Deadlines for 2016 western big game hunting opportunities loom
I love writing my annual western big game hunting deadlines story because I view it as a challenge to my ability to conduct research and find quality information. The piece ultimately helps hunters find the details they need for a hunt of a lifetime. In the article I wrote:
“This writer has been writing about the process hunters must take for nearly two decades, and in that time has seen the process go from strictly phone call and mail, to completely online. State websites have been awkward and wonky over the years, but nearly all of them are now extremely easy to navigate.”
It’s been an interesting study of the expansion of the information age. In those first few years of writing the article, beginning in 1998, I had to make a lot of phone calls. The good news is that every state had somebody on the phone, and a significant part of their job was to answer questions for big game hunters.
Websites for almost every state agency were barebones but not every state even had a website with big game hunting information. Over the next decade, that underwent a dramatic shift, to the point that 10 years ago every state had a website with big game information and some were beginning to have downloadable or online license applications.
No more phone calls, however. It was around 10 years ago and I noticed making phone calls didn’t really yield much information. I’d get one person answering the phone, they’d transfer me, I’d usually get transferred one more time, and then end up leaving a message in a voicemail box that nobody seemed to check.
Fortunately the information was available on the website. I often wondered, “If I can find this information on the website then why am I writing about this in the first place?”
But as I’d click through each website, downloading applications, big game synopsis, regulation books, legal notices I’d realize that what I’m doing is putting my research skills to use to help those hunters who weren’t able to do that themselves for a variety of reasons.
This year, for the first time ever, every state had reliable information readily available. Most even had it in places where it made sense to find it.
Not too easy, however. Some states are very user friendly but many are still difficult to navigate. Whenever I revisited one of the websites this year, thinking that it was easy, I realized that I’ve just gotten to know these sites and remember where the information is hidden.
I hope the people who used to run those phones are doing well and enjoying their retirements, or have found jobs elsewhere answering the phone. There’s still almost nobody who actually answers the phones. Two or three years ago, I stopped including the phone number information with the article because it wasn’t worth the space it occupied in the paper.
My work with the article is reflective of my research skills and tenacity at locating information. Unfortunately, it’s not reflective of my ability as a western big game hunter. My only non-Minnesota big game hunting experience comes in Illinois (and I was quite successful!) and I’d love to head west sometime and pursue a wide variety of species.
No. 1 on my list would have to be going after a big giant elk perhaps in New Mexico, Colorado, or Montana. My second choice, but maybe only an ultimate fantasy, would be to go to Kodiak Island and pursue a massive grizzly bear.
I’d love to have some of the time from every hunter that I’ve helped over the years with their big game hunts. Those added minutes and hours might just be enough to spring me from the working life to enjoy a two week multispecies hunting trip of a lifetime.
A writer can keep dreaming can’t he?
Be sure to watch for the annual big game piece in the first print editions of Outdoor News in 2016.