Hunters can help with big-game tag quotas

For hunters who are new to Nevada's system for drawing big-game tags, and for some of us who have been around, the process sometimes can be frustrating to determine which hunt to apply for when the application deadline comes long before tag quotas formally have been set.

The primary reason for this is because biologists at the Nevada Department of Wildlife are in the middle of their spring population counts when the deadline occurs, and the agency's tag recommendations are based on those counts.

Not only are biologists counting overall game populations during that time, but they are looking at the composition of those populations. One of the most important indicators of herd health is found in the ratio of juveniles to adults -- fawns to does when it comes to deer, and calves to cows when talking about elk.

These numbers are important because they are an indicator of annual recruitment, or herd growth. As a general rule, the higher the ratio of juveniles to adults, the healthier the herd. Range conditions have to be taken into consideration as well.

While we scramble to complete our tag applications before the deadline, state biologists are battling spring weather conditions and other variables to gather data necessary to establish quotas for the tags we hope will show up in our mailbox come June.

But you don't have to wait until tags are mailed to learn the quotas. In fact, you can offer quota recommendations. The Board of Wildlife commissioners will study and vote on recommendations at its May 11-12 meeting in Reno.

If you want to sneak a peek at quota recommendations, go to the Learn and Participate section at and look for support materials for the Wildlife Commission meeting.

Two documents are available: One is the recommendations for deer, and the other is for elk, antelope and bighorn sheep. The numbers represented in those documents are NDOW biologists' recommendations; they are not cast in stone. That won't happen until the May commission meeting.

The County Advisory Board to Manage Wildlife is scheduled to review tag quotas at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Clark County Government Center.

The Northern Nevada Chapter of Safari Club International also is asking the commission to consider the establishment of a youth upland game hunting season.

* SKILLS COMPETITION -- Two locals made a solid showing among a field of 30 competitors Saturday at the Las Vegas regional qualifying event for the Field & Stream Total Outdoorsman Challenge at the Bass Pro Shop.

Las Vegans Richard Fres and Ken Gallway finished second and fourth, respectively. Jeremy Garnish of Clarksburg, Mass., won the event and advanced to the national championship in Springfield, Mo.

If Garnish is crowned as America's Total Outdoorsman, he will take home $25,000 in cash and prizes, including an Arctic Cat ATV. Garnish will face the winners of other qualifying events held in Baltimore, Dallas, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Nashville, Tenn.

Doug Nielsen is an award-winning freelance writer and a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His "In the Outdoors" column is published Thursday. He can be reached at