Steamboat Parks and Wildlife office makes best of tough situation | CraigDailyPress.com

Steamboat Parks and Wildlife office makes best of tough situation

John F. Russell

— When the computers went down Tuesday, it left a line of hunters and guides waiting in a line outside the Colorado Parks and Wildlife office in Steamboat Springs.

They were not alone.

Hunters across the state had arrived early hoping to get one of more than 42,000 leftover limited and over-the-counter with caps big-game licenses that were set to go on sale at 9 a.m. But within moments, top officials knew they had a problem, and to make sure that everybody got an equal shot at the remaining licenses, they elected to shut the system down until the problem could be fixed.

"We didn't want hunters in one part of the state to have an unfair advantage over hunters from another part of the state," said Mike Porras, public information officer for Parks and Wildlife. "There is no question that this was an inconvenience for our customers, and we are very sorry for that."

The problem, which still is being investigated, caused the statewide licensing system to fail. But Porras said the problem wasn't with Parks and Wildlife computers but rather with an outside company that ran the application.

Once Parks and Wildlife realized it had a problem, officials shut the system down and contacted the vendor to fix the problem.

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Porras said the system was shut down for about three hours and was reopened a little after noon Tuesday. But by that time, lots of frustrated hunters had spent hours in lines and were concerned that they might have missed the opportunity to land a leftover license in the unit they wanted.

Leftover licenses are those that have gone through the main draw process in April and still remain. If a hunting unit offered 1,000 elk licenses for the year, but only 100 hunters applied for those licenses, then there would be 900 licenses leftover. Those are the licenses that went on sale last Tuesday.

Porras said that despite selling a record number of leftover and over-the-counter licenses, there still are plenty of opportunities for hunting in Colorado. He said more than 20,000 licenses still remain.

Local Parks and Wildlife Area Wildlife Manager Jim Haskins said some hunters in Steamboat Springs waited in line, but the customer service representatives in the Steamboat office did everything possible to make the best of a bad situation.

The agents took down information from the hunters who were standing in line so they could leave, and then the agents entered that information in the computers in the order it was received once the system was back up. Haskins said the agents were able to fill all of the elk licenses and most of the bear licenses for the hunters who had been in line.

"The girls in the front office worked through lunch, and considering what had happened, I think things went very well," Haskins said.

While the system had a hiccup, Haskins said he thinks selling the leftover licenses online and over the counter on the same day is going to be better than the old way. Back then, hunters could buy over-the-counter leftover licenses one day in person or by using a 1-800 number. The remaining licenses would go on sale online the next day.

Haskins said that option put hunters, especially out-of-state hunters, at a huge disadvantage. Haskins also thinks the new system will result in more sales in a shorter period of time. Last year on the first day, the state sold 12,629 leftover licenses. This year, in half the time, Parks and Wildlife sold more than 14,847.

"We definitely didn't want this to happen, but it did," Haskins said. "Our office was able to weather the storm. I don't think this will happen again. I think the state will contact the appropriate people and, things will be a lot smoother the next time around.”

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966