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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2015: Nevada sheep and goat

 

Nevada Desert rams
Photo credit: Getty Images

Overview

Nevada is the leader among western states when it comes to nonresident Desert bighorn sheep opportunities. More tags are issued to nonresident Desert bighorn sheep hunters in Nevada than all other states combined. Trophy quality animals are plentiful and game management among the Desert bighorn sheep units are excellent, and the tag numbers prove this. As a bonus to Nevada hunters, some California bighorn sheep also migrate into the state, providing more opportunities to the applicant fortunate enough to draw a tag.

Nevada once had world class Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep hunting, but sheep species can be fragile. A pneumonia outbreak several years ago has reduced the herd size dramatically. Although recovery efforts are in place, only resident hunters have a chance to draw a tag for Rocky Mountain bighorns. Mountain goat tags are also only available to resident hunters because this species is found within a small section of the state: the Ruby Mountains. Online applications for all opportunities can be found here. Find more details on each particular species on our Nevada state profile. Applicants must use separate applications to apply for each of the three species (nonresidents are not eligible for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep hunts). 

Why Nevada for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in 2015?
 

Nevada Rocky bighorn sheep

Nevada’s current Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep herd is only a fraction of what it once was. Multiple bouts with pneumonia have reduced herd numbers to the point that only a few resident tags are available today. The Ruby Mountains were once home to a larger number of Rocky Mountain bighorns, but today hunts are only available in Units 114 and 115 of the Snake Range. There is also a new hunt opening for 2015 in Unit 091 along the Utah border. This hunt will take place in the Pilot Range and Silver Island Mountains and will allow the hunter to hunt in the neighboring Utah unit since the herd resides and travels between the two states. The only available tags are for resident applicants; nonresidents cannot apply for Rocky Mountain bighorn tags in Nevada. While Nevada once produced bighorn rams that scored over 180” Boone and Crockett on a regular basis, average ram scores now fall within the upper 150s, with an occasional ram scoring in the mid 170s. 

Nevada's top Boone and Crockett Rocky and California bighorn sheep entries

County

Entries

Hunting Units within County

Elko 17 068, 074, 091
Humboldt 1 012, 031, 032, 033, 034, 035, 044, 051
Pershing 1 034, 044, 045, 051, 153, 181, 182, 183
White Pine 1 114, 115, 131, 132, 164

 

Why Nevada for California bighorn sheep in 2015?
 


Photo credit: G&J Outdoors

Nevada is one of the western states that is fortunate to have a huntable population of California bighorns. Although considered a different subspecies of bighorn sheep, Boone and Crockett classifies them among the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. For this reason, California bighorns rarely qualify for the B&C record book. Unlike Rocky Mountain bighorns, nonresidents are eligible to apply for California bighorns in a few units. The units that offer hunts for this species are located in the northwestern portion of Nevada. Although it is difficult to draw a tag, the hunt success is very high for this sheep species. Remember that you can apply for each of the sheep species on separate applications. Residents can apply for all three species while nonresidents are only eligible for California bighorns and Desert bighorn sheep. 

Why Nevada for Desert bighorn sheep in 2015?
 


Photo credit: G&J Outdoors

Nevada is clearly the land of opportunity for Desert bighorn sheep hunting. With several unit groups to select from, there are more nonresident Desert bighorn sheep tags in Nevada than all other states combined. In 2014, there were 28 nonresident tags and 250 resident tags available through the draw. All Nevada Desert bighorn sheep are classified as the Nelsoni, or Nelson subspecies, and there are giant rams available across the state. Rams scoring well into the 170s are harvested every year in many units. Remember that your bonus points are squared and that everyone has a chance to draw. Make sure that you fill out all five choices. Good luck!

Nevada's top Boone and Crockett Desert bighorn sheep entries

County

Entries

Hunting Units within County

Clark 149 243, 244, 262, 263, 264, 265, 266, 267, 268, 271, 272, 280, 281, 282, 283, 284, 286
Nye 51 243, 244, 262, 263, 264, 265, 266, 267, 268, 271, 272, 280, 281, 282, 283, 284, 286
Lincoln 25 133, 223, 241, 243, 245, 271, 280, 281, 282, 283
Churchill 8 181, 182, 183, 184
Mineral 4 181, 202, 204, 205, 206, 207, 208

 

Why Nevada for mountain goat in 2015?

Nevada mountain goat

A small numbers of mountain goats are found in the Ruby Mountains in Units 101, 102 and 103. Only resident hunters can apply for the mountain goat seasons, but those lucky enough to draw will be rewarded with an incredible hunt opportunity. Trophy billies are found within the Ruby Mountains and there are currently 40 entries from Elko County alone in the Boone and Crockett record book. Hunters should be prepared to get physical in order to be successful. As illustrated below, only three states among the lower 48 states have more B&C entries than Nevada. A trophy billy scoring near 50” B&C is a possibility.

Most Boone and Crockett mountain goat entries among lower 48 states

Rank

State

No. of entries

1 Montana 90
2 Washington 81
3 Utah 58
4 Nevada 40
5 Idaho 24
6 Oregon 19
7 Colorado 18
8 Wyoming 10
9 South Dakota 4

 

Nevada's top Boone and Crockett mountain goat entries

County

Entries

Hunting Units within County

Elko  40 101, 102, 103


General herd conditions:

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
Rebuilding is the theme for Nevada’s Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. Historically speaking, the statewide numbers have been on a rollercoaster ride. Fortunately, recent years have shown steady increases with organized transplant efforts attempting to rejuvenate the overall herd numbers. A new unit opening for resident hunting in 2015 is a promising sign. Hopefully catastrophic disease will skip Nevada herds and allow the numbers to once again climb. Who knows? Nevada may once again produce its legendary giant bighorn rams it was once famous for.

Desert bighorn sheep
Home to more Desert bighorn sheep than any other state, the sheep numbers in Nevada are in phenomenal shape. In fact, ewe seasons are in place to help regulate numbers and promote healthy management objectives in certain areas. Unfortunately, in the southwest portion of the state, near the Mojave Desert, there have been some small scale die-offs in recent years due to disease transmission. While Desert bighorn sheep are a delicate species, the overall herd health has been thriving and large rams have been taken every year. Many rams score in the 160s and 170s. Serious Desert bighorn sheep hunters should keep Nevada in mind as a state to apply in.

California bighorn sheep
Numbers appear to be stable for this subspecies of bighorn sheep. Although the overall herd is relatively small in the few units where they are found, numbers are hardy enough to allow hunts to be conducted. The average California bighorn ram score is in the mid 150s in Nevada. Terrain is fairly easy and harvest success is very high. 

Mountain goat
Mountain goat numbers are exceptional in the Ruby Mountains. Units 101 and 102 hold the majority of Nevada’s mountain goats. Much of the terrain is not easily accessible or located near any roads. Determined hunters must hike great distances in search of goats, but due to the remote habitat, billies often reach maturity. Only residents are allowed to hunt mountain goats in Nevada. 

What’s new in 2015?

  • Desert bighorn sheep Unit Group 223 and 241 have been split and a portion of Unit 241 will be available as its own hunt choice.
  • The Desert bighorn sheep late hunt in Unit 184 has been cancelled.
  • A nonresident Desert bighorn sheep tag has returned for 2015 in Unit 262.
  • Unit 041 and Unit 066 have both been reopened for California bighorn sheep.
  • Unit 031 has been reopened to nonresidents for California bighorn sheep.
  • For Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, Unit 091 and portions of Utah (Pilot Range and Silver Island Mountains) have been reopened for a resident hunt. (There is a new reciprocating season that allows hunters to hunt in both states with a NV or UT tag. Rams live right on the border.)

The draw system: An overview

  • Tag or license: Game hunting license plus tags for each species.
  • Point system: Bonus point system that squares the points.
  • Youth: No designated youth-only seasons or discounts for sheep species.
  • Draw type: Lottery.
  • Resident perk: Resident applicants are awarded a much higher tag allocation and have more available units to select from. Only residents are eligible to apply for Rocky Mountain bighorn and mountain goat tags.

Nevada has a very user-friendly online application system. Online applications can be found here. Anyone applying for big game must purchase an annual hunting license and pay a per species application fee and a predator management fee when submitting an application. If drawn, the species tag fee will be charged.

If applying online, nonresidents will be charged a $3.50 online fee per species. Residents will be charged a $2.00 online fee per species. If a hunter does not want the bonus points, the annual hunting license fee may be refunded if not drawn. If this option is selected, then the applicant will NOT be awarded a bonus point. 

For all species in Nevada, there are five hunt choices. When drawn, all five choices are considered prior to drawing the next application. The deadline to apply online is April 20, 2015 at 11 p.m. (PDT). All paper applications must be received by 5 p.m. (PDT) on April 20, 2015.

Bonus point only application after the deadline

If you missed the application deadline to apply for a tag, you may submit an application for a bonus point within seven days after the application deadline. Application fees will still be charged. It is highly recommended that you print a copy of your application confirmation page for your records after applying. The last day to apply for a bonus point only is April 27, 2015 at 11 p.m. (PDT).

Table of fees — Nevada 2015

Item

Resident cost

Nonresident cost

General hunting license $33 $142
Youth hunting license
(12 to 15 years of age)
$13 N/A
Application fee - per sheep species $10 $10
Predator fee (per application) $3 $3
Online fee $2 $3.50
Bonus point ONLY $10 $10
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep tag $120 N/A
California bighorn sheep tag $120 $1,200
Desert bighorn sheep tag $120 $1,200
Mountain goat tag $120 N/A

 

Nevada Desert bighorns
Photo credit: Victor T Trujillo

The point system

Much like raffle tickets, bonus points give hunters extra chances to draw tags. You can acquire one bonus point per year per species by buying them or by applying for and getting rejected for tags. Your accrued points are squared and one additional point is given for the current application. For example, an applicant with five bonus points will have 26 chances to draw (five squared is 25 plus one for the current application equals 26 total chances). In this example, an applicant will receive a total of 26 random numbers from a random number generator in the drawing. The lowest random number will be used as the number assigned to the application. Obviously, the more bonus points you have, the greater your odds of receiving a low random number. Good luck!

The draw: Unlocking Nevada's system

The key to finding success in Nevada’s drawing is twofold. First, you will need some luck on your side since Nevada is a true bonus point state and does not reserve any tags for the applicants with the most points. It is also important to understand that your first two choices should be filled with the hunts that you desire most regardless of your point level or the popularity of the hunt choice. There is always a slim chance for applicants with little or no points. After your first two “dream” choices are filled in, then you must really determine if your intentions are to hold out for only the best of hunts or if you would be happy with a less popular selection. If you are interested in a hunting opportunity, then select from early rifle choices, muzzleloader and archery choices as your third through fifth choice selections. Remember, your bonus points are squared in Nevada. 

Youth

There are no youth advantages for any of the sheep species or mountain goats in Nevada. 

Party applications

Party applications are not accepted for any of the sheep species or mountain goats in Nevada. 

Nevada big game draw FAQs

Where and how do I apply?

Applications may be submitted online here or submitted on paper through the mail. 

Is Nevada good for building points?

Nevada is a great state to build points. An annual hunting license must be purchased in order to build points. Once the annual hunting license is purchased, a bonus point only fee of $10 is charged per species. Bonus points are squared and will greatly increase your odds of drawing. 

Do you have to float the permit fees?

No, Nevada is a state where you do not have to front or float the tag fees when you apply. You will be charged the full price of the tag if you are successful in the draw.

Can I turn my tag in if I decide not to hunt?

Applicants drawn for any sheep or mountain goat tag may return their tag, but must do so by July 15. They will have their bonus points reinstated and receive a refund. 

Hunter opportunity

Draw odds and tag availability

Sheep and mountain goat drawing odds are slim everywhere and Nevada is no exception. The good news is that Nevada issues a lot of tags for Desert bighorn sheep, which makes the odds of drawing a tag much higher. Nevada is also an inexpensive state to apply for sheep and mountain goat. With only an annual hunting license and small application fees collected upfront, the number of applicants applying each year is high. This makes your odds of drawing a tag low, but with bonus points squared, there is always a chance.
2014 state by state Desert bighorn sheep quotas

Special features for sheep and mountain goat in Nevada

  • Only residents may apply for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and mountain goat.
  • Each sheep species may be applied for and points are earned for each of the species.
     

Photo credit: G&J Outdoors

I have 0 to 9 points. What can I expect?

Rocky Mountain bighorn
Only residents may apply for Rockies. There are only three units available to select from: 091, 114 and 115. A few very lucky residents will get drawn. 

Desert bighorn sheep
For both residents and nonresidents there is always a possibility that you will get lucky and draw a tag. The odds are that it will take you a few years to gain enough bonus points to draw a tag for a Desert bighorn sheep hunt. We all know of those lucky few that have drawn a great tag with little or no points, but the likelihood of that is pretty slim. Select a hunt choice that you would really like as your first and second choices. Then look to units that are not featured in the Boone and Crockett entry table above as your third through fifth choices.

California bighorn sheep
This is easy for nonresidents since there are only four hunt choices available. Select your most preferred order from Units 012, 031, 032 and 034. The unit profiles for each of these units above should help you to decide your preferred order. 

The resident applicant will have more units and hunt choices to select from. WIth 12 options available for your five available hunt choices, select the two most desired as first and second, and fill in third through fifth with choices you would be happy with. 

Mountain goat
Only residents may apply for mountain goats. Only three choices are available to select from. Select your order from the three units available: 101, 102 and 103. Remember that Unit 102 has the most permits and Unit 103 has the fewest. 

What can I expect with 10 or more points?

Rocky Mountain bighorn
Resident applicants with double digit points are still not guaranteed to draw a tag. Regardless of your points, you are never in position to be highly likely of drawing a tag. In 2014, the five residents drawn for Rocky Mountain bighorns drew with 4 points, 7 points, 14 points, 16 points and 18 points. As you can see, the drawing is very random and you need a lot of luck to draw a tag. There are three units to select from: 091, 114 and 115.

Desert bighorn sheep
Just like Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, it requires a lot of luck to draw a Desert bighorn sheep tag  even with 10 or more bonus points. Regardless of residency, pick your two dream hunts as your first and second choice options. If you are holding out for only a book ram, then keep all of your choices inline with the units listed in the Boone and Crockett table above and make sure to check the unit profiles for more information. If you are interested in improving your odds of drawing, try selecting choices that are not known to produce book rams.
 
California bighorn sheep
The same strategy applies here for nonresidents thanks to the limited number of choices available. Select your most preferred order from Units 012031032 and 034. The unit profiles for each of these units should help you to decide on a preferred order. 

Residents have 12 available options. Select the two most desired as first and second choices. Since most of the California bighorns will not qualify for B&C, you should consider applying for units that have more tags available as your third through fifth choices to increase your odds. 

Mountain goat
This will be an easy application for residents applying for mountain goat. With 10 or more points you have a chance at drawing a mountain goat tag, but it could still take a few more years. Again, there are only three units available to select from: 101, 102 and 103. Remember that Unit 102 has the most permits and Unit 103 has the fewest.

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