Virginia Making Full Transition to Electronic Game Checking: What to Know About Changes

by Clayton Edwards

In the coming year, hunters in Virginia will be required to use the state’s electronic game checking system to report and record their harvests. All hunters, even those who do not have to purchase a license will be required to use the system. This affects hunters who harvest bobcat, bear, turkey, elk, or deer. Virginia’s electronic game checking requirement begins September 21, 2021.

More Americans buying hunting licenses and heading into the woods to hunt. Virginia is one of many states bringing their game reporting systems into the 21st century. The change will help the state’s Department of Wildlife Resources to keep a closer eye on animal populations and harvest trends. This information will help them calculate bag limits as well as hunting seasons. Having the information in a digital form not only makes these calculations easier but also more accurate.

The electronic game checking system can be used in two ways. Hunters can call the hotline at 866-GOT-GAME or use the GoOutoorsVa app or website. The app is free for both Andriod and iPhone.

Important Information About Virginia’s Electronic Game Checking System

For some, this new system will present some challenges. We’re going to cover some of the main things you need to know before getting out in the Virginia woods.

When Does the Transition Happen?

Virginia will officially transition to fully electronic or telephonic game reporting in 2021. Paper reporting will be the same until the end of the regular hunting season. Any game harvested in the late hunting season, after January 2, will need to be electronically reported.

Hunters can continue reporting game in=person until the end of the regular hunting season.

What If You Don’t Have Service?

If you don’t have cell or internet service at your hunting spot, that’s okay. This is where having the app comes in handy. You can enter all of the information into the app. It will automatically send the information when you have service again. Otherwise, you’ll have to call or go to the website when you have service. The app really makes things easier.

What If You Don’t Have a Smartphone or Access to a Computer?

This is no problem. When you get to a phone, call the hotline and report your harvest over the phone. You don’t need a smartphone for this service at all. A regular house phone is fine.

How Will the Change Affect Check Stations?

When the Department of Wildlife Resources collects game check data on January 2nd, they will not provide any new paperwork to the stations. However, your check station may not be closing. In fact, your check station operator may still be able to help you check your game. If they choose to stay open, the operators will use their internet or telephone connection to get your information to the Department of Wildlife Resources. Be sure to check with your check station operator before the end of the regular hunting season this year.

Some Things Aren’t Changing

While the way you report your harvest may be changing, some things will stay the same. If you are required to purchase a hunting license, you still need to carry it with you. You can carry a paper or digital copy. Either is fine. Also, you will still need to submit a tooth from any bear harvested. The system will direct you through the steps you need to follow and an official envelope will be shipped to your address on file.

Virginia’s Electronic Game Checking System Isn’t New to Some

This switch won’t be much of a hassle for many Virginia hunters. According to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, “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, if you’re one of those hunters already using the electronic or telephone system, just keep doing what you’re doing. Otherwise, it looks like the app would be the easiest way to use the system. Just remember to silence your phone out there. Notifications can come at the worst possible time.