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Missouri Department of Conservation adopts new electronic game checking system

September 28, 2005
By: Katie Peterson
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri hunters will shoot into the technological age this fall hunting season with the Missouri Conservation Department's end to the in-person game check-in and the adoption of a new electronic system by phone or internet.

The state's Conservation Department requires hunters to check in their game in order to collect data on the numbers of deer and turkey taken for population management in the future.

Since 1968, mandatory in-person checking also collected biological data, blood and tissue samples.

The department argues that information helps identify deer taken illegally through forensic methods.

The new system, which the department terms "telechecking," records the hunter's "telecheck" identification number, type of deer or turkey taken, some biological information like the number of points on the antlers of the deer, and the county of where the kill occurred.

Other information that used to be collected by the in-person checking will be obtained at deer-processing stations, according to Thomas Bose, Conservation Department's information technology coordinator.

"We still will be staffing several deer processing stations with scientist which will satisy that information," Bose said.

Bose said the new system was adopted because of the cost-effectiveness of such a system and for the convenience to hunters.

According to Bose, in order to maintain and operate check stations it took around 400 department employeees totaling approximately $600,000 a year in labor cost. Bose said now that time and money can be spent more effectively and will be used to enforce regulations.

"Instead of being chained to a check station, protection agents can be out enforcing regulations. It will also save people on gas and time." Bose said.

John Wenzel, president of the Mid-America Hunting Association said the "telechecking" system will be more convenient for hunters and perhaps will make more people willing to check their deer.

"People that want to be honest will do the same online. The system shouldn't be any less accurate because it was easy to avoid checking before the new system by simply not going," Wenzel said.

"We don't want our agents at a desk shuffling papers-- tied up in bureauacy. I rather have my money going to the agents doing acutal conservation work," Wenzel said.

The "telechecking" system is expected to have a three percent error. The only limitations Conservation Technology Coordinator Bose forsees are failed cell-phone connections and possible misinterpretation by the voice automated system. However, after three failed attempts by a hunter, the caller is automatically transferred to a live agent.

"The vast majority of people shouldn't have any problem at all. It is a very sophisticated system," Bose said.

Bose estimated that, on average, it should take hunters less than three minutes to complete their call according to Bose.

Stores that ran check-in stations will lose business that was previously generating by live checking. Lea Willendurt, manager of Ham's Prairie Store in Fulton, ran a check station for 6 years. She said she is unsure of what the impact of not running a station will be on her business.

"Usually, the opening hunting weekend was our busiest weekend. We will have to think of other ways to bring the hunters into our store like contests," Willendurt said.