Hunters and anglers looking to renew their licenses this year will notice a big change from the long, tag-laden receipt they normally receive at their local sporting goods store.

All licenses and permits sold by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission now will be available as a downloadable file outdoors enthusiasts can carry on their mobile phone or have printed off on a single piece of standard printer paper.

The change in license format is part of an effort to make it as easy as possible for hunters and anglers to purchase and carry their license with them. Thanks to modern technology, anyone purchasing a hunting or fishing license, whether they purchase online or at a license vendor, will be able to carry their license with them on their mobile device.

“The Commission passed a regulation allowing electronic copies of hunting and fishing licenses to be valid in December,” said Tony Davis, chief information officer for the AGFC. “And we’ve worked with our new license vendor to make it as easy as possible for license holders to do it.”

Davis says the electronic copy will come to license holders via email as a portable document format (.pdf) file. This way it may be saved to a phone, kept in the user’s email or printed out from any printer.

“We also are asking license vendors to supply a paper copy of the license to customers,” Davis said. “We know a lot of people still want that paper license, so we are making sure that option still exists.”

The new system also will allow hunters and anglers to look up their current license privileges and print out replacements at home should their original license copy become lost or deleted.

“Before, there was a charge to replace a lost license, but now it’s as easy as hitting print on your home computer,” Davis said.

Game tags for deer and turkey also will be included in the printout, and will still need to be used during the 2017 turkey season. Hunters may use tags from a license purchased before the transition, or they can use one printed with their license on the new system.

“We’ll have pretty much the same tagging system for this spring, but we are looking into the possibility of implementing new tagging requirements moving forward,” Davis said. “Proposed regulations for next hunting season, which are currently in the 30-day public comment period, may allow you to use the tags printed on the new license system or other methods, such as using tags found in the guidebook or even a blank sheet of paper. The goal is to allow hunters to hit the woods without the need to print out paper licenses and tags.”

Online license purchases will be much simpler under the new system as well. Previously, small game and fishing privileges became effectively immediately, but license purchasers using an online option still had to wait for their tags to arrive before being able to hunt big game. With the new system, big game hunting privileges also will become effective the moment the license is purchased through the online system.

“On April 1, the page you go to from www.agfc.com is going to look a little different, but the experience should be a lot easier to navigate,” Davis said. “Especially with a smartphone.” In addition to purchasing a license, hunters will be able to apply for all special hunt permits, check their game and get up-to-the-minute harvest reports for deer and turkey. They will even be able to purchase gift certificates for fellow hunters and anglers and make donations to the AGFC through the online license site.

“We want hunters, anglers and other outdoors enthusiasts in Arkansas to have as much at their fingertips as possible when they visit our site,” Davis said. “And the system should remember all of your data once you enter your Social Security number or driver’s license the next time you renew or apply for a permit. We want people hunting game, not hunting for how to buy their license.”

Many other improvements are in store for Arkansas hunters with the new license system, including email reminders to renew expiring licenses, an auto-renewal feature and increased communication possibilities depending upon a person’s license-purchasing options.