Pennsylvania hunting license digest booklets going away
Harrisburg — The Pennsylvania Game Commission is looking to get out of – or at least scale back its participation in – the printing business.
Specially, it is no longer going to print hunting digests like it once did.
Right now, of course, every hunter and trapper who buys a hunting or furtaking license gets a digest with their tag. That’s proving increasingly costly to the commission.
Steve Smith, head of its Bureau of Information and Education, said the cost to print the digest in 2004 – when the commission first went to a magazine-sized publication – was $12,000. That was the net cost, after revenues from advertising were factored in.
Last year, with retailers and manufacturers increasingly reluctant to spend money on print advertising, the net cost to the agency to print an 86-page digest was more than $190,000.
That’s expected to continue to increase, too.
All the while, it appears as though sportsmen are using the book less than ever, Smith said. More than 600,000 people last year visited the commission’s website to look at the online version of the digest, and more than 300,000 downloaded the electronic version.
That’s going to change what hunters see and get as of the start of the new license year on July 1.
“So given those two factors, that the cost keeps increasing, and the number of people rely on our website for information that we’re providing them at a significant cost, the direction we’d like to move toward for this year would be to reduce the number of hard copies we’d provide significantly,” Smith said.
“And instead, for every license buyer at the time of purchase, they’ll get what we’re calling a pocket guide.”
That guide won’t be like the small pocket-sized digest hunters used to get.
Instead, it will be one sheet of paper, printed on both sides. It will list seasons and bag limits, hunting hours, details on how to report harvesting a deer, turkey, bobcat, fisher and snow goose, fluorescent orange requirements, details on how to report poaching and perhaps a little more.
“What does the hunter want to know? I have to think that’s the vast majority of what our hunters want to know,” Smith said.
Commissioner Jim Daley, of Butler County, suggested making the one-page pocket guide a bit bigger – printing it on legal-sized paper rather than 8.5-by-11, perhaps – so as to be able to provide a map of wildlife management units.
Otherwise, commissioners seemed to like the idea.
“I think this is a winner,” said Commissioner Bob Schlemmer, of Westmoreland County.
Commission President Brian Hoover, of Delaware County, said he doubts many hunters will lament the passing of the magazine-sized digest. “One of the biggest complaints” the agency has heard over the last 20 years was the move to that size digest as opposed to the pocket-sized one, he said.
Why not, then, he wondered, just go back to the full digest, but printed pocket-sized?
That remains a possibility going forward, Smith said. The commission would like to try the one-page sheet first, though, and see how it’s received.
“If we get those comments, that this isn’t enough, we’ll take a look at that,” he said.
The trend is for state wildlife agencies to provide less, though, it seems.
The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission prints a digest for anglers. It cost the agency $32,804 for 900,000 copies of the 36-page book last year, said spokesman Rick Levis.
It has no plans to go away from that, he added.
But Smith said he hunted in Colorado last fall. That state’s wildlife agency provides hunters with no kind of rule book. The onus is on the hunter to figure out the rules, he said.
Rich Palmer, deputy executive director for field operations for the agency, said he experienced similar things.
“I bought five licenses from five states last year and Pennsylvania was the only one that gave me a digest,” Palmer said.
Smith didn’t say what it might cost the commission to print the one-page guide. It will do that in-house, however.
It will also continue to seek advertising and perhaps get a sponsor for the digest, he added.
And for those hunters who absolutely want a hard copy of the full digest, they’ll be available by mail, but at a cost. They’ll have to pay $5 for one, said Dot Deer, director of the commission’s Bureau of Administration. She’s still negotiating with the automated licensing system vendor to see whether they’ll also charge a processing fee, as they do with licenses, of 90 cents.
License buyers will still get pink antlerless license application envelopes with their pocket guide, Smith said. They’ll also – for one more year – get pre-paid printed post cards for reporting their harvests.
Those are likely going away in 2018, when the commission is expected to go to requiring hunters to report harvests either by phone or online, Smith added.