49.3 F

Lucky hunter wins rifle and furthers science at the same time



Hunters have a long history of helping state wildlife agencies manage wildlife populations. They routinely serve as extended eyes and ears for wildlife biologists by reporting their observations while in the field and dutifully completing and returning various harvest questionnaires and season surveys. Aaron Hiller, a lucky southern Nevada hunter, recently did his part by returning biological samples from a deer he harvested and was rewarded with a new rifle for his efforts.

Hiller’s saga began last October when the Nevada Department of Wildlife mailed letters to just over 1,000 hunters who drew antlerless (doe) mule deer tags for the 2009 season. In the two previous years’ annual spring surveys, the recruitment rate (number of fawns in the population) in hunt area 10 had dropped to some of the lowest rates ever recorded. Tony Wasley, NDOW mule deer staff biologist, wanted to know why and turned to hunters for their help.

Wasley hoped to gain a better understanding of deer’s body condition and identify potential limiting factors of the targeted populations. A deer’s body condition in October is a direct indicator of their ability to survive the winter and produce fawns the following spring. Body condition can be determined by studying body fat, fat deposits surrounding various organs and other factors. In the letters, Wasley asked hunters to return ten different samples from their harvested deer and provided detailed instructions on how to properly gather and deliver the samples.

During the time Wasley was organizing his study, the Mule Deer Foundation approached NDOW with an offer of donating a Henry Golden Boy .22 caliber rifle as an incentive for hunters’ participation in agency outreach or game management efforts.

“We very much appreciate the support of our long-time partners at MDF,” said Wasley. “They fully understand the constraints we face as a government agency and are willing to step in and do the things we can’t. We know we wouldn’t have had near the response we experienced if it wasn’t for the raffle because many hunters told us a shot at winning the gun was the reason they cooperated. We simply wouldn’t have collected samples as effectively as we did without the support of MDF.”

To be eligible for the drawing, hunters had to return at least eight of 10 desired samples by November 6, 2009. In all, 146 hunters returned samples, of which 114 met the minimum requirement and qualified for the drawing. In the interest of fairness Wasley set up a drawing process similar to Nevada’s computerized big game tag draw to assure a totally random selection. With parameters in place, the drawing computer whirled to life on December 17, 2009, Mr. Hiller drew the low number and the Golden Boy was his.

NDOW is still waiting on the results of tooth aging tests, as much of the study hinges on understanding the age structure of given herds and how it correlates to recruitment and mortality. As such, it is still too early to draw any firm conclusions, but results will be made public as soon as age data is received and analyzed. However, one thing is already certain:Nevada hunters have once again stepped up to help with the difficult job of managing the state’s wildlife and we’re all richer for it. Aaron Hiller for one will agree.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife 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. Support wildlife and habitat conservation in Nevada by purchasing a hunting, fishing or combination license. For more information, visit www.ndow.org.

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