- Associated Press - Friday, March 25, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The days of hunters and anglers going to the county auditor or corner gas station to have an official manually write out a paper license have come to an end in North Dakota.

Beginning this spring, license applications can only be made electronically.

“It’s the coming of the age,” said Kim Kary, chief of administrative services for the state Game and Fish Department. “Everybody has smartphones now.”

Benefits of getting licenses electronically include that they can be kept on a cellphone rather than in a gun case or tackle box, and outdoors enthusiasts can simply print a new license if they lose one, rather than pay for a duplicate license. State officials also have almost immediate access to information on license sales, rather than waiting months for data from county auditors and license vendors. It also will cut down on staff time spent dealing with paper licenses, as well as postage costs, Kary said.

New annual fishing, hunting and trapping licenses are required beginning April 1. They can be purchased through the Game and Fish website at www.gf.nd.gov or at license vendors or county auditor offices that are linked to the department’s online licensing system.

Licenses have been available electronically as an option for several years in North Dakota, and nearly three-fourths of hunters and anglers already get their licenses that way.

Those who don’t will find that the number of county auditors selling licenses will be down by about half. The number of vendors also will be down, though Game and Fish did not have an immediate estimate on the drop.

That might be an inconvenience for some older anglers who aren’t computer- or cellphone-savvy, but it’s not likely to be a hardship, according to AARP North Dakota spokesman Lyle Halvorson.

“Older people who don’t have a computer at home or who don’t have online access, hopefully they would have a friend or family member who could help them,” he said.

Game and Fish also has a toll-free number that people can call at any time to apply for a license, at 1-800-406-6409.

State Fisheries Chief Greg Power said he expects there might be some complaints this spring from people who are unfamiliar with the change or don’t have online access, but he also said many members of the older generation are computer-savvy. Game and Fish data back that up, showing that about one-fifth of hunters and anglers who currently purchase their licenses electronically are in the age group of 60 or older.

Power also joked that when it comes to the younger generation, “some in their teens and twenties don’t even know what paper is.”

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Follow Blake Nicholson on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/NicholsonBlake

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