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  • Ken Perrotte

Virginia Switches to Online or Telephone Checking of Big Game Only - No More Paper Cards

This (2021) is the first year that Virginia hunters will be unable to bring an animal they took to an authorized station to register the harvest and receive the traditional “game check” cards.

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources recently reminded hunters, including those who are not required to purchase a license, that they must report their deer, turkey, bear, bobcat or elk harvest using the department’s mobile app, internet or telephone harvest reporting systems.

Last year, a hunter introduced me to the “eNotch” system, which doesn’t require you to carry a paper hunting license and big game tags. Instead, you have an “electronic hunting license. You electronically “notch” your tag and register your kill. It was easy-peasy, taking about a minute.

To use eNotch, you first need a smartphone or tablet loaded with the Go Outdoors Virginia mobile app. You also need to download your hunting license by touching the “My Licenses” tile on the mobile app home page. You are then prompted to “Add A License” or “Add Another License.” You verify your identity by entering your date of birth, last name, and a third personal identifying feature. An electronic copy of your current DWR-issued licenses loads into the app.

Hunters have had to notch an appropriate tag at the place of kill before removing the animal. Some locations, however, might not have cell phone or internet service where the animal was taken. The DWR says this poses no problem. Hunters using the mobile app to report their harvest simply enter the required information into the app as soon as taking the animal and the app automatically uploads that information when service is available.

Now, I am somewhat “old school” and not always enamored of technological changes that force me into changing how I do business, sort of like self-checkout systems at supermarkets or department stores. There was a community spirit when people stopped by general stores or rural check stations to register an animal. While there, you might hear an interesting story about the big buck that was checked in earlier in the morning or get some intel for the rest of the season. Many check stations had bulletin boards loaded with grainy photos of smiling hunters and their deer or bear. That was the social media of the day.

I will probably still carry “the paper” license, enjoying the moment when I use a knife or just my fingers to cut or tear a notch in a tag. It may take a minute or two longer, but oh well. For hunters like me, you simply call the DWR telephone harvest reporting system at 866/468-4263 or use the internet harvest reporting system at

Notching the tag at the location of recovery validates the harvest. Once you get home or to a place where you can use the phone or internet system, you register the animal. The basic rule is that you must report the harvest upon vehicle transport or at the conclusion of hunting hours, whichever occurs first and without unnecessary delay.

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

Bear hunters are still required to submit a tooth from a harvested bear. The reporting system walks the hunter through the needed steps. An official tooth submission envelope is mailed to the hunter at the address listed on the Go Outdoors Virginia account.

According to DWR, 88% of all deer/elk, 96% of fall turkeys, 100% of spring turkeys, 100% of bobcats, and 68% of bears were reported through an electronic harvest reporting system in 2020.

The changes make sense from a time and money standpoint. It is convenient to use your phone or computer to check in an animal and the electronic reporting lets the record be quickly added to the running totals the department maintains. There is no need for someone to manually handle each card and make a data entry. For more information on the changes, go to


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