Buying your hunting and fishing licenses just got easier

mosesWhat an improvement! After complaining for years about the complexities of purchasing my hunting/fishing licenses and permits online, it just got a whole lot easier. Last Friday I tried out the new system, which launched on March 1, and was even able to buy my wife’s fishing license in the same transaction.

The system is “now quicker, easier to use and packed with new features,” said Emily McCabe in a department press release. And I found that to be true.

“These improvements eliminate unnecessary steps and presents new purchasing options,” commented Bill Swan, DIF&W’s Director of Licensing. “We listened to user comments regarding the service and these changes should improve our customer’s experience.” Given that I’ve been one of the loudest complainers over the years, I’ve got to thank Bill and all who worked on this. Nice job!

Last Thursday, I’d heard an impressive presentation about the MOSES internet licensing system, when Bill Swan, Dan Andrews, General Manager of InforME, and Kimberly Duplisea, Director of Operations for InforMe, appeared before the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee to give them the good news.

The improvements were created specifically to make the system easier on mobile devices, because 52% of DIF&W’s website visitors and customers use a mobile device or tablet. InforMe is the state government’s eGovernment services partner. Maine Information Network, a private company, is the current network provider.

According to DIF&W, the agency has processed almost 3 million online transactions since launching its website in 2001, allowing “IF&W to eliminate many paper-based processes” and saving “tax-payers time and money.”

I was surprised to learn that MOSES (Maine Online Sportsman’s Electronic System) processed more online transactions than any other state agency or service, a total of 1,542,976 last year, and 55,000 more than the second most-widely-used online service, auto registrations.

The improvements were the result of legislation enacted in 2013 that required DIF&W to improve its online sales process. That bill, LD 229 was sponsored by Representative Mike Shaw at my request. Mike and I worked closely on it. The bill also allowed residents to transfer their any-deer permits to other residents and nonresidents to other nonresidents, directed DIF&W to streamline and simplify the eligibility requirements for and issuance of complimentary licenses, directed the agency to simplify and streamline the laws governing license revocations, and simplify and streamline the laws governing hunting, including age restrictions and supervision requirements. Finally, the bill directed DIF&W to conduct an actuarial review of lifetime hunting and fishing licenses and expand availability of lifetime licenses.

Most importantly, the bill directed the department to survey online MOSES users and use that information to create a plan to update the system, including the user interface. I remember Bill Swan, at a work session on the bill, telling IFW Committee members, “It’s all doable. It comes down to money and time.”

And here’s more good news. The improvements cost the agency – brace yourself – nothing! The agency does not pay for service upgrades including the public purchase interface.  Those of us who use the system pay from 50 cents to $2 agent fees when we use the system, and that money pays for the service. Kimberly Duplisea reported that 4,170 hours were spent developing the new version of the licensing application, including 500 hours that DIF&W spent on business analysis and project management.

Improvements

The online license system is now fully mobile and accessible on your smartphone, “ideal for those times you travel to your favorite hunting or fishing spot but forgot to buy your license. You can also use your smartphone to display your license, eliminating the need to print out and carry a paper copy,” reported DIF&W.

This would have come in handy the year I discovered, a week after I’d been hunting turkeys, that I’d forgotten to purchase my hunting license and turkey permit. I had the previous year’s license and permit in my wallet. Oops!

“License buyers can now purchase licenses for up to three people in one transaction, and if you are purchasing one as a gift, you can even provide a special message. Fewer steps and clarified instructions make it quicker and easier than ever,” reported McCabe. “The new MOSES automatically reformats to work on any screen size, so that customers can purchase their licenses on smartphones, tablets, laptops or desktop computers.”

Specific improvements

From the handout given to legislators, here are the specific improvements and benefits.

Works on any screen size so that citizens can easily purchase their license on smartphones, tablets, laptops or desktop computers.

Cleaner, more efficient code that reduces the number of steps to complete and responds faster. (Definitely a lot faster for me).

More clear what information is needed; for instance MOSES ID number can be left blank if the user does not have that information available. (I liked the way they isolated the MOSES number, so you can’t miss it at the beginning of the process).

Licenses and permits ordered by popularity (I found this to be a really good idea. All of the special licenses and permits I needed were right at the top of the list).

Verification functionality in place allowing users to verify single-day authority start and end dates and times.

Hunter safety information is displayed clearly by license type: for instance, if you purchase an archery license, you are asked for archery hunter safety.

Customer information, including express user status, is stored in the back end database now and passed to the front end as needed; this was a problem area in the previous two versions of the online service.

Gift messaging allows users to purchase a gift and send a special message on the date of their choosing to the recipient.

Ability to purchase multiple items for multiple users in one payment. (This really helped me, making it very easy to purchase my wife’s fishing license at the same time and in the same transaction as my license and permit purchase).

Links to other popular IF&W services on confirmation page.

Future Plans

DIF&W has other plans for improving the system, and says it is currently developing the following online services:

Automatic renewals (launching a pilot project with hunting and fishing licenses);

ATV/Snowmobile registration renewal upgrade;

Online storefront upgrade.

For me, automatic renewal would be awesome. Wish they’d had it 50 years ago!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.