FAQ’s New license and application changes for 2020
By angelamontana

Posted: February 7, 2020
Regular Paper licenses and tags

FWP will be switching to a regular paper license in 2020. The new licenses will be printed on 8.5” x 11” paper. This includes all carcass tags.

Licenses, carcass tags, and permits will be available to all hunters to print immediately after purchasing online or at the successful completion of a drawing. Hunters will be emailed a link that they will follow to print their carcass tags only once.

Why is FWP making the switch now?

FWP is making this switch for two main reasons: customer convenience and associated costs and technology.

Once the change is adopted, we believe the ease of use for most customers will be an incredible benefit. Customers will now be able to print licenses and carcass tags immediately after purchase, unlike previous years when they waited for them to be mailed from FWP headquarters.

Additionally, the cost of the thermal paper used for many years for our licenses and carcass tags continues to increase along with the problems of our aging equipment, i.e. the seemingly disappearing ink debacle on last year’s licenses due to the aged thermal printers not being able to “burn” hot enough. Additionally, we can no longer obtain replacements for the printers we currently use. They’ve become obsolete, making them impossible to replace not only at FWP offices, but also at our external license providers across the state.

Will there be additional changes coming when our new licensing system, ExploreMT, comes online?

We will eventually be adding a digital carcass tag option but are likely several years out from getting entirely away from paper carcass tags. We anticipate a mix of usage among customers that use digital tags vs. paper tags.

Seems like the paper tags won’t hold up in the Montana weather. What should you do?

Customers will be encouraged to keep their licenses and carcass tags in plastic bags both before and after validating and attaching to a harvested game animal. In fact, you can pick up small, sealable baggies to put your licenses in at the time of purchase.

What happens when I’m out in the field and my license gets wet and unreadable? Will I get a ticket?

FWP wardens have always used discretion when encountering situations like this. Even with the old paper, it wasn’t uncommon to have situations with tags that were unreadable or difficult to discern. The intent with this change is not to make it easier for wardens to write more citations. FWP wants hunters to enjoy their hunts, follow the law, and get home with some great wild game for the freezer. This small change in license paper should not get in the way of that.

Do any other states do this? What is their experience?

Alaska – Transitioning toward electronic/mobile device licenses, currently prints licenses on plain white paper.

Arkansas – Moved to plain white paper licenses in 2017. First year was met with public resistance, but now hardly any complaints as the public realized how convenient it is.

Delaware – Plain white paper for 10 years. They recommend hunters use a protective plastic bag to keep licenses secure.

Maine – Has used regular paper for years.

Ohio – Has used plain paper for years. There were and are some durability concerns, but free reprints help.

Many states have hybrid systems with paper licenses and digital carcass tags.

States who use regular paper licenses found the change to be challenging for their customers initially, but now it is not an issue.

Are tagging requirements still going to remain the same?

Yes. It is Montana law that a hunter attaches a validated carcass tag to the animal before moving it from the kill site or leaving the kill site.  Having the carcass tag safe and secure inside a plastic baggie is vital at this step.

Doesn’t this increase the possibility of license fraud?

We don’t think so. We know most people want to follow the law. We also know that there are criminals who already look for ways to take advantage of the system. That isn’t likely to change.

FWP’s Licensing and Technology Services Division have worked diligently to come up with several layers of fraud prevention, including:

  • The link in the e-mail the customer receives at the conclusion of the transaction that prints out their carcass tag is only available once, then cannot be accessed again.
  • Watermark on the carcass tag that alters when copied.
  • Each new tag will generate a unique identification number when a tag is reprinted.

How will customers buy licenses now?

The change is going to make it simpler and more convenient for most of our customers. Already customers can keep a digital version of their license listing on their phone. At the start of the new license year on March 1, customers will also be able to print carcass tags from home immediately after purchase, alleviating the need to go to a license provider or FWP office. This will also greatly reduce the wait time for the customer after a successful drawing and eliminate the logistical problems of mailing and receiving licenses and permits.

 All electronic applications

Beginning in the 2020 season, FWP will be moving away from paper license application packets and going to all electronic applications either online or at an FWP office. Rather than print the traditional application packets, we will have developed application worksheets that will be available online and at FWP offices to assist customers who choose to apply for and/or purchase licenses in person.

Why are we doing this now?

With the passage of SB144 by the 2019 Montana Legislature, the application deadline for deer and elk permits and nonresident combination licenses has been moved to April 1. Limiting applications to an electronic-only format will better serve our customers by significantly reducing the timeframe required after an application deadline to conduct the drawing. Historically, FWP has hired temporary help to manually enter application data into our Automated Licensing System from over 50,000 paper applications.  Electronic-only applications will allow the department to conduct a drawing within two weeks after an application deadline rather than six weeks.  Successfully drawn licenses and permits will be available to print from home immediately after the drawing.

What are my options to submit applications?

Customers who wish to apply for licenses/permits can do so via the online sales portal, or at an FWP office.  Applications will not be accepted by license providers or by mail.

What do I need to apply?

An important change this year is that all people applying for licenses or special permits will need a valid email address. This email address will be used to notify you of a successful drawing and to provide you the link to where you can print off your special permit or carcass tag.

Fortunately, if you don’t have an email address many free options exist to establish one. These include:

If you need help setting up an email account, your local public library is a great resource for public computers, internet access, and help with the process.

How many license buyers are impacted by this change?

Understandably, we recognize there are some Montana residents who are unable or reluctant to utilize technology to purchase their licenses/permits. These customers will still be able to purchase their general licenses through a license provider needing to only visit an FWP office to apply for special permits.

Currently, about 86 percent of our customers already purchase/apply for licenses and permits online or at an FWP office.

Benefits to electronic applications include:

  • All applications received by the deadline.
  • Drawings will be completed within two weeks of an application deadline rather than six.
  • Refunds could be issued to customers within one week of a drawing.
  • Application data is immediately available and automatically entered in the appropriate drawing.
  • FWP staff can assist customers on demand because information would be available in the ALS database in real time and wouldn’t require a waiting period for the paper application to be processed.
  • Party applications will be processed much more efficiently. When parties apply online, the party is assigned a ”party number” that can be distributed to each party member allowing them to apply at their convenience.