Nevada Reduces Mule Deer Tags
Despite excellent game surveys, good precipitation and increasing populations of deer, the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commission voted to reduce the allocation of mule deer buck tags statewide at its May 14 meeting in Reno.
Against the recommendations of Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) big game biologists, the Commission reduced mule deer buck tags in all but five unit areas, cutting staff recommendations by 25 percent, and reducing mule deer buck tags in five specific hunting units by cutting staff recommendations by 10 percent. The Commission accepted staff recommendations for youth tags.
With these reductions, 11,536 mule deer buck tags were allocated statewide for 2011, compared to the 14,910 recommended by staff, a reduction of over 22 percent from staff recommendations. The Commission-approved 2011 tag quotas are almost 15 percent less than the 2010 levels.
Under the guidance of NDOW Acting Director Ken Mayer, increasing Nevada's mule deer herd with habitat restoration and improvement programs has been a priority for the agency.
"Based on increased population numbers, herd condition and exceptional moisture levels in much of the state, the NDOW big game biologists recommended an increase in 2011 quotas," said Mayer. "However, the Commission chose to ignore the scientific data presented by staff and reduced tag numbers, which creates a significant loss of opportunity for deer hunters."
In addition to being contrary to staff recommendations, the cuts are also divergent from the recommendations of the state's County Advisory Boards to Manage Wildlife. These boards are officially tasked to gather information and opinions from area sportsmen, then advise the Wildlife Commission about how to manage wildlife and recommend seasons and limits for their counties.
In 2011, Nevada witnessed a modest increase in the statewide mule deer population estimate for the second year in a row. Biologists are optimistic that good body condition, low winter mortality and mild winter conditions in most areas contributed to increased production in the spring of 2011.
"Biologists and staff experts put a great deal of effort into the scientific survey work that is the basis for their tag quota recommendations," explained Larry Gilbertson, Game Division Chief for NDOW. "Disregarding these recommendations negates all of the hard work and dedication of Game Division employees, with our sportsmen coming out as the biggest losers."
The Commission also made significant changes to the recommended big game season structure at its meeting in February.
For other big game tags, the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners approved NDOW recommendations with little changes. The Commission allocated 8,082 tags for all other big game statewide representing a 21 percent overall increase in non mule deer big game.
Rocky Mountain Elk are thriving. Due to record elk survey samples in some areas, population increased accordingly. The 2011 statewide adult elk population estimate increased to 13,500 elk compared to 12,300 last year. The Commission approved an 11 percent increase in bull elk rifle tags, with 1,027 tags, 101 more than last year, and a 58 percent increase in cow elk rifle tags.
Many other big game species saw increases in tag quotas as well. The only other species with a decline in tags was the mountain goat, due to a disease event in the Ruby Mountains and East Humboldt Range.
Antelope have fared exceptionally well in much of Nevada, and the Commission responded by approving 3,059 antelope tags, up 122 from last year.
The Resident Nelson (Desert) Bighorn Sheep - Any Ram - Any Legal Weapon Hunt 3151 saw an increase to 199 tags, up 7 from last year.
The Nevada Department of Wildlife is the state agency responsible for the restoration, protection and management of fish and wildlife resources, and the promotion of boating safety on Nevada's waters. Wildlife offices are located in Las Vegas, Henderson, Winnemucca, Fallon, Elko, and Reno. For more information, contact the agency web site at www.ndow.org.