Drawing Nevada deer tags is work of art

Growing up in Ely, I have many fond memories of deer hunting in eastern Nevada. Back in the late 1960s and early 70s, getting a deer tag was as simple as walking into the local sporting goods store and buying a tag across the counter. With this tag, my Dad and I could hunt anywhere in the state we wanted to drive to. Deer hunting was really an important activity to me. It was a special bonding time to be together with my father. It was more important than playing football. It was more important than keeping a job for spending money.

Early in the season, we would hunt the Schell Creek Range and toward the end of October, we would move north to the Ruby Mountains hoping to intercept the big bucks migrating to their wintering grounds. While the unlimited tags had advantages, there was a problem: The growing ranks of hunters from southern Nevada flocking to our favorite areas took a toll on the hunting quality.

The demand for a very limited resource begged for a means to properly allocate deer tags based on annual production by identified herd units. According to Gregg Tanner, retired chief of game for the Nevada Department of Wildlife, the first drawing for tags took place in 1975 and involved five different hunt units. The concept of a limited draw to improve hunt quality was popular and in the following year, the tag drawing went statewide. Today, hunters vie for all the available tags in a lottery-type drawing process.

Nevada's deer management was on the cutting edge for the Western states. The open country of the basin and range allowed NDOW biologists the opportunity to conduct aerial surveys to determine deer production for all major deer herds. The tag allocation process allowed them to manage each herd unit to its potential.

Early in this process, the sportsmen of the state decided that quality hunting was more important than having the opportunity to hunt each year. Nevada became noted for its quality deer hunting and today each hunter who receives a tag should be aware that he or she has one of the most coveted tags for deer hunting on public lands in the West.

The aim of this article is to assist Nevada deer hunters in the complex process of obtaining a deer tag. Due to limited space, this article will only cover the resident deer tag application process. So our initial assumptions are that you, the reader, are a resident of Nevada, are 12 years of age or older and have a valid hunting license. If you have obtained a deer tag in the past few years, you should have received a postcard in the mail last week indicating the tag application process for big game tags is now open. This postcard replaces the application packets hunters received in previous years. NDOW will not be mailing applications this year or in the future.

Deer tag applications are available at local hunting and fishing license vendors, NDOW offices and online. Tags cannot be hand delivered and must be mailed so they are received in Fallon by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, April 20.

My main caution to those who fill out a paper application is that the hunt unit area numbers are not the numbers that are entered as hunter choice numbers on your application. Each hunt unit has different hunter choice numbers for the style of hunt that you chose. So double check your hunter choice numbers before you mail in your application. It's a good idea to make a photo copy of your application that you can refer to later to alleviate any concerns you may have after the application is sent in.

Online, there are two main resources that can assist you in this process. The tag applications online are located at huntnevada.com, but before you fill out your application go to ndow.org and click on "Hunt" at the top of the page where you will find the top 10 resources for answering your hunt application questions.

The list features information sheets on population trends, the type of terrain and available access. Do your research here to determine where you want to hunt. The best deer areas are located in the Eastern and Western regions of the state. Talk to your friends who hunt and ask for recommendations. Know your physical limitations and apply for hunting areas that would benefit your style of hunting. If you are young and willing to do a backpack style hunt, look at units that feature wilderness areas. If you are limited to walking short distances and need good road access you will want to apply for units with lots of roads and high deer numbers.

To determine where you may have the best chance to draw, check out the section on hunt statistics and draw odds. You will maximize your chance of drawing if you apply for five different choices and are willing to take a tag in units that have the best draw odds.

Although Nevada allows deer hunters to apply for Party tags, you will increase your odds of drawing if each hunter applies on a separate application. It only takes one tag holder to justify going on a hunt. Those hunters in the party who don't draw can always assist in spotting deer or just enjoying the camp.

It is important to note that there are four different types of deer hunts available. These are antlered, antlerless, depredation and junior hunts. Applicants can apply for only one type of hunt. For example, if you want to hunt for an antlered deer, you would apply for the antlered hunt only. Your five choices could be for either archery, muzzleloader or any weapon (rifle) hunts for one or more units. In other words, it would be possible to vary your hunter choice for more than one weapon.

Junior hunts apply to hunters between the age of 12 and 16. These hunts are for either sex and have fairly high draw odds to provide our young hunters a chance to get a deer tag and get hooked on hunting. Junior tags are restricted to hunting one unit, but can hunt during the archery season, the muzzleloader season and the rifle season until they are successful in tagging an animal.

If you are an adult and want to spend some time in pursuit of deer in this state, my biggest recommendation is to find a young hunter who wants to go and take him hunting.

If you know you want to hunt a certain mountain range but don't know what hunt unit the mountain is in, check out the map section and click on the mule deer unit map. Using these interactive maps will allow you to define the number of the deer management unit you want to hunt. I also recommend applicants pick up a 2009 Seasons & Application Regulations brochure at their local license agents and use the map included in this brochure to mark their hunt unit choices.

Once you determine where and when you would like to hunt, the online application process is simple and pretty foolproof. Go to huntnevada.com and click on apply, and then follow the prompts. If you have applied at any time during the last 16 years your personal information will be listed when you provide your identification information.

If you have purchased a license for the current license year, that information will also be available on this site.

Do not wait till the last minute to apply. There have been problems in the past with too many applicants online during the last 4-5 days of the application process. I would advise you to apply no later than Thursday April15th to avoid any conflicts with high traffic on the website.

It is recommended that applicants use credit cards instead of debit cards to ensure that when the funds are withdrawn and the cost is covered. If sufficient funds are not covered with debit cards, the application will be withdrawn and the hunter will not receive a tag. An actual resident deer tag base cost is $30.00, but there are several additional non-refundable fees. These include a $10 application fee, a $3.00 predator management fee and a $2.00 convenience fee for submitting an application online. These fees will be taken out once you hit submit, but the actual $30 base cost for the tag will not be removed from your account unless you successfully draw a tag. This would bring the total cost of your resident deer tag to $45.00. If you have questions about a tag or your online application, please contact them at Wildlife Administrative Services Office, 1-800-576-1020, or (775) 423-7577.

I have tried to simplify the deer tag application process for all of you prospective deer hunters. Good luck with your applications and in the 2009 deer drawing. I hope you get your tag and have a memorable time afield in Nevada's great outdoors.

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