CHARLESTON, W.Va. — I can vividly recall it was dark by the time my son and I left a snow covered mountain in Preston County.   We slowly crept down a winding logging road in the truck.  We were locked in four-wheel drive and the snow was falling so hard, visibility was almost zero.

We were content. We had two large does in the bed of the truck.  Behind me were three other hunting buddies who also were successful on the final day of the antlerless hunting season.   I had plenty on my mind as I concentrated on how to keep us from winding up on the roof 200 feet over an embankment.   The last thing I was concerned about, at that particular moment, was getting the deer to a check station.

However, once we emerged on the paved road which had been hit by the DOH, my attention turned toward the legal obligation of all hunters.  But it was 10 o’clock on a Saturday night.  We were in strange country and unsure of where to find the nearest check station.  I stopped at a few likely convenience stores, none of which checked game. The clerks told me they used to do it, but their owners had said it had become too much of a hassle.   I did find two businesses with signs in the window, but they were long since closed for the day.   I spent another hour driving and stopping until finally I found a gas station along Route 7 which was open and checking deer.

Another year I pulled up at the location in Putnam County where I always checked in my deer.  The lady behind the counter was busy. She had a line of people waiting at the counter.  She appeared frustrated and judging by how we were dressed she knew we had deer to check.   Amazingly, she handed the book to me and said, “Here fill it out yourself. I really don’t know how to do it anyway.”

Everybody who hunts in West Virginia has a story about the old checking station. They are usually funny and occasionally irritating and often leave one shaking their head.

Those days however are behind us now.  April 1st the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources launched its new electronic check system.  Most people I know have responded with, “It’s about time.”    The are correct.

West Virginia was among the first states to launch the sale of hunting and fishing license on line. The system has been a rock every time I’ve used it.   I hold a lifetime license, but every year I relied on the on-line license to buy extra stamps like the antlerless stamp or a trout stamp or an occasional bear stamp. It’s always worked flawlessly for me.   Hopefully the electronic game check will be equally reliable.

Whether we like it or not, we’ve arrived in the 21st century.  The writing is on the wall and everything is going digital.  The Internet has become the more efficient way to do everything.  Hunting and fishing are just another step in that evolution.  The system will give instant data to the DNR and eliminate the need to drive all over the state picking up tags. There will no longer be the need to spend countless hours in a room in Elkins hand recording every single deer killed in the state.

Natural Resources Police will be able to rapidly look up data for investigative purposes and determine if somebody has gone afoul of the law for not checking game.

Hunters will enjoy the convenience of calling in the kill, or logging it on the Internet with a smart phone if they have cell service on your hunting ground.  The system will be simple once you know your DNR I-D number–which is printed on your license if you buy one annually.  The DNR ID number can be obtained if you are checking one on-line or at a license retailer.

Other states have had some type of electronic checking system for years.  I’m told it’s the best way to go to eliminate the hassle of having to haul your game to a gas station to let a busy clerk drop everything and come out and have a look.  Honestly, nobody has looked at a deer I’ve killed while checking it in for years.  Now, nobody needs to.  The process eliminates the requirement of an eyes on examination by the person handling the check-in.

Some critics say it paves the way for poaching or not as many will be checked in.  I disagree.  If somebody isn’t going to use a telephone to call in to record their kill, they weren’t going to do it in the first place.   Under the new system, the control number issued at the end of the process needs to be written down and attached to your deer, bear, turkey, or other game you’ve checked.  The number is important if you’re questioned by a member of law enforcement.

The upcoming spring gobbler season will be the first major season the electronic check-in will be implemented.  Although there might be a few glitches, I foresee this will be a welcome convenience for sportsmen.  It’s certainly about time.

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