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Hunters vote to be social, to be outdoors

When the Nevada State Board of Wildlife Commissioners meets this weekend in Reno, it will have a full agenda to contend with, including big-game tag quotas for the 2014 hunting seasons and a possible change in the regulation defining legal black powder substitutes for use when hunting with muzzle-loading firearms.

But the agenda item that caught my eye is an informational report on the results of a survey of Nevada mule deer hunters.

The survey was commissioned by the Tag Allocation and Application Hunt Committee, a Wildlife Commission subcommittee, and conducted by the Department of Conservation Social Sciences in the College of Natural Resources at the University of Idaho. It aimed “to learn from respondents their attitudes and opinions about such topics as “trophy” animals; “quality” hunt (i.e., quality versus quantity, congestion, etc.); season structures (i.e., weekend versus weekday openers, split seasons, season lengths, etc.); attitudes toward predation management; attitudes toward the use of off-highway vehicles; and so forth.”

In all, 1,200 randomly selected tag applicants from the 2012 and 2013 tag draws, excluding those who were younger than 18, were asked to participate in the survey. Since about 10 percent of Nevada’s mule deer tags are issued to nonresident hunters, the survey sample included the same percentage of nonresidents. In all, 638 people responded to the survey.

According to the report, “Nevada residents have hunted in Nevada for an average of 23.8 years, while nonresidents average 8.2 years.” The resident average reflects the continued participation of hunters who have been hunting in Nevada for 50 years or more. “Overall, the mule deer hunting population is largely new hunters, with a declining proportion of seasoned hunters,” the report notes.

Some hunters prefer to hunt alone, but Nevada hunters typically pursue big game with other tag holders and nontag holders. The average group of tag holders is 2.6, and the average number of nontag holders who accompany a tag holder on their hunt is 1.4.

If you want to plan your hunt to avoid other hunters, you might want to consider that among the most preferred times to hunt muleys are the last week, the first week and the last weekend.

However, the attribute survey participants deemed most important to a quality Nevada mule deer hunting experience did not surprise me. More than 45 percent of respondents identified “being able to hunt mule deer with family and friends” as extremely important, and another 31.8 percent said it was quite important. Next in line was “seeing trophy mule deer.” Other important attributes include low hunter density and having the ability to hunt mule deer every year.

Being able to hunt their No. 1 unit choice or with an off-highway vehicle rank near the bottom. The motivator identified as most important for hunters all deal with the outdoor experience. Those deemed moderately important are primarily associated with the social experience of hunting.

The final report, “Mule Deer Hunting and Management: Experiences, Attitudes and Preferences of Nevada’s Mule Deer Tag Applicants,” is available online in the commission meeting’s support materials. Anyone interested in participating in the commission meeting can do so via videoconference at the College of Southern Nevada’s Cheyenne Campus in the main building, Room 2638. Meeting times are 10:30 a.m. Friday and 8:30 a.m. Saturday.

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 intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com.

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