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Game Harvest Reporting Changes for the 2021–2021 Hunting Season

The Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) plans to discontinue game check stations and the distribution of game check books beginning next fall with the 2021–22 hunting season.

All hunters (including those who are not required to purchase a license) who harvest a deer, turkey, bear, bobcat, or elk will need to check their harvest using the Department’s telephone, internet, or mobile app checking systems through GoOutdoorsVA.

Mandatory game checking, a cornerstone of DWRs game management program for more than 70 years, will remain vital for game management in Virginia for many years to come. Thus, it is critical that every hunter report their harvest using one of the electronic checking systems. Since 2004, DWR has offered some form of electronic checking, and beginning in 2019, electronic checking options were available for all game species for which checking is required. Last hunting season, 86% of all deer/elk, 93% of fall turkeys, 100% of spring turkeys, 100% of bobcats, and 58% of bears were reported through an electronic checking system.

DWR recognizes the values and traditions associated with game check stations and is exceptionally grateful to check station operators for their decades of service to collecting harvest data that have supported restoration of our deer, bear, and turkey populations, but factors such as hunter convenience, efficiency of capturing data, and cost of distribution and collection of check books have driven the shift to electronic checking. DWR remains committed to a harvest reporting system that is convenient to hunters, obtains reliable data, and maintains the public’s trust in this information of critical importance to sound game management. If you have questions or need additional information, please email gamecheck@dwr.virginia.gov.

Electronic Game Harvest Reporting FAQs

Q: What’s changing in the process to report the bear, deer, elk, and turkeys I’ve harvested?

A: The Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) plans to discontinue game check stations and the distribution of game check books beginning September 1, 2021 with the start of the 2021–22 fall hunting season. All hunters (including those who are not required to purchase a license) who harvest a deer, turkey, bear, or elk will need to report their harvest using DWR’s telephone, internet, or mobile app harvest reporting systems through GoOutdoorsVA. Data collected from mandatory game checking has been a cornerstone of DWR’s game management program for more than 70 years, and the collected data will remain vital for game management in Virginia for many years to come. Thus, it is critical that every hunter report their harvest using one of the electronic harvest reporting systems.

Q: Has there been any change in bobcat checking procedures?

A: No. Harvested bobcats must continue to be reported electronically using telephone (866) 468-4263 or (866) GOT-GAME, internet, or mobile app harvest reporting systems.

Q: Do I still need to report the bear, deer, elk, turkeys, and bobcats that I harvest throughout the remainder of the current (2020-21) hunting seasons?

A: Yes. Successful hunters will have the option of taking their bear, deer, elk, and turkey harvest to a check station through the remainder of the current regular hunting seasons, which closes on January 2, 2021. As has been the case for many years, all bobcats, as well as deer and turkeys harvested during the late seasons (after Jan. 2), will need to be reported using the telephone (866) 468-4263 or (866) GOT-GAME, internet, or mobile app harvest reporting systems.

Q: When will DWR stop distributing game checking materials to check stations?

A: The Department will gather game checking materials from the check stations after the closure of the regular hunting season on January 2, 2021. After that date, and all subsequent seasons, game checking materials will no longer be distributed to check stations.

Q: If DWR is no longer distributing game check materials to check stations, does that mean the check station I have always used to report my harvest will be closed?

A: Not necessarily. Even though DWR will no longer distribute game checking materials, check station operators can still offer to check game for hunters using their own telephones or internet to access DWR’s electronic harvest reporting systems.

Q: Is DWR eliminating the need to report the harvest of bear, deer, elk, turkeys, and bobcats in the future?

A: No. Mandatory game checking remains in effect, but will only be available through DWR’s telephone, internet, or mobile app harvest reporting systems through GoOutdoorsVA. Data collected from mandatory game checking has been a cornerstone of DWR’s game management program for more than 70 years, and the collected data will remain vital for game management in Virginia for many years to come.

Q: Do I still need to report the bear, deer, elk, turkeys, and bobcats I harvest next season? If so, what options will be available to report my harvest?

A: Yes. The Department will continue to maintain and provide the telephone, internet, and mobile app harvest reporting systems for hunter to report their bear, deer, elk, turkeys, and bobcats.

Q: What if I don’t have cell phone or internet service where I harvested my game?

A: For hunters using the mobile app to report their harvest, there is no problem if you do not have service at the location where the animal is recovered. Hunters can enter all the appropriate information into the mobile app, and the mobile app will automatically upload that information when service is available. When using the telephone or internet checking systems to report a harvested animal, the hunter must validate the appropriate license tag at the location of recovery then transport the animal to a location where it can be reported via the telephone or internet checking system. However, as has been the case for many years, hunters must report their harvest upon vehicle transport or at the conclusion of hunting hours, whichever occurs first and without unnecessary delay.

Q: I don’t have a smart phone or computer access—how can I report my game?

A: Hunters can use any telephone to report their harvest via the Department’s telephone reporting system (866) 468-4263 or (866) GOT-GAME.

Q: Do I still need to carry a paper copy of my hunting license?

A: Hunters who are required to purchase a license must carry either a paper copy or an electronic copy of their hunting license.

Q: Why are check stations and the distribution of check books being discontinued?

A: Over time, increased use of DWR’s three electronic harvest reporting systems (telephone, internet, and mobile app) has resulted in the vast majority of hunters utilizing these systems to report their harvest. During the 2019 hunting seasons, 86% of all deer and elk, 93% of fall turkeys, 100% of spring turkeys, 100% of bobcats, and 58% of bears were reported using the electronic harvest reporting systems. Note 2019 was the first year of electronic reporting for bears. The cost of printing, distributing, and collecting check books, as well as factors such as hunter convenience, is driving the shift to electronic reporting for all harvested bear, deer, elk, turkeys, and bobcats.

Q: Is DWR concerned that the switch to electronic reporting will reduce the quality of the data it receives on harvested bear, deer, elk, turkeys, and bobcats?

A: No. DWR staff have been reviewing the quality of the electronic data since options for electronic reporting were implemented in 2004. Data collected via the electronic checking systems meets or exceeds the standards of data collected at game check stations.

Q: Do I still need to submit a tooth for a harvested bear?

A: Yes. Successful hunters are required to submit a tooth from a harvested bear. The checking system will direct the hunter through various steps and an official tooth submission envelope will be sent to the hunter at the address listed on their GoOutdoorsVA account.