CLAP FOR THIS APP

Illi­nois fi­nally has a down­load­able re­source for out­door en­thu­si­asts

Chicago Sun-Times - - OUTDOORS - DALE BOW­MAN dbow­man@suntimes.com @Bow­manout­side

It’s like the mail car­rier ring­ing the bell, then hand­ing over a pack­age. The day be­comes all Reese’s and peace.

That was my feel­ing Tues­day when I down­loaded the new free app, Out­door Illi­nois.

I’ve been wait­ing nearly a decade, through three gov­er­nors and three Illi­nois Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources di­rec­tors, for Illi­nois to come scream­ing into the 21st cen­tury with an app.

The app was de­vel­oped by the Illi­nois Con­ser­va­tion Foundation. Yes, there’s a “Donate” but­ton on ev­ery page I checked and a lead ad­ver­tise­ment.

But it’s a start.

“We’re so ex­cited to be able to of­fer sports­men and women an ad­di­tional — and ac­ces­si­ble — out­let to fill their needs when it comes to out­door recre­ation, hunt­ing and fish­ing,” ICF ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Crys­tal Curf­man said in the ini­tial re­lease. “The new app of­fers out­door en­thu­si­asts a wealth of in­for­ma­tion and op­por­tu­ni­ties, from set­ting re­minders for hunt­ing and fish­ing li­censes to pro­vid­ing con­tact in­for­ma­tion for Illi­nois’ Con­ser­va­tion Po­lice Of­fi­cers.”

Like any other app, it’s avail­able for both iPhone and An­droid sys­tems on the App Store and Google Play.

My fore­most ques­tion was whether it would make it easy to have an elec­tronic li­cense.

Or as Mike Clif­ford put it, “My ques­tion is whether hav­ing a fish­ing li­cense on our phone is good enough?”

IDNR deputy di­rec­tor Rachel Tor­bert emailed back Wed­nes­day, “Just heard back from OLE [Of­fice of Law En­force­ment]. Elec­tronic copy is now al­lowed for li­censes.”

“I’ve been play­ing with it to­day, it’s a great re­source all in one place,” Chris­tian Howe posted. “No more fum­bling around web­sites, etc.

“Things Id like to see in the app are the abil­ity to store our li­censes in it for pre­sen­ta­tion to a CPO.”

I love that idea and have a few other ideas, too.

The app is di­vided into four main cat­e­gories: Hunt­ing, fish­ing, boat­ing and camp­ing.

“The ini­tial in­tent of the app was to help re­mind hunters, an­glers, boaters and campers when ap­pli­ca­tions and per­mits were due as well as li­cense ex­pi­ra­tion and re­newal re­minders,” Curf­man emailed.

It’s more than that.

The ICF noted the app al­lows users to pur­chase hunt­ing and fish­ing li­censes, find places to hunt and fish, view fish­ing records, regis­ter new boats and re­new boat reg­is­tra­tion, ac­cess a list of Illi­nois state parks, learn more about camp­ing and camp­site and shel­ter reser­va­tions, set re­minders for up­com­ing season and re­newal dates.

I just joined Illi­nois Recre­ational Ac­cess Pro­gram and was hop­ing I could get my IRAP stuff through the app.

“You must still go through pa­per copies and the IDNR web­site,” Curf­man replied. “The app does not in­clude IRAP.”

The re­quire­ment in the IDNR I find the big­gest pain in the ass is the use of wind­shield cards. Some­how, I was hop­ing the app might have a way to avoid that has­sle.

Alas, Curf­man ex­plained, ‘‘The app does not have a func­tion to re­place wind­shield cards.”

A few clicks I had trou­ble ac­cess­ing, but it could be op­er­a­tor er­ror or some of the elec­tronic is­sues since the dere­cho on Mon­day.

“Ad­di­tion­ally, in or­der to set re­minders you must cre­ate an ac­count to re­ceived the no­ti­fi­ca­tions,” Curf­man noted.

I set up an ac­count within sec­onds.

All in all, I found it fairly easy to use, even for a Lud­dite-lean­ing sort like my­self.

That’s not by ac­ci­dent as Curf­man ex­plained when I asked what was most dif­fi­cult in de­vel­op­ing the app, “The most dif­fi­cult part was mak­ing sure we weren’t miss­ing any ma­jor fea­tures that make the app easy to use. For ex­am­ple, in­clud­ing a back but­ton to get back to the app once you tap on a link out­side of the app as well as mak­ing sure all as­pects were user friendly to all out­doors­men and women.”

As to tweaks, she would like to see, she emailed, “On Fri­day we will al­ready have an up­dated ver­sion of the app that in­cludes a search but­ton within the app. Say some­one is look­ing for some­thing di­rectly re­lated to mal­lards, they can search ‘mallard’ and the app will pop­u­late all the places the term is lo­cated in the app.

“Ad­di­tion­ally, we’ve re­ceived over­whelm­ing feed­back on ad­di­tional fea­tures peo­ple would like to see added such as more in­for­ma­tion on boat­ing, be­ing able to di­rectly con­tact CPOs within the app, and, as you men­tioned ear­lier, IRAP, and hav­ing the abil­ity to use the app as to show your li­cense elec­tron­i­cally. Sky is the limit, but we wanted to start sim­ple and build and add as needed.”

It’s long over­due, but a good start in aim­ing up­ward. ✶

DALE BOW­MAN/SUN-TIMES

The new “Out­door Illi­nois” app gives hunters the abil­ity to set re­minders and then ap­ply for such things as ap­pli­ca­tions for the draw of water­fowl hunt­ing blinds at Spring Lake.

DALE BOW­MAN/SUN-TIMES

The open­ing page of the new Out­door Illi­nois app and the sec­ond page, which shows the ba­sic op­tions.

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