Public mum on big-game tag quotas

On multiple occasions the Clark County Advisory Board to Manage Wildlife has asked for public comment on big-game tag quotas. Antelope? Elk? Bighorn sheep? Mule deer?

Each meeting drew few participants.

When the latest meeting got under way, at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Clark County Government Center, 11 of us were there. With the arrival of Nevada Department of Wildlife commissioner Clint Bentley, that number swelled to 12, an attendance that was less than expected, given the subject matter.

That 12 people were in the room is — as my dad is fond of saying — better than a jab in the eye with a sharp stick.

Of the 12, four are members of the advisory board, three are members of the wildlife commission, one is a former member of that commission and is president of the Fraternity of the Desert Bighorn, two are representatives the wildlife department, and one is a member of the hunting public. Last on the list is yours truly, who fits into multiple categories. By 6:50 p.m. the lone representative from the general hunting public had heard what he had come to hear and left the meeting.

Given that most of us have strong opinions about the way big-game tags are distributed, and about how many tags are available each year, and given that we share those opinions freely with anyone who shows any inclination to listen, I expected a night filled with frank debate spurred by a roomful of hunters with ideas of how things should be.

It never materialized, but not because the opportunity wasn’t available.

As a father, I was interested in the petition advocating the creation of a one- or two-day upland game season for youth. Discussion materialized about whether participation would be sufficient given the traditionally low participation in the youth waterfowl hunt. Dan Swanson of the wildlife commission asked if such a hunt could be part of a free-hunting day patterned after Nevada’s free-fishing day.

The advisory board passed a motion to support a two-day upland game hunt for youth with the recommendation that it be part of a free-hunting day with no license and no stamp required. The hunt would apply only to chukar partridge, Hungarian partridge and the state’s three species of quail.

As a general rule, NDOW biologists have recommended increases in tags across the board. Certain units have seen minor reductions, but they are in the minority. If passed by the commission, resident tags for buck antelope would increase by 136 statewide. Those suggested increases are reflected in the any-legal-weapon and archery hunts.

Resident bull elk tags would increase by 55, but the largest increase would come in the number of antlerless elk tags. They could increase by as many as 742 tags if the agency’s recommendations are accepted.

Pat Cummings, a game biologist for NDOW, said the increase in antlerless elk tags is due to an increase in the herd and the agency’s commitment to meet population caps in the affected areas.

If the recommendations hold, 13,817 resident deer tags will be available. That’s an increase of 1,006 tags from 2006. Rifle hunters will see the bulk of the increase, followed by muzzleloader enthusiasts. Archery hunters will see a decrease of 146 tags, which Cummings attributed to a drop in demand.

Members of the advisory board voted in favor of most of the tag quotas, but minor exceptions surfaced in deer and elk units. Recommendations go the board of wildlife commissioners, which will vote at the commission meeting Saturday in Reno. Comments still can be submitted to the commission by e-mail.

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

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