ELKO — The Nevada Department of Wildlife is recommending hunters statewide be allowed to take more elk and fewer mule deer this year due in part to persistent drought that will make it difficult to support typical deer herd sizes.
Agency officials said the buck quota recommendation for the coming season is 4 percent lower than last year as a result of a successful buck hunt a year ago, when many areas reported record buck-to-doe ratios.
In a few areas, however, antlerless deer quotas will increase due to poor habitat conditions.
“These populations have continued to exhibit density dependent responses to poor habitat conditions,” the Department of Wildlife stated in an explanation for its big game quota recommendations. “Persistent drought conditions, degraded range conditions, and large-scale wildfires on winter ranges have all contributed to the reduced carrying capacity in these mule deer herds.”
The sparse range resembles poor land conditions in 1992 and 1993 that led to a massive winter die-off, agency officials said.
Elk populations are robust, leading to an increase in tag recommendations throughout the state, including a 51 percent uptick in cow tags.
“With no surprise to most hunters, continued bull and cow elk tag increases are recommended for 2014 to continue to reduce herds to their population objective levels,” the Wildlife Department said.
The Elko Daily Free Press reported that Elko County hosted a meeting in February with representatives from Idaho and Utah to deliberate plans to reduce elk populations, which some ranchers said were causing damage to property, such as fences, and eating livestock feed.
Local Department of Wildlife game biologist Ken Gray said the agency supported a variety of elk-cow incentive hunts. Comments regarding the proposed ideas were overwhelmingly supportive, the newspaper reported.
Joe Doucette, department conservation educator, said the multifaceted process to set big game quotas involves twice-a-year aerial herd counts to determine the buck-to-doe ratio post hunt and fawn-to-adult ratio after the winter shed.
The Wildlife Department also takes into account hunter success and the condition of the range.