Beat the Rush, Buy Your Licenses Early

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When it comes to renewing your hunting and fishing licenses, which expire Aug. 31, "waiting until you need 'em" may not be the way to go.

With dove hunting season opening Sept. 1 in most of the state, outdoor enthusiasts will be flocking to license outlets at the last minute and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is encouraging customers to buy early and avoid the rush.

Texas issues 3.5 million hunting and fishing licenses and special permits annually through 28 TPWD field offices, more than 100 state parks and at many sporting goods retailers across Texas. New licenses for 2002-03 went on sale Thursday, Aug. 15 and agency officials are anticipating that nearly 300,000 license transactions will take place during the Labor Day holiday weekend alone.

On the first day of sales under the new WorldCom system, 21,166 license transactions were completed, according to John Wilson, TPWD senior project director. "Overall, I think everything is running smoothly. We're seeing a few minor glitches in the system and those are being addressed," he noted. "Anytime you roll out a complex new system like this with more than 350 different license types, you have to be realistic and anticipate some hiccups. WorldCom is responding well and we have every confidence in the system right now."

People will see a new look to their hunting and fishing licenses this fall as the state makes the transition to a new format. Rather than the sales receipt printout license of recent years, new printing technology will enable TPWD to provide better graphics and a user-friendlier product. The new version resembles the traditional Texas license with detachable game tags around the perimeter of the license.

"Hunters will appreciate the look and feel of these new licenses, they are more practical than what we've had the last few years," said Robert L. Cook, TPWD Executive Director. "I am pleased that the startup is moving along smoothly and am confident that this new system will serve the department and its customers well for years to come."

Many vendors are using the new WorldCom equipment for the first time, and TPWD is asking customers to be patient during the learning curve. "Our license vendors are providing a valuable service to hunters and anglers in Texas and we applaud their efforts during this transition to the new system," said Katharine Armstrong Idsal, Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Chairman. "I know our staff and WorldCom have been working diligently to ensure the new system is the finest possible."

Hunters and anglers can also purchase licenses by calling 800-895-4248. The phone license operation serves both Texans and non-residents, enabling hunters and anglers to buy licenses over the phone using a major credit card. Call center hours are 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m. to Noon on Saturday. A license confirmation number is issued at the time of purchase, and the physical license is mailed separately. Confirmation numbers will verify that a license has been purchased but will not allow hunters to take fish or wildlife that requires a tag. A $5 fee is charged for ordering over the phone.

Anyone planning to hunt migratory game birds such as dove and waterfowl this year must be certified under the Harvest Information Program. HIP certification will automatically be printed on the license at the time of purchase after the purchaser answers a few brief migratory bird questions. Hunters of migratory game birds should verify that HIP certification is printed on their licenses. Lifetime license holders must also be HIP-certified to hunt migratory birds.

Annual resident hunting and fishing licenses cost $19 each and it is $32 for a combination hunting and fishing license. For the avid outdoor enthusiast, the Super Combo license includes a resident combination hunting and fishing license plus all seven state hunting and fishing stamps for $49. Sold separately, the face value of the Super Combo package is $82. Seniors can purchase the discounted Senior Super Combo license for $25 or pay $10 for a senior combination hunting and fishing license.

Wherever licenses are sold, several other items for the 2002-03 season are also available, including Annual Public Hunting Permits and entries in Big Time Texas Hunt drawings.

The Big Time Texas Hunts program offers the opportunity to win one or more guided hunts with food and lodging provided. Proceeds are dedicated to providing more public hunting opportunity and funding wildlife conservation and research programs in Texas. Entries for the Big Time Texas Hunt drawings are $10 each. There is no limit to the number of entries an individual may purchase, and entries may be purchased as gifts for others. Purchasers must be 17 years old or older.

The $40 Annual Public Hunting Permit allows hunters access to more than a million acres of other public hunting lands, including more than 150 hunting units exclusively for dove and other small game. Youths younger than age 17 may hunt on public hunting lands without the $40 permit if they have the $6 youth license and are hunting with a permitted adult. A map booklet and supplement of dove lease maps will be mailed within a week of purchase of the permit at retail outlets; however, the map booklet and supplement can be obtained immediately by purchasing the permit at a TPWD law enforcement office.