entry costs and speeding the release of harvest data to the public. Accurate harvest information is important for biologists to manage populations for the benefit of hunters and wildlife enthusiasts, yet balance the population with the habitat and minimize wildlife-human conflicts. It’s a win-win situation for hunters, biologists, and law enforcement officers.
To help get the word to all hunters, please tell your hunting friends who may not get this message. We would appreciate it if you could publicize it to the members of any sportsmen’s clubs to which you may belong, as well as through newsletters, e-mails, and whatever forms of social media you may use.
Deer Shotgun Season – The Exception
Biological data on deer will be collected by biologists during the shotgun deer season, meaning deer taken during this season cannot be checked online. Although harvested deer can be reported online during the archery and primitive firearms seasons, online game checking for deer will be closed during the deer shotgun season. All deer hunters will be required to check their deer at a traditional check station during the shotgun season.
Checking Game at a Traditional Check Station
If you check your game at a traditional check station, an official metal or plastic seal will be attached to the animal. As always, hunters have 48 hours to check deer, bear, and turkey.
The seal must remain on the animal until it is butchered, skinned, or otherwise processed.
Check station locations can be found in two ways: check the MassWildlife link at http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dfg/dfw/hunting-fishing-wildlife-watching/hunting/game-check-information.html or call your MassWildlife District office in Ayer, (978) 772-2145; Belchertown, (413) 323-7221; Bourne, (508) 759-3406; Dalton, (413) 684-1646; or West Boylston (508) 835-3607.
Requirements for reporting a harvest at a check station:
Requirements for reporting a harvest of furbearer species at a check station:
Requirements for Meat Processors and Taxidermists
Meat processors and taxidermists can only possess bear, beaver, bobcat, coyote, deer, fisher, fox, mink, otter, or wild turkey if the animal or furbearer pelt has an official metal or plastic seal attached, or if a confirmation number, written on a tag, is attached to the carcass or furbearer pelt. It is illegal to accept any of the above listed game animals without an attached official seal or confirmation number written on an attached tag.
Regulations in red are new this year.
Purple text indicates an important note.