New License System Holds Up

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On the Saturday preceding the opening day of dove hunting season, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department was issuing licenses at a rate of nearly one-and-a-half per second. And, for the first time since the state moved to an electronic licensing system back in 1996, John Wilson didn't spend his Labor Day weekend troubleshooting system failures.

Wilson, a TPWD senior project director, has been involved in the technical side of the state's automated license sales system since its inception. Labor Day has been anything but a holiday for him and others at the agency who've seen this weekend license buying rush bring a technologically complex system to its knees under a volume of sales.

TPWD licenses expire on Aug. 31 each year and about 10 percent of its 3.5 million annual license transactions occur during the Labor Day weekend. Broken down into real time, the system's computer database is being tasked with processing nearly 150 licenses a minute for hours at a time. Another factor this year was the transition to a new system under WorldCom that had not been put to the challenge of a Labor Day weekend.

So, how did the new system do? "The system ran flawlessly over the weekend. This was the best Labor Day weekend in seven years," beamed Wilson. "It was successful not just from the amount of sales, but also for holding up against problems. I've spent many of my Labor Day weekends trying to diagnose problems and that wasn't the case this year."

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. Between Aug. 15 when new licenses went on sale and Sept. 2, TPWD had issued 675,000 new licenses.

Wilson said that during an 8-hour period Saturday, Aug. 31 as hunters made last-minute preparations for the opening of dove season, more than 8,500 licenses an hour were sold. "In past years during that sales spike, the system couldn't handle the load and vendors had to sell offline," he noted. "This year, we had very few offline sales."

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. Migratory game bird hunters (doves are migratory game birds) are urged to check their new license at the time of sale; HIP certification will be printed on the license at the time of purchase only after the purchaser answers a few brief migratory bird questions. 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.