Oregon Computer Madness
Unless you have been spending all your spare time in a dark closet, it should be no surprise to hear that all hunting and fishing licenses and tags in Oregon are now offered at Point of Sale (POS) computer locations. The casual hunter can no longer simply wander into the corner hardware store, plunk down a handful of greenbacks and have the license and tag of his choice written out on paper. Life has become more complicated with the switch to electronic data processing systems. And built within this complication is the need for hook and bullet people to use a little more common sense and foresight in planning the trip to purchase the required documents to legally wander afield.

Merchants intent on providing a POS option for their customers must pay a fee to the state for the computer link needed to complete a license transaction. Unfortunately for the smaller business, paying a fee to maintain the computer connection 12 months a year when 95% of the licenses are sold during a month or two period, hasn’t penciled out to be a money maker. Now the hunter will find far fewer places to purchase the license and tags than before the "convenience" of the electronic age. Longer drives to a larger commercial center (in some cases a whopper of a drive) has become the only option for rural Oregonians who wish to purchase hunting and fishing documents.

Oregon's new eletronic system made headlines on January 1 of this year. It seems the new system couldn't handle the load of fishermen and hunters who needed a license renewal at the beginning of the year. They descended upon the POS locations and the main computer at the state level crashed in a dramatic fashion! So badly, in fact, that officials of Fish and Wildlife gave hunters and fishermen a "free ride" until they got the wrinkles in the system ironed out. After weeks of software study, the State declared that they could never track down the exact cause of the failure but the system was up and running again, and outdoorsmen should renew before going into the field again — But, please, don’t do it all at once!

Within the new "required" process has been a change in the manner of tracking "runaway" dads who are being sought by the federal government to pay back-child-support. Social Security numbers are the quick and easy way of locating these wayward individuals, and the powers at the top believe that hunters and fishermen who are denied their privilege to wander afield will pay up just to be able to make deer camp this year. Kind of gives you pause to consider how hunters and fishermen seem to be categorized in the view of social welfare policymakers. Within this loop of "man hunt" has come the change in how hunting license purchasers are tracked and preference points totals recorded. This year, if you do not have your old hunting license with you at the time of new license purchase, the POS operator will not be able to enter the appropriate numbers from the expired license. Without these numbers the system will not be able to track the points from the old system and enter them in the new one. YOU WILL LOSE ALL OF YOUR HARD-EARNED PREFERENCE POINTS! This is a no-turn-back system, so make sure you take the old license along to the POS.

My own personal travails within the POS-or-nothing license procedure recently took an ugly turn and prompted me to inform my readers of the glitches in the system. Part of the problem was the result of letting time slide. I found myself racing to the POS located in a small town within the hills surrounding the Rogue Valley on the last evening to apply for the spring bear tag. Running into the store, my angst was eased when the clerk was able to bring up the computer screen and begin the process — but not quite!

"Wait, let me check if he’s on-line" the clerk said. She called back to the office and was assured the owner of the store was indeed "surfing" on his computer, connected to a single line he shared with the POS system. "You can’t get a license right now, he’s on the net."

"That’s OK, I’ll wait," I told her. "How long will he be?"

"Oh, he won’t get off for hours," she muttered.

Too late, and too far away to drive down into the valley to another "convenient" POS, I determined I had spent the last dollar I would ever spend in that store, and went home knowing that the POS owner, the POS system, and I were to blame. I had been to blame for not watching the calendar closely enough, yet I had made it to the POS on time. The option to drive to the little store, only five miles from my house where I normally buy my "paper" license, was now history thanks to POS only. But, the POS owner had sealed my doom by his lousy business manner. My lesson should help the reader avoid a huge emotional nightmare.

Here are a few rules to help the hunters and fishermen minimize much of the trouble this new system can cause:

• Make your hunt choices early and then go to a Point of Sale property and complete the process NOW! Don’t wait until the sale deadline — remember, the ODF&W couldn’t find out why the computers crashed in January. That means the problem is still in the system. Just because you are standing in line doesn’t mean you will beat the deadline.

• Take your old hunting license along so you will have all the information needed to enter into the State’s database to save those hard-earned preference points. This means knowing your social security number also. Social Security numbers are mandatory to obtain a hunting license. Just because you are standing in line doesn’t mean you can complete the process.

• If you do wait until the last minute, make sure you go to a store that has a POS computer to serve you, and that customer service means something to them. It doesn’t do any good to stand in front of a counter and be refused service. Just because you go to a POS doesn’t mean you will get your license.

Yep, I didn’t think it would happen to me either. I don’t want it to happen to you.

Deadline for all fall controlled-hunt applications in Oregon is May 15, 2002—DON’T WAIT UNTIL THEN!


Frank Medicine Wolf Springer

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