A proposed new regulation would require all users of state wildlife management areas to use a free smartphone app for the 2019-20 hunting season instead of the traditional entry permit cards.

The Mississippi Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks approved the proposal at its August meeting and will make a decision Sept. 26 after a 30-day public comment period, said Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks spokesman Warren Strain.

If approved, the new requirement will take effect Oct. 1.

The department website provides a brief instructional video along with ways for people to download the free app.

“You will only have to register once,” according to the site. “You can also register multiple accounts on one device. Due to a weak cellular signal at various WMAs, we recommend downloading the WMA Check-In app and signing in prior to visiting a WMA.

“Prior to accessing a WMA, click ‘Check-In’ and pick your WMA location and activities. You will be able to do this even without cellular coverage.

“When exiting the WMA, click ‘Check-Out’ to complete your visit. You will be able to do this even without cellular coverage.”

To comment on the proposal, people may call 601-432-2199; write to the department’s game division at 1505 Eastover Drive, Jackson, MS 39211; or go to the website www.mdwfp.com and click on “contact us.”

The proposal is drawing mixed reviews.

Longtime hunting dog handler Don Morgan, 83, of Summit said the proposal is unfair to people without smartphones.

“The only phone I’ve got is a flip phone,” he said. “I can’t use a smartphone. I don’t own one.

“There’s many, many people here in Mississippi that, number one, they can’t afford one, and the vast majority who have got one can’t use it.”

He expressed concern for handicapped people and senior citizens, as well as out-of-state visitors who may not know about the plan.

Morgan criticized the department for not doing a better job in notifying the public and communicating with user groups. The department did not send out a news release about the proposed regulation. To find the report on the department’s website, people must click on menu, “license and permits,” then scroll down on the left side to “WMA Check-In App.”

The brief report presents the regulation as taking effect Oct. 1 and does not mention a public comment period.

Morgan found out about the regulation from an elderly friend who saw it on his tablet but was unable to find it again later.

For years Morgan and his wife Joan trained dogs to hunt raccoons and squirrels. They were active in the Mississippi Raccoon Hunters Association. Now he likes to ride in the forest to see wildlife, and listen to hounds run while socializing.

At the very least, the department should have done a trial run on the new plan and allow many months’ lead time, he said.

“If it’s not broken, what’s wrong with the way we’ve been doing?” Morgan said.

Maurice Williams, who is in his 60s, welcomes the program but said it should make accommodations for people without smartphones.

“Most people have got a smartphone these days,” said Williams, who hunts on WMAs. “Any time you do a technology update, you need an alternative for people who don’t have technology.”

From his point of view, a smartphone app will be more convenient than the filling out a card.

“That’ll be great. Log in on it. You don’t have to go in at a check-in station,” he said. “I think it’s going to be beneficial.”

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