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OUTDOORS: No more game checking stations

OUTDOORS: No more game checking stations

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The good old days of bringing in a deer, bear or turkey at a Game Checking Station are over, or soon will be. In future seasons, Virginia will go exclusively to electronic checking; and that’s a shame.

One of the great joys, particularly for deer hunters, was loading a fine animal into the bed of a pickup truck and checking it in. All the fellows in the store—be it a gas station or a sporting goods store—would go outside to the parking lot and admire the kill.

“That’s a nice spread. How many points did it have? Did you have to track it far?” were some of the rapid-fire questions which gave the hunter a chance to relive and re-tell his experience.

But, no more. Beginning with the 2021-22 hunting season, the Department of Wildlife Resources will fully transition the process of big game checking to electronic and telephone checking.

According to DWR, during the last hunting season, 86% of all deer, 93% of fall turkeys, 100% of spring turkeys, 100% of bobcats and 58% of all bears were reported through an electronic harvest reporting system. So the end was clearly in sight for manual checking.

The division, however, recognizes the importance of accurate and consistent data gathering in game management.

“Mandatory game checking, a cornerstone of DWR’s game management program for more than 70 years, will remain vital for game management in Virginia for many years to come,” DWR emphasized. “Thus, it is critical that every hunter continue to report their harvest using the electronic or telephone harvest reporting systems.”

My son once encountered a snag in the electronic call-in procedure. He was hunting in Bedford County in a remote hunting camp. He killed a deer at dusk and by the time they tracked and found the animal, it was late Saturday evening. They didn’t have cell service at the camp and had to drive out the next morning to call and check in the deer.

A few weeks later, Jimmie got a letter from the game department that a violation had occurred and to please call them, which he did. The warden said that he had called in his kill on a Sunday morning and it was illegal at the time to hunt on Sundays. After Jimmie explained the situation, the warden completely understood and the matter was quickly settled.

DWR acknowledged that the old system and game stations have served the state well in the past, but it’s time to move on.

“DWR recognizes the traditions associated with paper checking and game check stations and is exceptionally grateful to check station operators for their decades of service collecting the harvest data that has supported restoration of our deer, bear and turkey populations,” according to a release from DWR. “While moving to an electronic/telephonic check system will no longer necessitate official ‘check stations,’ those operators who wish to continue offering this service to hunters may do so by assisting with electronic or telephonic checking.”

But there are some things that can’t be done electronically. The computer doesn’t care about antler spreads or tactics or dog chases or lengthy rifle shots down power lines. The computer just wants numbers and hunting is far more than numbers. It’s the camaraderie within a deer club; it’s working with a pack of hounds; it’s taking a youngster on a hunt he or she will remember for a lifetime; and yes, it’s checking in a fine animal at a place and among folks who really appreciate what hunting is all about.

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