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Outdoor Illinois: A deeper dive into the new app for Illinois sportsmen and women

Taking a more extended look at what is in and the potential for the new Outdoor Illinois app from the Illinois Conservation Foundation.

File photo of a waterfowl hunting blind at Spring Lake SFWA. Credit: Dale Bowman
The new Outdoor Illinois app allows hunters the ability to set reminders and then apply for such things as applications for the draw of waterfowl hunting blinds at Spring Lake.
Dale Bowman

It’s like the mail carrier ringing the bell, then handing over a package. The day becomes all Reese’s and peace.

That was my feeling Tuesday when I downloaded the new free app, Outdoor Illinois.

I’ve been waiting nearly a decade, through three governors and three Illinois Department of Natural Resources directors, for Illinois to come screaming into the 21st Century with an app.

The app was developed by the Illinois Conservation Foundation. Yes, there’s a “Donate” button on every page I checked and a lead advertisement.

But it’s a start.

“We’re so excited to be able to offer sportsmen and women an additional – and accessible – outlet to fill their needs when it comes to outdoor recreation, hunting and fishing,” ICF executive director Crystal Curfman said in the initial release. “The new app offers outdoor enthusiasts a wealth of information and opportunities, from setting reminders for hunting and fishing licenses to providing contact information for Illinois’ Conservation Police Officers.”

Like any other app, it’s available for both iPhone and Android systems on the App Store and Google Play.

Screen shot of the opening page of the new Outdoor Illinois app. Credit: Dale Bowman
Screen shot of the opening page of the new Outdoor Illinois app.
Dale Bowman

My foremost question was whether it would make it easy to have an electronic license.

Or as Mike Clifford put it, “My question is whether having a fishing license on our phone is good enough?”

IDNR deputy director Rachel Torbert emailed back on Wednesday, “Just heard back from OLE [Office of Law Enforcement]. Electronic copy is now allowed for licenses.”

“I’ve been playing with it today, it’s a great resource all in one place,” Christian Howe posted. “No more fumbling around websites, etc.

“Things Id like to see in the app are the ability to store our licenses in it for presentation to a CPO.”

I love that idea and have a few other ideas, too.

The app is divided into four main categories: Hunting, fishing, boating and camping.

“The initial intent of the app was to help remind hunters, anglers, boaters and campers when applications and permits were due as well as license expiration and renewal reminders,” Curfman emailed.

It’s more than that.

The ICF noted the app allows users to purchase hunting and fishing licenses, find places to hunt and fish, view fishing records, register new boats and renew boat registration, access a list of Illinois state parks, learn more about camping and campsite and shelter reservations, set reminders for upcoming season and renewal dates.

Screen shot of the options n the second page of the new Outdoor Illinois app and what are the basic options. Credit: Dale Bowman
Screen shot of the options n the second page of the new Outdoor Illinois app and what are the basic options.
Dale Bowman

I just joined Illinois Recreational Access Program and was hoping I could get my IRAP stuff through the app.

“You must still go through paper copies and the IDNR website,” Curfman replied. “The app does not include IRAP.”

The requirement in the IDNR I find the biggest pain in the ass is the use of windshield cards. Somehow, I was hoping the app might have a way to avoid that hassle.

Alas, Curfman explained,” The app does not have a function to replace windshield cards.”

A few clicks I had trouble accessing, but could be operator error or some of the electronic issues since the derecho on Monday.

“Additionally, in order to set reminders you must create an account to received the notifications,” Curfman noted.

I set up an account within seconds.

All in all, I found it fairly easy to use, even for a Luddite-leaning sort like myself.

That’s not by accident as Curfman explained when I asked what was most difficult in developing the app, “The most difficult part was making sure sure we weren’t missing any major features that make the app easy to use. For example, including a back button to get back to the app once you tap on a link outside of the app as well as making sure all aspects were user friendly to all outdoorsmen and women.”

As to tweaks, she would like to see, she emailed, “[Today] we will already have an updated version of the app that includes a search button within the app. Say someone is looking for something directly related to mallards, they can search `mallard’ and the app will populate all the places the term is located in the app.

“Additionally, we’ve received overwhelming feedback on additional features people would like to see added such as more information on boating, being able to directly contact CPOs within the app, and, as you mentioned earlier, IRAP, and having the ability to use the app as to show your license electronically. Sky is the limit, but we wanted to start simple and build and add as needed.”

It’s long overdue, but Outdoor Illinois is a good start in aiming upward.

The new Outdoor Illinois app allows anglers to set reminders when trout season opens at places such as Rock Creek, shown here in the fall of 2017. Credit: Dale Bowman
The new Outdoor Illinois app allows anglers to set reminders when trout season opens at places such as Rock Creek, shown here in the fall of 2017.
Dale Bowman