Sale of leftover turkey tags not without glitch
By Dean Bortz Editor
Madison — By 12:02 p.m. on Saturday, March 25, skeptical turkey hunters were saying “I told you so” before becoming downright frustrated with a computer system that wouldn’t spit out turkey tags for at least an hour in most locations.
That didn’t keep hunters from buying more than 33,500 leftover tags in four days, though.
Calls coming into the Wisconsin Outdoor News office on Monday, March 27 ran along the lines of that from reader Harold Ehrenreich, of Birnamwood.
“I have no problem with the DNR selling the tags - I’m willing to pay to play, but the system has to work, and I want it to be fair to everyone,” Ehrenreich said. “I think (the DNR) has to rethink how to sell these tags.”
Plenty of other frustrated turkey hunters delivered their message directly to the DNR and Diane Brookbank, DNR Bureau of Licensing director.
On the morning of March 27, Brookbank said she was just as frustrated with the computer glitch. Before the sales were supposed to begin at 12:01 p.m. on March 25, hunters contacting the newspaper office presumed the DNR’s licensing system would not be able to handle the volume of calls. Not so, said Brookbank. It was a software problem, not a call volume problem. She noted that once the software correction was made, the system handled the call volume without a problem.
“The error was not a volume error - it was not too many calls or contacts. The contractor failed to load a piece of software to run the turkey permits. It was well tested, and there is no reason this should have occurred,” Brookbank said.
So if it was tested, how did the system fail?
“We have a production environment and test environment. We tested the process thoroughly in the test environment, and it worked. Then we take the test environment and move it into the production environment, but one piece (of software) didn’t get moved (at the site of license contractor Central Bank of Missouri). It was out of DNR staff hands, but we certainly take responsibility for it,” Brookbank said.
“We all (DNR and Central Bank of Missouri) discovered (the problem) at the same time. They had staff on call, and we had a beefed up help desk; the resources were in place, the difficulty was in trying to find the problem,” Brookbank said.
Some hunters said the DNR should have started the sales on a weekday, thinking that more technical support would have been available.
“We had 11 people in Madison to answer calls for agents. I don’t believe the day of the week made a difference; the problem was resolved between the Madison office and Central Bank of Missouri,” she said.
When hunters standing in line at license counters couldn’t buy permits, they were concerned that hunters using the internet might be buying the tags for which they were waiting. When internet buyers couldn’t link up, they wondered whether they should run down to the hardware store. They then tried the DNR’s toll free number. That didn’t work, either.
“The entire system was down from noon to about 1:05 p.m., so no one was getting through and getting permits that others were not able to buy,” she said.
Brookbank agrees with Ehrenreich on one thing.
“We’re going to have to think about how we’re going to (do this in the future). We’re going to have to rethink this - this can’t happen again,” she said. “We have had suggestions for selling certain units on certain days, or maybe have three sales periods.”
Ehrenreich suggested including a purchase option for leftover tags on the initial spring turkey application.
Also, Brookbank said she is going to review the DNR’s contract with Central Bank of Missouri.
“We do plan on holding our contractor accountable for this - we’re going to see what options we have,” she said.
Ehrenreich said he had talked to friends who were just as frustrated as he was. He called the local DNR office on Thursday to make sure he understood what he had to do on Saturday to buy a tag.
“I asked whether I should go to a license outlet, or use the internet. They told me I would be better off using the internet,” he said. So, he logged on at 10 a.m., just to make sure he could get in, then he went to an auction about halfway between his home and the hardware store.
“I left the auction early, which was six miles from a hardware store where I could have tried to buy a tag and eight miles home. Then, when I couldn’t get through on the internet, I drove 14 miles back to the hardware store where I found 20 other people waiting. They were very upset. A father and son were there 20 minutes early to be first in line,” Ehrenreich said.
“We know we inconvenienced a lot of hunters. It’s no fun standing in line waiting for equipment to work - people have better things to do. For that we are very truly sorry. We are equally sorry for the frustrations our vendors experienced,” Brookbank said.
Tags selling quickly
Once the error was corrected, the DNR sold leftover turkey tags very quickly. As of Tuesday, March 28, the DNR had sold 33,457 tags, including 982 nonresident tags.
There were 40,283 leftover tags, mostly for the fifth and sixth periods.
On the first day, the DNR sold 21,150 resident tags and 682 nonresident tags, for a total of 21,832 tags. The DNR sold another 7,368 tags (207 nonresident) on March 26, 2,960 tags (74 nonresident) on March 27, and 1,204 tags (19 nonresident) on March 28.
“We saw a lot of people going back on the internet at 12:01 p.m. the next day for second tag,” Brookbank said.
By 3:30 p.m. the first day, the DNR sold more than 14,300 of 40,283 available permits, a rate of 95 permits per minute.
A list of units with the number of permits that are still available is on the DNR website at www.dnr.wi.gov.