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Tag draw provides hunters own version of March Madness

It’s March, people. That means it’s time for two things that significantly impact the people of Nevada.

The first is March Madness — the NCAA Tournament — which draws thousands of college basketball bettors to our state’s sports books.

The second is the “madness of March,” though it has no national audience, and sports books won’t give it the time of day, even though it contains an element of risk. It’s Nevada’s annual big game tag draw, when thousands of hunters across the state — and even some from outside Nevada — will be glued to computer screens, filling out online tag applications.

While there will be only one winner in the 65-team NCAA Tournament, there will be thousands of winners in the tag draw. The question is whether you will be one who draws a tag this year, or if you again will have to sit on the sidelines. I’ve missed out the past two seasons.

Through the years, I have heard different approaches to the tag-drawing process. All promise success, but I really don’t know whether one is better than another. What I can say is that, to maximize your chances, be sure to use all five unit choices when completing your application. Some people only use one or two. Others put the same hunter choice number in all five boxes. Both of those options will minimize your chances.

One way to approach the draw is to look over the odds posted on the Nevada Department of Wildlife’s Web site, then play the numbers.

But this year, a wrench has been thrown in that could change the areas some hunters select on their applications, as there is a long list of new wilderness areas that have been created.

Most hunters were unaware of these areas until after their 2007 tags came in the mail. In some cases, the hunters were in the dark until they arrived in their hunt unit and found their favorite haunts blocked to all but foot and horse traffic.

Numerous hunters have told me they would have put in for tags in different hunt units, where wilderness was less of a factor, had they known about the new areas.

What this means is there could be a shift in the units hunters apply for this year. If that’s the case, and if the shift is significant, statistics from past draws might not be an accurate reflection of applicant preference.

On the other hand, hunters tend to be creatures of habit, so perhaps there will be little change.

If you are contemplating a change to an unfamiliar area, I recommend spending some time on the ground in that unit before submitting your tag application. Doing so will help you decide whether that unit is one you would like to hunt.

Granted, with fuel prices climbing higher each week, that extra trip might not be an option.

Visit earth.google.com on the Internet to see a close look at the topography of a selected area. Users can zoom in and out, and even turn the image on its side to get an idea of the rigors one could face in a given hunt unit or mountain range.

Tag application materials should be available around March 17. The online application process begins March 24. The application deadline is April 21.

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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