Will the smartphone replace tagging deer, turkey?

Written by Craig Nyhus, Lone Star Outdoor News

Imagine using your Smartphone to immediately report any deer or wild turkey you shoot — no worries about whether in your pocket there is a pen, a knife to try to cut out the tiny square for the month and date, a light in the event it is dark and reading glasses to read the tiny type.

The day of the mobile tag isn’t near, but it may be in Texas’ hunters’ future.

Eastern turkey hunters are using a mobile app, called My Texas Hunt Harvest, this season to report the harvest to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department within 24 hours of harvest. Although the mobile reporting does not remove tagging requirements, the hunter who does electronic reporting is issued a confirmation number after completing the registration process. And next season, the physical check stations will go away and all reporting will be online or by telephone.

The Eastern turkey season just ended and TPWD’s turkey leader, Jason Hardin, said the app is working well, although most reports have come from the voluntary reporting of Rio Grande turkey harvests.

“We get a feel for what is happening as they report it,” he said. “We can check it at any time.”

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Is the day coming where all of the tags on the hunting licenses will be a thing of the past?

Maybe, officials say.

“Someday, the Smartphone may be the way we report our harvest,” said TPWD Wildlife Division Director Clayton Wolf. “We’re not even in the early stage yet, but the wildlife harvest app is one of our ways of testing the waters and seeing how things work. We are discussing where we can take it and how much will it cost.”

Wolf said the information obtained if all animals were reported would be costly, but also would save agency time in estimating harvest numbers. For both practical and scientific purposes, the actual and real-time data would be invaluable.

“For deer, we work locker plants and use surveys for a sample of the harvest,” he said. “There’s no doubt electronic reporting would help on data collection and getting better harvest data.”

Hardin agreed.

“I would love to see it for both deer and turkeys,” he said. “We would get 100-percent harvest response instead of the much lower response we get now through the surveys, and we could better manage the populations.”

Last season’s online-only applications for public hunting was another effort to become more user friendly.

“It went relatively well,” Wolf said. “We had only a few complaints and tons of compliments.”

Issues to be resolved, other than the cost, would include issues with connectivity.

“Parts of Texas still have real spotty service,” Wolf said. “The app would have to be designed so a hunter could enter the data on your phone and it would show when the information was entered, then forward when there is a signal.”

Last-minute license purchases could be another benefit for hunters.

“The last-minute folks can get a license online if they are hunting on MLDP property, but otherwise the hunter needs a tag,” Wolf said. “There would need to be a seamless way to get an online license.”

Whether Texas hunters will be able to hunt without a pocketful of equipment to properly complete tagging requirements is still up in the air, and probably some time off.

“It’s a conversation,” Hardin said. “It’s not going to be quick — it’s one step at a time.”