St. Paul Last Friday was a historic day for the Electronic
Licensing System (ELS). At 5:53 p.m. on Friday, the state recorded
its 10,000,000 transaction on the ELS system since it began four
In short, license vendors throughout the state were busy, as
thousands of deer hunters waited until the last minute to purchase
their 2003 firearms deer licenses.
Through last Friday, 397,495 deer licenses had been sold, which
was about 1,000 more than were sold during the same time frame last
year. Although the overall total is on par with 2002, the most
impressive aspect is not how many licenses were sold, but how many
deer licenses were sold on Friday alone.
According to statistics provided by the DNR, sales volume
reached 2.25 transactions per second on Friday. In all, more than
100,000 different license privileges were processed between
midnight on Thursday to midnight Friday preceding opening day.
Tom Keefe, ELS unit supervisor for the DNR said those totals
included everything from cross-country ski passes to trout stamps,
but the majority of sales were firearms deer licenses.
“It was a busy Friday for license vendors throughout the state,”
Keefe said. “Fortunately, everything went smoothly, and it shows
how well the new system works.”
While firearms license sales for the first week of the season
have surpassed last year’s total, sales of additional deer tags or
licenses also have continued to rise. Sales figures for tags such
as intensive harvest and management permits already have shattered
“We issued a total of 105,000 of these licenses in 2002, which
was a record,” Keefe said. “As of last Friday, we already had sold
142,248 so far.”
That number is expected to continue rising as the deer season
progresses. Keep in mind that many deer hunters in Zones 3B and 4B
don’t kick off their season until this weekend; as a result, many
hunters have yet to purchase their licenses or additional tags for
Keefe anticipates total deer license sales for 2003 to exceed
437,000. By comparison, 425,647 firearms licenses were sold in
2002, and in 2001, 446,747 were been sold. The drop-off in sales
from 2001 to 2002 can be attributed to concerns about CWD.
“I’m very impressed with license sales up to this point,” Keefe
added. ” But keep in mind that people have a better understanding
of CWD, the deer population is in great shape, and there were many
more antlerless permits available.”
The only concern that Keefe had leading into the season was in
Zone 3. Last year, the first hunt, 3A, was a nine-day, bucks-only
hunt. This year 3A was a seven-day season with a limited number of
antlerless permits available.
In retrospect, 3B went from seven to nine days, with a more
liberalized season. The possibility for fewer hunters participating
during the 3A season was there due to the shorter season, but
registration totals for the first few days of the 3A hunt don’t
According to Jim Mauer of Mauer Brothers in Elba, registration
numbers will exceed last year’s nine-day, 3A hunt. As of Tuesday
morning, there had already been 202 bucks registered, with four
full hunting days left in the 3A season. Last year, a total of 226
bucks were registered there during the entire 3A season.
“It appeared as though there were a lot of deer hunters in this
area over the weekend,” Mauer said. “I fully expect to break last
year’s harvest total for the 3A season, so if there was a dramatic
drop in license sales, I didn’t see it.”