The Nevada Department of Wildlife will make recommendations for some healthy increases in tag quotas for many big game species at the upcoming Nevada Board of Wildlife Commission Meeting May 11 and 12 in Reno. Growth in most big game populations and elevated male ratios have provided a biologically safe opportunity for a significant increase in hunting, most notably in mule deer, without jeopardizing herd health.
"We have great news on the big game front," said Tony Wasley, NDOW big game biologist. "The department just recently published our quota recommendations for our 2012 seasons. We are recommending a significant increase in opportunity for sportsmen especially with respect to mule deer."
After the second consecutive year of modest increases in Nevada's mule deer population estimate, a series of factors are contributing to NDOW's increased tag quota recommendations in many hunt units. An overall increase of 54 percent above 2011's recommendation is being presented. Some of these areas have been growing rapidly with increases in buck ratios, some of those same areas had exceptionally high fawn production and recruitment.
"We had a perfect storm of events out there," said Wasley. "We had a great winter in 2010-2011, great forage conditions last summer, and a really mild winter this year which allowed for high levels of recruitment. We have a lot of yearlings out there in the population and with the already high buck ratios, we have a lot of opportunity to offer sportsmen for mule deer hunting."
Nevada currently possesses a mule deer population of around 112,000 with 35,000 bucks, a ratio much higher than seen in most western states. Buck ratios in Nevada in the 1980s ranged in the low to mid 20s per 100 does.
Today, Nevada's quota recommendations are conservative and if approved would result in a post-hunt buck ratio of 30 bucks per 100 does.
According to NDOW big game biologist Mike Cox, "All of our quota recommendations are biologically sound, they are not going to do any harm to the population, and they are mostly just male. We are also seeing a continued strong mature segment of those male populations and there is no reason we should not let sportsmen take advantage of those opportunities."
Higher percentages of bucks in a herd do not equate to a higher quality deer or herd growth. NDOW is recommending higher quotas in part to reduce bucks, as a stockpile of bucks are of limited benefit to buck quality and likely detrimental to fawn recruitment and herd size because of competition for limited winter range in some areas.
"It's an exciting time for the sportsmen of Nevada," said Cox. "There are people who sit home in the fall who are die hard hunters who haven't drawn a tag and we now have the capacity so we should give them the opportunity."