Oklahoma Deer Hunt Check Stations Go Online

Friday, September 27th 2013, 12:00 am
By: Tess Maune

Oklahoma hunting is getting a cutting-edge update, but some hunters aren't exactly thrilled about the change.

Deer hunting season is only days away. This year, the state is doing away with check stations for hunters.

A check station is where hunters are required to go to register their deer with the state.

Historically, someone at the check station would write down the hunter's information in a book that would eventually make its way to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

But this season, the only place a hunter can check in their deer is online.

Some hunters love the convenience, but others said taking away check stations means taking away part of the hunting experience.

Visit the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's website

David Hathaway had the camera rolling when his 12-year-old son, Hunter checked in his first deer.

Hathaway: What are you doing buddy?

Hunter: Checking in my deer.

"He wanted to check it in, he was excited and proud of himself," Hathaway said. "I was proud of him and I wanted him to go check it in great big nice buck, so he was able to go check it in and go in and talk."

Jonathan Ballard remembers his first hunt when he was five.

He said there's a sense of camaraderie at the check stations, which is part of the fun.

"A lot of good memories, I mean it's part of the hunting experience, growing up as a kid and even as an adult now," Ballard said.

But from now on, the chance for that experience will be harder to come by.

The wildlife department is going digital, which means no more official check stations for deer hunters.

The department introduced the online check station option about three years ago.

Colin Berg with the department said a lot of hunters find e-checking more convenient.

"It's really a neat convenience deal, I've checked deer in right there from the deer stand before," Berg said.

The department said 100,000 deer were harvested in the state last year and of those, 60 percent were checked in online.

Ballard said he's used the Internet to check in his deer for the past two years.

"Be a less hassle, like I said earlier, to have to drive to town and have to drive back to camp if you're camping out somewhere," Ballard said.

But on the flip side, Ballard said it will be difficult for his non-tech savvy, 86-year-old grandfather.

"That's gonna become an issue for him as well, I guess he'll have to rely on his grandsons, hopefully we're around when he shoots his buck this year and be able to help him out on checking it in, otherwise it'll become an issue," Ballard said.

"Think that it happened a little bit prematurally," said Chris Gabriel owner of the Wild Country Meat and Processing Market in Hominy.

"I don't think enough notice was given and I think a lot of these guys are gonna be shocked when they come in to check in, we look at them and go, ‘there's not a book.'"

In addition to a restaurant and meat procession shop, Gabriel's business has also served as a check station during deer season since 2004.

"We see about 2,000 deer a year, I really believe about half of those deer hunters will be ready to check in deer online," Gabriel said.

Gabriel said he's concerned about the many hunters in his area that he said don't have computers.

So, his shop will serve as a free digital check-station to help those hunters who don't have access to a smartphone or the Internet.

"We kind of had an idea this was coming and kind of planned ahead and actually we'll have two computer accessible," Gabriel said.

The department of wildlife said the online check station will save the state time and money.

The department will no longer have to print check-in books.

It won't have to send employees to the statewide stations to drop off and pick up the books.

And it will no longer have to outsource a company to input the data.

The department said it also help with accuracy.

The agency said department employees spent more than 200 hours editing check station books by correcting mistakes and illegible handwriting.

"You get more accurate information, you can access that information right away as far as harvest numbers, we'll be generating a weekly harvest update," Berg said.

There are a number of other businesses in the area that will also be setting up digital check stations.

Berg said those businesses should have posters outside to let the public know they can check in their harvest there.

The department said it also hopes to post a list of those business online soon.

Hunters will have 24 hours to check in their deer.

The fine for not checking in a deer is $446.

That's in an effort to ensure people follow the law and do get it checked in online.

The guidelines for in the field checking have not changed.

Bow hunting season opens Oct. 1.