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Drought continues for big-game tag

Sometime in early April, I was talking with a friend about the then-upcoming big-game tag draw. David Buckles and I have had many such conversations during the past few years, but this time he asked a question that took me back.

“I have 14 bonus points for a bull elk here in Nevada. Do you really think it is worth my effort to apply for a Nevada elk tag?” he asked, then went on to explain that the one animal he wanted to hunt more than any other was a Nevada bull elk. Buckles has put his tag on elk in other western states but never on an elk with a “made in Nevada” sticker behind its ear. He wondered whether he would get the opportunity to try.

That opportunity would come only by drawing one of the Silver State’s coveted bull elk tags, and to do that meant submitting his application yet again. “With 14 bonus points, you can’t give up now,” I said while encouraging him to try at least one more time.

Fast forward to Sunday. It was two days after the official tag draw results were posted, and I was looking in the face of a happy man. It was a face that reminded me of a kid who awoke on Christmas morning to find everything for which he had asked underneath the family Christmas tree.

“I got my elk tag!” Buckles said through a smile as wide as the Colorado River. He reminded me of our earlier discussion about his chances of drawing that tag, and now it was his. Not only had Buckles drawn his elk tag but also his first choice of hunt areas. As we talked, that broad smile never left his face, and rightly so. The hunt still is a few months away, but for Buckles the waiting is over.

I also have heard from several others who have drawn tags for upcoming hunts. At least two people I know drew bighorn sheep tags, and a large percentage of those who attended the Wildlife Habitat Improvement in Nevada banquet on Saturday drew tags of some kind. While addressing the attendees, I asked for a show of hands of those who drew tags, and most raised them high.

Two of my children drew junior deer tags, but I went scoreless for the third year in a row. One of the guys at work said I must not be living right and laughed while he said it. Come to think of it, folks at the WHIN banquet laughed at me, too. All I know is that the hunting gods have not been kind in recent years.

Had I wanted to, I could have spent my pocket change on the Heritage mule deer tag that was up for auction at the banquet.

When the bidding started at a paltry sum of $10,000, only three bidders chose to become involved, though I can’t imagine why. Each of the bidders was representing a buyer who was unable to make the banquet. The bids jumped in increments measured in the thousands — $13,000, $15,000 and on to $18,000. With each bid, the bidders could be seen talking things over with their buyers via cell phones.

Somewhere along the line, a bidder dropped. The bid topped $30,000, and the crowd seemed to hang on to every call from the auctioneer.

“It’s $31,000 to you!” he said, pointing to a bidder. “And now $32,000 to you,” he said to the other, who spoke into his phone once more. The seconds ticked by like hours. “I’ve got $31,000, it’s $32,000 to you.” There was no sign, no nod nor a wave of the hand. The crowd grew restless, and so did the auctioneer.

“$31,000 going once. $31,000 going twice.” But it was not to be. “I have $32,000!” called the auctioneer. The crowd and the auctioneer waited for another bid, but it never came. Not even when the auctioneer asked me to bid a measly $33,000. The entire process took six minutes.

Money from the sale of that tag will be deposited to Nevada’s Wildlife Heritage Trust Account to be used for projects that directly benefit Nevada’s wildlife.

As for a Nevada tag, guess I’ll be waiting another year. As Elvis Presley once sang, “Why can’t every day be like Christmas?”

Doug Nielsen is an award-winning freelance writer and conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His column is published Thursday. He can be reached at doug@takinitoutside.com.

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