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Increased opportunity for mule deer hunters



The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) is recommending an increase in mule deer tags for hunters for the 2010 hunting season.  This comes after an increase of Nevada’s mule deer herd with a 2010 population estimate of approximately 107,000 deer, which ended a three year decline in the statewide population estimate of mule deer.

“NDOW is recommending that Hunt 1331 — a resident, any-legal-weapon, antlered mule deer hunt — be increased from 8,526 tags in 2009 to 9,451 tags this year,” says Larry Gilbertson, Game Division Chief for NDOW. “This is a recommended increase of 925 tags.”

According to Gilbertson, this is in response to increased fawn recruitment that resulted in an increase in many of Nevada’s deer herds.   Fawn recruitment is the number of fawns that survive their first winter, at which time they are considered a permanent part of the herd.  The fawn recruitment for the 2009/2010 winter was 34 fawns per 100 does, up from the previous year’s 27 fawns per 100 does, and just below the long-term statewide average of 35 fawns per 100 does.

“The deer went into the winter in good body condition due to above average precipitation and better range conditions,” explained Gilbertson.  “Combine that with relatively average winter conditions in many areas and the stage was set for increased recruitment due to fawn survival.”

The single largest increase occurred in Area 6 of Elko County, where ideal summer range conditions and a mild winter allowed for the addition of 800 animals, a 12% growth.  20 years of aggressive restoration efforts of crucial deer winter ranges in Area 6, combined with excellent spring precipitation, contributed to the best fawn recruitment in ten years.

Of the remaining units, the mule deer populations increased in over 56% of its deer management units and were relatively stable in most of the rest of the state. The total result is a statewide net gain in Nevada’s mule deer population for 2010. The population growth is noteworthy following the harsh environmental conditions and population declines the three previous years.

“When Gov. Gibbons hired me,” said Ken Mayer, Director of NDOW, “he told me that my number one priority was bringing back Nevada’s mule deer herd.  NDOW has continued an aggressive habitat restoration and improvement program, which with the help of increased moisture on the range, is starting to pay off.”

Mayer also points out that Nevada ranks second in the nation in expenditures in predation management and since 2000, has spent several million dollars on predation management for the benefit of wildlife. 

“In 2010, we plan to spend approximately $403,164 for predator management,” explains Mayer, “most of it targeted to benefit our mule deer herds.”

The 2010 statewide mule deer population estimate is approximately 6% below the 10-year statewide average of published mule deer population estimates from 2001 – 2010 of approximately 112,700 and 28% below the 35-year average of published mule deer population estimates from 1976 – 2010 of approximately 137,000 mule deer.

Gilbertson does caution that while the trend is positive, it is dependent upon continued good range conditions and mild to moderate winters.  However, he is optimistic that good body condition, low winter mortality, and mild winter conditions in most areas will help to contribute to increased fawn production later this spring.

“We realize that mule deer are our most numerous and most popular big game species,” says Mayer. “NDOW tries to seize every opportunity to provide protection and enhancement of Nevada’s mule deer herd.”

Most of the rest of the species saw significant increases in tag quotas as well.  The only species with declines are the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep Hunt 9151, which saw a decrease due to the major disease event in the Ruby Mountains and East Humboldt’s, and the Mountain Goat Hunt 7151 due to a minor disease event in the same area.

The quota for resident Hunt 9151 was reduced from 10 tags, in 2009, to 6 tags this year and may be reduced by two more tags depending on the State Board of Wildlife Commission action this coming weekend regarding hunt units 101 and 102.   Hunt 7151 was reduced from 24 tags in 2009 to 17 tags this year, as some goats were found that succumbed to pneumonia and biologists estimate that 30% of that herd may have died.

Antelope have fared well in much of Nevada, so biologists are recommending an increase in the Resident Antelope – Horns longer than the ears – Any Legal Weapon Hunt 2151 from 1638 tags in 2009 to 1818 tags this year.

Likewise with elk, as 20 years of wildfires have changed much of eastern Nevada’s shrub landscape to grass lands.  Resident Elk – Antlered – Any Legal Weapon Hunt 4151 saw a recommended tag increase of 37 tags from 2009’s 748 tags to a quota of 785 for this year.  The Resident Elk – Antlerless – Any Legal Weapon Hunt 4181 also saw a significant increase as some of the herds approached or reached their population objectives in eastern Nevada.  This year’s recommendation of 1,686 tags is 312 tags higher than last year’s 1,374 tags, a 22% increase.

The Resident Nelson (Desert) Bighorn Sheep – Any Ram – Any Legal Weapon Hunt 3151 also saw an increase from 170 tags last year to a recommended 195 tags this year.  The Resident California Bighorn Sheep- Any Ram – Any Legal Weapon Hunt 8151 saw a small increase to 45 tags recommended three more than last year.

“All in all, this year should be a good year for hunters with increased opportunity,” says Gilbertson.  “And with this year’s moderate winter and good spring moisture, range conditions should be good and the animals should be in good body condition with decent antler growth.”

The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) protects, restores and manages fish and wildlife, and promotes fishing, hunting, and boating safety. NDOW’s wildlife and habitat conservation efforts are primarily funded by sportsmen’s license and conservation fees and a federal surcharge on hunting and fishing gear. For more information, visit www.ndow.org.

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