Tag application offers optimism, hope

It’s mid-March, and that means it’s time for two things, both of which provide their own version of madness. One is the NCAA Tournament, and the other is Nevada’s big-game tag application process. Both begin with optimism and hope. Both end with a mixed bag of happiness and frustration.

The basketball tournament will take place over the next three weeks to determine the nation’s best college team. Unlike park and recreation leagues in which everyone goes home with a trophy, only members of the championship team will get the hardware that declares them the winner. They will go home happy. The others will experience the frustration that comes to those who must wait another year.

Like the basketball tournament, Nevada’s tag draw attracts participants from across the country. In 2009, 50,000 hunters submitted 151,000 applications hoping to draw at least one of the 22,000 available tags for the various big-game species. Unfortunately, not everyone who applies will receive a tag. Those who are successful will be happy. The others will experience the frustration that comes from having to wait another year.

Whether talking basketball or tag draws, it’s the successes, and the hopes of success, that keep us coming back. Or perhaps it’s the anticipation of what might be when success comes. After all, those who draw one of Nevada’s much-sought-after big-game tags will have the opportunity to experience one of the best hunt opportunities in the West.

In 2009, resident hunters enjoyed a success rate of 40 percent during the any legal weapon season for mule deer, and 42 percent of the deer harvested carried antlers in the four-point class or larger. Nonresidents fared a little better with a 52 percent success rate and four-point or larger bucks accounting for 57 percent of their harvest. My guess is the nonresident hunters’ success can be attributed to their spending more time in the field or to hunting with a professional guide service.

Bull elk hunters harvested nearly 700 bulls, and 67 percent of those sported antlers with six points or more. Those with desert bighorn sheep tags had an overall success rate of 88 percent, with the average age of rams harvested being 6.2 years.

Many hunters apply for the same units year after year, either because it’s tradition to do so or because they are comfortable in those locations. However, if you are looking for a particular quality in the buck, bull or ram you intend to harvest, a change in location might be in order. Consider the harvest data and draw odds the wildlife department posts at www.ndow.org.

Nevada’s tag draw gets under way Friday. Applications can be submitted online at huntnevada.com or via paper application. Deadline is 5 p.m. April 19.

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 dougnielsen@att.net.

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