Winter Surveys Point to Good News for Nevada's Big Game

by Aaron Meier

If you are in the process of applying for big game tags, and with the tag application deadline this Monday you better hurry up, the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) has some insider information...apply for cow elk.

"With the numbers we are looking at from our winter surveys, it looks like it will be a good year for Nevada's sportsmen to apply for cow elk tags with their chances for success greatly enhanced," said Larry Gilbertson, Game Chief for NDOW.

Ken Gray, Eastern Region supervising biologist in Elko reported his field biologists completed elk surveys and classified 10,384 elk this winter. This was a record elk survey for the region surpassing the 2010 sample by 1,005 elk. For comparison, a decade ago only 4,060 elk were classified in 2003. Not only is Nevada's elk resource doing well based on total numbers classified, but the sex and age ratios show elk are expected to continue to do well and supply significant opportunity for sportsmen, especially in 2013.

Biologists documented good bull ratios so expectations are for another good year for Nevada's sportsmen. In addition, they observed 44 calves per 100 adult cows, which indicates elk herds are in a growth mode and will be able to expand into vacant territory. But, this also means that in areas where the elk herd has reached objectives, biologists will be making significant increases in recommendations for cow elk harvest to contain that growth.

According to big game staff biologist Mike Cox, the 2012 mule deer season was excellent. Hunter success increased to 42% in 2012, up from 38% the year before. Statewide buck harvest also increased to a total of 8,900 bucks harvested in 2012 compared to 5,500 in 2011. In spite of an extremely dry summer and severe winter conditions in some parts of the state, biologists documented strong buck ratios in the fall helicopter deer surveys. Spring fawn ratios vary around the state with some lower fawn survival in central Nevada and near average fawn ratios in some of the larger deer populations. "While deer quota recommendations will be adjusted accordingly, sportsmen should still expect good hunting opportunities to continue for the 2013 season in much of the state," said Cox. There is also good news for sportsmen interested in antelope this season. The antelope survey in the Eastern Region reports a total of 6,892 antelope, a regional buck ratio of 38 bucks per 100 does and a fawn ratio of 33 fawns per 100 does. This was a record number of pronghorn surveyed in the northeast portion of the state. The previous record was 5,729 in 2011. The buck ratio was comparable to the past 10-year average and the fawn ratio was only 4 fawns fewer than average.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) protects, restores and manages fish and wildlife, and promotes fishing, hunting, and boating safety. NDOW's wildlife and habitat conservation efforts are primarily funded by sportsmen's license and conservation fees and a federal surcharge on hunting and fishing gear. Support wildlife and habitat conservation in Nevada by purchasing a hunting, fishing, or combination license. Find us on Facebook, Twitter or visit us at

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