Smartphones are a smart tool to start hunting

The first step is the hardest.

That exercise adage often applies to hunting, too.

Yet, not the case, if hunters have a smartphone. For if they do, they can simply flick their fingers to mndnr.gov and do the following:

Buy a license: Yes, without ever standing in line hunters can buy a license and most necessary stamps. They just need to have driver’s license or firearms safety certificate identification number handy, plus a credit or debit card for payment. Some youth licenses are free, and others cost as little as $5. For most licenses that require a tag (deer, for example) people need to buy the license using the full website, not the mobile version of the site, and must wait for the tag to arrive by mail before hunting.

Check regulations: Both the hunting and trapping regulation booklet and the waterfowl hunting booklet are online.

Waive firearms safety training: Don’t have a state-issued firearms safety certificate? That’s not a problem. Like many states, Minnesota allows residents and nonresidents to waive the firearms safety certificate requirement under certain limited exemptions. Minnesota’s twice-in-a-lifetime exemption allows youth and adults to hunt small game, deer and bear without firearms safety training so long as they are in unaided visual and verbal contact with each other. Cost of the apprentice hunter validation is $3.50. A hunting license is also required. Firearms safety training is mandatory for those hunting in Minnesota who were born after Dec. 31, 1979.

Find a place to hunt: Don’t know where to go? That’s not a problem, either. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources manages 1,400 wildlife management areas that total 1.3 million acres. To find a nearby or distant WMA, simply go to “Recreation Compass” on the DNR website. This mobile application, which features an aerial photo of the entire state, allows hunters to zoom in and out to easily find WMAs all across the state. The detailed photos and boundary lines allow them to actually see what the landscape looks like, thereby allowing them to plan a hunt from home or in their vehicle. For hunters who already know where they’re going, they can access the same information by searching by WMA name or county at mndnr.gov/wmas.

Discover a grouse hunting walking trail: Want to take advantage of higher ruffed grouse numbers this season? Again, no problem. The DNR’s “Hunter Walking Trails” web pages can help people find hundreds of miles of trail throughout central and northern Minnesota. The walking trail web pages can help hunters find trails in the county of their choice. Trail maps, which are essentially aerial photos of the land they’ll be hunting, can be downloaded and printed.

Get a permit to hunt certain private lands: For $3, hunters can purchase a Walk-in Access program validation that allows access to 26,700 acres of private land from Sept. 1 through May 31. These lands are located in 46 counties throughout the pheasant range. Maps of all Walk-In Access sites are available electronically at mndnr.gov/walkin. Visually, walk-in lands are identified by bright yellow-green signs at boundary corners. So, if hunters see a nice-looking Walk-In Access area this hunting season, they can simply use a phone to purchase a validation. They can be hunting it in minutes.

Explore every deer permit areas: Visit mndnr.gov/deermap to access an interactive map of every deer permit area in Minnesota. By clicking on a permit area or selecting one from the drop-down list at the top, people find information about the area’s management designation, dates of all deer seasons, whether mandatory disease testing is in place and a direct link to deer hunting regulations. A “detail report” link provides historical harvest statistics, land cover type, public land listings and historical winter severity indexes.

Register deer, turkey and other game: Not long ago, deer and certain other types of hunters had to drive to a registration station to report their harvest. Today, hunters can save gas and time by connecting to the internet at mndnr.gov/gameregistration to report their harvest information.

“Those without a smartphone can always buy a license and register game with an ordinary phone,” said Paul Telander, DNR wildlife chief. “The toll-free number for licenses is 888-665-4236 and to register deer call 888-706-6367.”

Telander said efforts to make Minnesota hunting information more smartphone friendly has been rewarding to see.

“It’s never been easier to buy a license, find a place to hunt and register your game,” said Telander. “Hunting will always involve work. Yet these days, a lot of hunters are saving boot leather and tire tread by putting their phones to work.”