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Getting the kinks out: As with most roll-outs, there are bumps for the IDNR’s new licensing system

There are kinks and bumps in the roll-out of the IDNR’s new licensing system, but they should be ironed out well before the April 1 start of the new licensing year.

Capt. Augie Ralph checks over my “book” of a hunting and fishing license after successfully printing it out Saturday.
Capt. Augie Ralph checks over my “book” of a hunting and fishing license after successfully printing it out Saturday.
Dale Bowman

Capt. Augie Ralph had just finished entering data for a new license Saturday when I walked into the Salmon Stop in Waukegan.

‘‘You’re playing Russian roulette with this machine,’’ wife Lori said.

A few minutes later, the guy came in and said, ‘‘Did my license go through?’’

Not an idle question.

On March 1, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources rolled out a new system for licensing, permitting, campground reservations and registration services.

As with most rollouts, it has been bumpy. Lori Ralph texted me early on the first day about issues. At least the IDNR did the rollout a month before the new fishing and hunting licenses are required April 1.

‘‘It’s hit-and-miss, and the state doesn’t call back,’’ Augie Ralph said. ‘‘Used to be you just called the help line.’’

That is the biggest complaint I’ve heard: the lack of help when requested.

‘‘Same principle as the Wisconsin system, but not as easy,’’ Augie Ralph said. ‘‘The nice thing with Wisconsin is that you get people [to respond for help].’’

IDNR deputy director Rachel Torbert said the agency is excited about the rollout because of ‘‘easier access to licenses, permits, registrations and camping reservations for constituents.’’

As for the issues, she emailed: ‘‘We’re in constant communication with the vendor to ensure any issues are prioritized, addressed and resolved. . . . The vendor with which we’re working has added more staff to address response time for calls to the help center, which should help.’’

The big seller of licenses in the Chicago area, Henry’s Sports and Bait, had enough issues that selling new licenses was put on hold. Selling licenses for Indiana, Wisconsin and Illinois, Henry’s has dealt with this before.

‘‘Anytime there is a changeover in the system, there is a glitch,’’ Henry’s proprietor Tom Palmisano said.

So they’ll be patient and let the bugs be worked out.

‘‘Lots of old-timers make a pilgrimage to Henry’s on April 1 to buy their license,’’ he said. ‘‘I am not going to beat a dead horse [over this].’’

One advantage of buying a license from a vendor is that they are printed on durable material, unlike ink and paper if you buy it online and print it at home. And you save a couple of bucks in fees. I used to buy and print licenses at home, but I switched back to vendors for the durability.

For my test, I handed Augie Ralph my 2020-21 license. He punched in the information, then asked questions.

‘‘Did it go through?’’ Lori Ralph asked. ‘‘It’s like Las Vegas and the slot machines. Pull the handle and see what happens.’’

‘‘You have a book here,’’ Augie Ralph said.

I get about everything, so it took him five minutes to complete. The charge was $62.25, and only 50 cents goes to the shop as a processing fee.

‘‘Push the button and see what we get,’’ he said.

He printed out my new license flawlessly.

The real test will come on the first beautiful spring day in late March or early April, when thousands decide to buy their licenses at roughly the same time.

IHSA

The Illinois High School Association board decided Monday to attempt a full state tournament for bass fishing. Sectionals are scheduled for May 6, with the state finals set for May 21-22.

Whitefish

Pending formal certification, Phil Duracz caught the Indiana-record whitefish Saturday near Portage. It weighed 9.34 pounds, smashing the old record (7.69) set by Brian Belke two years ago.

Wild things

It might be worth keeping binoculars handy when checking migrating skeins of sandhill cranes. John Vukmirovich saw a whooping crane mixed in Friday.

Stray cast

Able to sit at Sox Park again? Next, walleye will be stocked in Lake Michigan.