I get it. Hunters as a rule tend to be fairly conservative and into traditions. We as hunters understand about long-standing customs; this may be why I heard several complaints or confusion about Ohio’s game checking process during and after the recent deer gun season.
I don’t know if people are intentionally making it more difficult or confusing than it has to be, but in short, if you shoot a deer you still have to tag it, and you still have to check it. That has not changed. Only the way you go about it has changed.
Compared to signing up for health insurance on the federal website, checking in a deer is a piece of cake. The wildohio.com website actually works, and if you like your internet provider, you can keep your internet provider. Period.
Here is how it works:
1. Buy a permit before you go hunting (in person at a license agent or online at wildohio.com – I’ll discuss landowners later).
2. Make your own game tag with your name and some blank space for the date, time, county of kill and for a confirmation number you’ll get later.
3. Kill something.
4. Tag it with the tag you made in Step 2 above and fill in the date, time and county, and also write that same information on your permit that you purchased in Step 1.
5. Check the game by calling 1-877-TAGITOH, or going online at wildohio.com and following the links on the Wild Ohio Customer Center, or by visiting an authorized license sales agent. You’ll have to do that by noon the following day or by 11:30 p.m. on the last day of a season. You’ll also have to provide some information to access the site and check your game.
6. Write the resulting 18-digit confirmation number (Remember leaving room for that on your tag?) on the tag attached to the animal, AND also in the space provided on your permit.
7. Keep the tag you attached to the animal with the animal, and keep the filled out permit for your records.
That’s pretty much all there is to it. You can do it from right there in the woods using your cell phone or smart phone (if you have service), from your house, from the neighbor’s house, from the teenage kid in your hunting party’s iPhone, the local library or coffee shop, anywhere you have access to the internet. You don’t have to load the deer up and drive it anywhere.
If you are a landowner or a hunter who is exempt from purchasing licenses and permits, the process is even easier. Just make your own tag and fill it out as usual. The only difference is that your deer must be checked online at wildohio.com or at a license agent using your one of the following means of identification: customer ID number and date of birth, driver’s license or state ID number, or your last name and last four digits of your Social Security number. After navigating the website you’ll also get an 18-digit number to write on the temporary tag which will stay with the animal.
For more detailed information, consult the Ohio Hunting and Trapping Regulations handbook for 2013-2014.
Under the old system you had to drive to the license agent to buy your licenses and permits. You still had to fill out the information on the temporary tag and attach it to the animal, but then you had to load up your deer and haul it to a check station (which hopefully was open and not too far away).
Once you got to the check station you had to stand at the counter and fill out the game checking form and wait for someone to come out and attach a permanent metal tag to your trophy. Then you could take your deer to the processors, or home to cut it up yourself, but in any event you still had to keep the metal tag handy to prove ownership.
I miss visiting the check station too, I realize for many young hunters making that first trip to the check station was an important rite of passage on the way to adulthood. Sadly that is probably gone forever.
One of the deer hunters in my group was complaining (mildly) about the new system, about how long it took to put all in the information on the website, and I asked him if he would rather load the deer up in his truck and take it to the check station, then answer all the same questions on the paper form?
“Well no,” he replied, “but I guess it’s just different that’s all.”
You still have to tag the deer at the spot where it fell, before moving it, and you still have to check the deer. That hasn’t changed. You do have to make your own tag now, but for landowners that have been doing this for years, it isn’t anything new.
You can’t complain because the check station was closed or that the lines were too long or that it was too far away. You can’t even gripe about the quality of the paper tags anymore, because if your tag falls apart it’s your own fault for making it too flimsy. Make it from something durable, like from a shotgun shell box, or cover it with a plastic sandwich bag to protect it from the elements.
Tagging a deer isn’t all that different; it’s just how we go about it that has changed. Remember, you still have to tag it, and you still have to check it.
Ohio’s deer hunters will get another chance to try the automated game checking system from Jan. 4-7 during the annual muzzleloader season. Ohio’s deer archery season continues through Feb. 2 with hunting hours one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.
Jim Freeman is wildlife specialist for the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District and a long-time contributor to the Sunday Times-Sentinel. He can be contacted weekdays at (740) 992-4282 or at firstname.lastname@example.org