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Pennsylvania Hunters Frustrated as New Online Licensing System Tanks

Hundreds of thousands of hunters waited in stores and on their computers to buy 2023-2024 licenses
Katie Hill Avatar
pennsylvania hunting license crash
Hunters looking to purchase antlerless deer tags were among the masses that flooded the website. Courtney Celley / USFWS

The first day of hunting license sales for Pennsylvania’s 2023-2024 season turned into a nightmare when the new online system meant to streamline the process crashed 45 minutes after opening. Hundreds of thousands of hunters who logged onto the Pennsylvania Game Commission website at or around 8 a.m. on June 26 got stuck in an online queue. Others stood in long lines at sporting goods stores, where the systems had also crashed unexpectedly.  

“Due to the high volume of sales this morning, Pennsylvania’s hunting license system experienced widespread slowness and intermittent errors, both online and in-stores,” the PGC wrote in a Facebook post. “The Pennsylvania Game Commission apologizes for the issues this has caused for our hunters. We are diligently working with our online vendor to identify and resolve issues to continue license sales.”

Tens of thousands of resident hunters remain on the waitlist as of Tuesday morning, according to comments on the post. 

One of the reasons for the crash might be the recent changes that were made to antlerless deer license purchasing options. For the last 40-plus years, hunters had to mail infamous “little pink envelopes” to a county treasurer’s office to buy one. But this year, residents could buy them online and in stores starting on the 26th. (Nonresident antlerless license buyers must wait until July 10.)

This brought a flood of internet users, which quickly overwhelmed the state’s licensing system. Some hunters sat in the online queue for up to nine hours before they could make their purchases, and in-person shoppers had to wait as sporting goods stores dealt with their own crashes.

“I was very pleased with how patient the customers were this morning,” sporting goods store owner Debbie Shultz told TribLive. “Some of my customers waited for more than two hours until the system came back on. Hopefully by the end of the week it will be business-as-usual.”

Read Next: Hunting License Sales Have Fallen Back to Pre-Pandemic Levels

The licensing website that crashed is powered by a subsidiary of Tyler Technologies. The government and education software company acquired NIC, a “leading digital government solutions and payments company,” for $2.3 billion in cash in 2021. NIC’s OneOutdoor platform operates outdoor recreation licensing systems for Pennsylvania and 10 other states, including deer hunting hotspots like Wisconsin and Illinois.

“Our teams are supporting the Pennsylvania Game Commission and their new process for antlerless deer license sales,” a representative of Tyler Technologies tells Outdoor Life in an email statement. “When the system reached a significant level of demand Monday morning, we recognized the need for increased server capacity to enable more efficient load balancing. We worked with our cloud service provider to ensure the appropriate resources were available. We apologize for any inconvenience the system’s slowness may have caused Pennsylvania hunters. We are continuing to monitor the system to ensure optimal performance.”

Pennsylvania has long had one of the highest populations of licensed hunters in the country. The state, which is fifth in the country in overall population, came in second behind Texas in 2023 with 953,903 paid license holders, according to data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Even with such a high volume of license holders, they still rank in the middle of the road in terms of hunters per capita—roughly 7.3 hunters for every 100 people.