HARRISBURG, Pa. (EYT) – In a shift toward modernization, Pennsylvania hunters have found themselves grappling with mounting frustration as the process for acquiring antlerless deer licenses, commonly known as “doe tags,” transitions to a digital platform.
PHOTO: Hunters waiting in line at the Cranberry Walmart for their turn to purchase a doe tag. Photo by Isaiah Dunham.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s (PGC) decision to implement an online purchase system aimed to streamline the process, but hunters were met on Monday with a barrage of technical glitches, slowdowns, and intermittent errors.
The commission launched the new online system at 8:00 a.m. on Monday, June 26, 2023, offering hunters the opportunity to purchase their doe tags through the commission’s website or via authorized retailers.
What was meant to be a smooth transition has proven to be a rocky road for many avid hunters.
Almost immediately after the system went live, reports of widespread slowness and intermittent errors flooded social media platforms. Hunters trying to secure their licenses online or at physical retailers encountered frustrating delays and complications, leaving them unable to complete their transactions promptly.
One of the key factors contributing to the frustration is the significant increase in sales volume.
With the new system, more individuals, including online customers and issuing agents statewide, have access to the doe tags. This surge in demand, coupled with unforeseen technical difficulties, led to extended wait times and a cumbersome purchasing process.
To address the high volume of sales, the PGC implemented a virtual waiting room for online customers. When sales reached a certain threshold, prospective buyers were placed in a queue and granted access to the sales site on a first-come, first-served basis.
While this approach was intended to manage the influx of hunters, it resulted in long waits and heightened frustration for those eager to secure their licenses promptly, with some hunters sharing screenshots of their places in line being as high as 123,000.
This screenshot was shared to Facebook showing the wait queue.
In response, hunters expressed a mix of disappointment, anger, and impatience on Facebook. Some criticized the planning and execution of the new system, arguing that better foresight and preparation should have been employed to avoid these issues.
Others shared their frustration with the prolonged wait times, comparing the experience unfavorably to previous years when acquiring licenses was a much smoother process.
Facebook comments included:
- “Another wonderful State agency”
- “pa game commision is a joke”
- “refund the convenience fees!!!! 7 hours later and only 4000 to go!! what a joke – even the post office would be faster than this.”
- “I waited 6 hours & 7 minutes to finally buy my license today online! This will be my 37th year of hunting in PA. I have not spent a total of 6 hours buying/preparing my license in all the previous 36 years COMBINED!! What a terrible shame!”
- “This has nothing to do with sales and everything to do with planning and execution. it’s not like you couldn’t forecast this easily given the history and massive amount of time. Heads should roll.”
The PGC said that they anticipated changes in sales patterns due to the new system. Traditionally, hunters would submit mail-in applications for their antlerless deer licenses, which limited the number of individuals involved in the process. With the shift to online and retailer-based sales, a higher volume of transactions was expected, though the response they got was greater than they anticipated.
In an 11:25 a.m. June 26th Facebook post, the PGC said, “Due to the high volume of sales this morning, Pennsylvania’s hunting license system experienced widespread slowness and intermittent errors, both online and in-stores.
“The Pennsylvania Game Commission apologizes for the issues this has caused for our hunters.
“We are diligently working with our online vendor to identify and resolve issues to continue license sales.”
According to a Facebook video post that was shared on the social network at 4:16 p.m. on June 26, Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans said the system worked as designed.
“Our hunting license system did not crash today,” said Burhans. “We anticipated delays on the first day of sales and saw them, but the system has been operational all day and sales never ceased.”
Burhans thanked hunters for communicating with the commission and “sharing (their) experience.” He said the commission will use the feedback they’ve received to improve the process in coming antlerless license rounds and license sales.