Successful hunts begin with planning

Preliminary results of Nevada’s 2013 big game tag draw have been available online since Friday, and final results will be available in another couple of weeks. Unfortunately, while some of my friends are celebrating the draw results with tags for critters such as bighorn sheep, deer, elk or antelope, things in the Nielsen household are little more subdued.

Let’s just say you won’t find our names on the list of successful tag applicants — again.

Perhaps our lack of celebration is really more of an attitude thing than anything else. After all, a growing collection of the bonus points awarded to unsuccessful applicants is, as my dad is fond of saying, “better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.” Then again maybe not, but the points do give me hope that our luck might change 12 months from now. Time will tell.

Meanwhile, those of us who were unsuccessful still might have a chance to draw a tag for some game animal somewhere. It all depends on whether there are any tags left over after the main draw. If so, you will need to apply in the second draw, which begins June 10 and has a June 25 deadline.

If you are one of the lucky hunters who drew a tag, you can increase your chances for an enjoyable hunt by taking the time to do a little homework long before the hunt begins.

By far one of the best things you can do to improve your chances of putting meat in the freezer is to do some preseason scouting. This is especially true for those who will be hunting an area they are unfamiliar with. While scouting can give you an idea of what animals might be available in your area when the season opens, it also gives you an opportunity to learn the lay of the land, to select a couple of possible campsites and get to know landowners where access through private land might need to be acquired.

Keep in mind that waiting until the day before the season opens to knock on a rancher’s door probably is not the best idea if it’s access you desire.

Preseason scouting also will give you an idea of what services are available and where they are in relation to areas you choose to hunt. In some parts of Nevada, a gas station or grocery store could be hundreds of miles away. Knowing this will help you plan accordingly. Scouting also gives you a chance to learn where cell coverage is available, or unavailable. This could be critical information in an emergency.

Through the years, many writers have directed hunters to game wardens and biologists as sources for information about specific hunt areas or mountain ranges, and they were right. Biologists and game wardens who spend their time in the wild can be helpful, but anyone planning to contact them should keep in mind they are not office dwellers and are therefore difficult to reach. Also, keep in mind that the closer we get to opening day the more calls they receive. You might say the line of people waiting to talk with them begins to resemble lines at Disneyland on Memorial Day weekend.

This is true whether you are talking about Nevada, Utah or West Virginia. If you do call someone at the local wildlife department, be prepared to tell them what type of hunting experience you are looking for. This will help the person with whom you are speaking to answer your questions. A hunter who desires a wilderness hunting experience will of necessity require different information than one who wants a camping spot where warm showers and vehicle access are the criteria for a great hunt.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at