APPLICATION STRATEGY 2018: Nevada Mule Deer
Nevada's 2018 mule deer application overview
Typically, Nevada should be considered a long term goal for nonresident hunters. However, when the day comes and you finally draw one of these incredible permits, it has the potential to be one of the best hunts you may have ever get out West. With excellent trophy quality in many of the units and low hunting pressure, Nevada is just too good not to apply for serious mule deer hunters.
With a bonus points system in place that squares your earned points, applicants can easily see the value they are building each year. Meanwhile, if you have never applied before, you can apply with confidence that your application has a chance at even the most sought-after permits in the state even that first year. There is no maximum point permits awarded in this state, which means that every permit drawn is randomly selected. In essence, this truly is a bucket of raffle tickets and you never know when it could be your year. Nevada does not require the applicant to front the money for each license prior to applying, which makes the big picture out-of-pocket cost at the time of applying much less than some of the other western states. Also, with the purchase of an annual hunting license and the cost of your application fee, you are on your way to earning bonus points for each species of interest annually.
Note: The application deadline for all species in Nevada is April 16, 2018, at 11 p.m. PST for online applications. Paper applications are no longer accepted in Nevada. You can apply online here.
Why Nevada for mule deer in 2018
Top end quality deer
The likelihood of harvesting a 3 to 4-year-old deer on many of the units in Nevada is quite high. Older age class deer that include bucks scoring 180” to over 200” Boone & Crockett (B&C) are also harvested every year in many units. Of the 117 units for mule deer in Nevada, 63 of these units have the potential to produce bucks 170” or better.
Lots of options with only a few points
With as little as five points, hunters who select to apply for any weapon permits stand a 10% or greater chance to draw in 19 different units and a 20% or better chance in 12 different units. It becomes even better odds when considering either archery or muzzleloader for your upcoming hunt.
No waiting period
Different than all of the other species in Nevada, if you were lucky enough to successfully draw or even harvest a mule deer in Nevada last season, you can get right back into the draw this year. There is no waiting period for deer in Nevada.
Nevada Silver State tag
For an additional $24, you can select to be included in the Silver State tag drawing, which makes you eligible for one permit drawing each year that allows the recipient the opportunity to hunt any public land across the state from Aug. 1 to Dec. 31 just like the governor’s tag. This, along with thousands of dollars in free gear, is just too good to pass. Make sure you click the box while applying and get your name in the hat for this amazing opportunity.
Nevada Dream Tags
Nevada Dream Tags are another shot at drawing the hunt of a lifetime for mule deer, antelope, desert bighorn sheep, California bighorn sheep, elk and black bear in Nevada. Dream Tags are similar to Super Tags, and Super Raffles in other western states. This drawing is open to both residents and nonresidents. After purchasing a $10 Resource Enhancement Stamp, you can then buy an unlimited number of raffle tickets for $5 each for as many species as you want. You can enter the Dream Tag raffle here.
New for 2018
- There is a new online license portal. All hunters who wish to apply will need to visit www.ndowlicensing.com to build an account prior to applying. You will be required to do this in order to submit any applications this year and will also be able to quickly check draw results there as well.
- When applying for “Point Only” on the new system there are no longer individual codes as there were in the past, you will simply select “bonus point” on the menu and proceed.
- The license fee required at the time of the application has increased to $155 this year, but includes all state stamps and privileges. It is also good for 365 days and can be automatically renewed if you would like.
- Legal shooting hours have been extended to one-half hour after sunset.
- There is a new regulation that prohibits the taking or gathering of shed antlers from public land in Elko, Eureka, Lander, Lincoln, Nye or White Pine counties from Jan. 1 to April 30 each year. Read more on this new ruling here.
New for goHUNT
For 2018, goHUNT has added Draw Odds for female species. In Nevada, there are many opportunities for mule deer in the way of antlerless licenses for residents. When selecting your units to hunt be sure to also check out our standalone Draw Odds details page to see if opportunities exist that can be added to your hunt. Note: antlerless mule deer permits are for residents only.
Antlerless mule deer draw odds
State quotas will not be set until the May 2018 commission meeting. This is done to ensure that the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) has the latest and most current data on big game herds.
To view important information and an overview of Nevada’s rules/regulations, the draw system and bonus points, tag and license fees and an interactive boundary line map, check out our State Profile. You can also view the Nevada Deer Profile to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy areas.
Important dates and information
- You may begin applying now.
- The deadline to apply is April 16, 2018, at 11 p.m. PST.
- Paper applications are no longer accepted.
- You can apply online here.
- Bonus point only applications will be accepted until April 23, 2018, at 11 p.m. PST.
- Results will be made available on or before June 8, 2018.
- The second draw deadline for leftover tags is June 25, 2018 at 11 p.m. PST.
- The second draw results will be available on or before July 20, 2018.
Notable season overlap
The antlered deer muzzleloader hunt will be overlapped in Unit 262 with the antlered elk any legal weapon hunt.
Drought and snowpack in Nevada
As you can see, the majority of the state is abnormally dry and, more importantly, some of the best areas of the state on the eastern border are in a moderate drought. As of March 20, 2018, 100% of the state is experiencing abnormally dry conditions and 12.71% is showing moderate drought. It is worth noting that, historically, even when the snowpack is light the most important months of the year for moisture are April and May in Nevada. These past few years have had great moisture during these months and, if that happens again this year, we should be in for a great season and also a fantastic fawn crop.
As it sits, the Jarbridge as well as the Ruby’s both have decent snowpack right now and should fare well regardless of what kind of weather is received this spring.
Compare the drought monitor status in 2018 to March 28, 2017, and you get a different picture when 6.17% of the state was experiencing drought conditions.
The draw system
Understanding the draw
For all species in Nevada, there are five hunt choices. When drawn, all five choices are considered prior to drawing the next application.
Mule deer bonus point only
2018 max bonus points for deer: 25
Bonus point only application after the main draw
If you missed the application deadline to apply for a tag or you just want to apply for bonus points, then you may submit an application for a bonus point during the main big game application or 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 23, 2018, at 11 p.m. PST. You can apply for a bonus point here.
Unlocking Nevada’s system
As mentioned before, Nevada should be considered a long-term goal and the key to success in this state like many others is to keep applying and to only apply “point only” when you absolutely cannot pull off a hunt that fall. You never know when it’s going to be your year and to miss out on a year of having your name in the hat is a mistake that should be avoided whenever possible. If you are looking for a hunt sooner than later in the Silver State, Nevada makes it possible to chase the odds while still applying for a top shelf hunt by allowing the applicant to select five choices each year.
Nevada's draw order and why it matters
With five choices available, the first two selections on your application should always be for the best units in the state or the hunt you desire the most. The last three selections can be a continuation of this strategy or allow the applicant to aggressively chase the odds and, often, draw in fewer years. The applicant will lose all his/her points on any successful application regardless of which choice so be realistic in what kind of hunt you are looking for. Always swing for the fence on your first two selections. Remember that your bonus points are squared each year plus one additional point for that year’s application. See the Nevada State Profile for more information.
Nevada's 2018 mule deer breakdown
While 2017 may not have been quite as good as the 2016 season, there is no doubt that it was still one of the best overall deer hunts in the last decade and beyond. With some hunts ending on Oct. 31 this past season, the rut activity was great and there were a number of very big deer taken in the low country out searching for does.
Nevada, like many other western states, has been seeing a steady decline in the overall number of deer each year and this trend doesn’t show many signs of turning the other direction. Between less than ideal weather patterns and the ever present predator problem, the cards seem to be stacked against mule deer more and more each year. This being said, Nevada has been as aggressive as any state in limiting the number of permits that are available each year and, once you have successfully drawn, the quality and age class you can expect in many of these units is some of the best in the country.
Nevada currently boasts that over 50% of their units have the potential to produce 170” bucks and close to 20% of the units in the state consistently produce 180”+ inch deer. Whether you are waiting your turn for the most sought after units in the state or just looking to put together a fun deer hunt in a unit that doesn’t get as much attention, chances are, with a little research, you will find yourself in an above average unit and after a chance for the buck of a lifetime sooner than later.
Current mule deer herd condition
The estimated population for 2017 was 92,000 deer which was down 2,000 from the year before. We are expecting to see this trend continue into 2018. Both postseason and spring fawn counts have continued their downward trend as well. The long-term average for spring production has been 35 fawns: 100 adults and the state has fallen slightly below this number over the past few years. Nevada uses 30 bucks: 100 does as the statewide management objective and the number of tags allocated each year is a direct reflection of these counts.
The hit list units for Nevada mule deer in 2018
Top hit list units to consider for 180" or better mule deer
|% bucks 4pt|
How to uncover hidden gem units
The trick to finding a hidden gem unit in Nevada often comes down to how primitive of a weapon you are willing to hunt with. Often you can secure a tag in premier units much easier if you are willing to hunt the earlier seasons with archery equipment or a muzzleloader. As good as hunting the rut can be, if you are willing to get into a unit and do the necessary work to have the first crack at a unit, that’s a good thing. It’s hard to take a monster buck if he’s already been harassed all year or worse he’s already been taken by another hunter by the time your hunt arrives. Like many states, the more primitive you are willing to hunt, the better your odds and the faster you will find yourself with a great tag.
The other method for locating a hidden gem is with resources like our Filtering 2.0 and Draw Odds. It has never been easier to help you locate a unit that fits your individual goals. You can pour over information like trophy potential, draw odds percentages, buck:doe ratios, and percentage of 4 point or better per hunt and unit. You will also be able to analyze the number of applications that are submitted each year as well as the number of tags drawn to show you how a specific unit is trending. With all of these tools at your disposal, it has never been easier to locate your perfect hunt.
B&C entry trends for Nevada mule deer
Nevada's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for typical mule deer
|Units found within county|
|Lincoln||13||115, 132, 133, 221, 222, 223, 231, 241, 242, 243, 245, 271|
|5||065, 103, 104, 108, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115,|
131, 132, 144, 164, 221, 222, 231
|Elko||4||061, 062, 064, 065, 066, 067, 068, 071, 072, 073, 074, 075, 076, 077,|
078, 079, 081, 091, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 109, 121, 144
|Humboldt||2||012, 031, 032, 033, 034, 035, 041, 042, 044, 046, 051, 066, 151|
|Nye||2||131, 132, 133, 134, 161, 162, 163, 164, 171, 172, 173, 181, 205, 251, 252, 253, 254, 261, 262|
|Pershing||2||012, 014, 034, 041, 042, 043, 044, 045, 046, 181, 182, 183|
Nevada's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for nontypical mule deer
|Units found within county|
|Lincoln||4||115, 132, 133, 221, 222, 223, 231, 241, 242, 243, 245, 271|
|Elko||2||061, 062, 064, 065, 066, 067, 068, 071, 072, 073, 074, 075, 076, 077,|
078, 079, 081, 091, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 109, 121, 144
|Lander||1||068, 151, 152, 153, 154, 155, 156, 161, 162, 172, 173, 183, 184|
Buck:doe ratios and why this matters
Following the buck to doe ratios can be an excellent way of locating a hidden gem and is a critical tool for wildlife managers when deciding how many tags to issue in each unit each year. Essentially, when a unit has a higher buck:doe ratio you can’t help but assume that some of these bucks are making it through each season and, therefore, creating an opportunity for an older age class buck. This is not a given, but tends to hold true more often than not. Meanwhile, if you are not looking to break records while you are hunting and are simply looking for a hunt where you can expect to see more bucks per day, then studying these ratios could be the most important data to consider. Whether you are planning a youth hunt or just tired of not seeing bucks while you are out hunting, take a look at the total population of deer in each unit and compare that to the buck:doe ratio and you will be off and running to a very enjoyable hunt.
Top 15 Nevada mule deer units for buck:doe ratios
The points system
The bonus point race
2018 maximum bonus points for mule deer: 25
Resident successful/unsuccessful applicants
Nonresident successful/unsuccessful applicants
Managing points and expectations
I have 0 mule deer bonus points. What can I expect?
Remember when applying in Nevada, because you are allowed to list five choices, you should always apply for the hunt you would most prefer as your first two selections. Regardless of how long the odds are, there is always a chance even with zero points. However, if you are looking to hunt sooner than later you should consider archery selections as your last three choices because this will increase the chance you might actually draw a tag. The likelihood of drawing any rifle permit with zero points is quite low.
In order to have a real crack at drawing a deer permit with zero points, you are going to have to be willing to hunt early with either archery equipment or a muzzleloader. If you desire to hunt with a rifle, then plan on accruing a few more points. In the meantime, always remember to apply for your dream tag on your first and second choice. First, select a hunt or two that would fill your dream tag and apply for them as your first and second choice. Then, depending on how aggressive you would like to be, look towards the early rifle, muzzleloader, or archery seasons as your second or third through fifth choices. Remember that there are typically leftover archery permits in a few units each year. If you are willing to wait, this can be a backup plan if things don’t work out in the draw. Note: taking a leftover tag will still burn your points.
Resident hunts with a 30%+ chance of drawing with 0 points
Resident hunts with a 20%+ chance of drawing with 0 points
As mentioned previously, for nonresidents, Nevada should really be considered a long-term goal. However, if you are looking to draw a tag in the Silver State as soon as possible, it is very important to focus entirely on archery for all five of your selections. It seems that even these archery tags have become more and more difficult to draw in recent years largely because of tags being cut across the state for both residents and nonresidents.
If you are simply looking to draw a tag as soon as possible you will have to be willing to hunt with your bow. The units that a nonresident has at least a 25% chance of drawing with zero points are listed below.
Nonresident hunts with a 25%+ chance of drawing with 0 points
|% bucks 4pt|
|201, 202, 204-208||160"+||16:100||67%||88.4%|
Another option to consider is watching for opportunities on the second draw period. Any of the hunts that go undersubscribed in the first drawing will now be available in the second drawing and there is no nonresident quota for these permits. Essentially, a nonresident has the same odds of drawing any of the available permits as a resident does. Remember that regardless if you were to draw in the second drawing or even purchase a leftover permit in late July, you will lose any bonus points that you have accrued.
What can I do with 3 or 4 mule deer bonus points?
Note: You will lose your accumulated bonus points if you purchase a leftover tag in Nevada. Consider this before purchasing a leftover tag.
With three or four bonus points there are definitely some decisions that need to be made. With this number of points, you will have some great odds in almost all of the archery hunts with the exceptions of a few dream tags. There are also some good rifle units that you will have decent odds of drawing with this number of points, such as Units 131-134 (38%), Units 114-115 (55%), Units 111-113 (64%). Look to muzzleloader for some better than average hunts that you have a strong chance of drawing with three or four points. If you decide to wait on one of the premier hunts, you are about to enter no man’s land where you will have more than enough to draw the hunts we have discussed, but will still need to grit your teeth as you wait your turn for some of the more sought after tags in the state. If you are serious about burning your bonus points for a rifle tag, study the standalone Draw Odds details page here and adjust your individual point value to see your best odds for drawing a tag or planning for a future hunt. Another option is to adjust the filters to show you draw odds that are 50% or higher. That will give you a great starting point for further research.
With three or four points your odds of securing an early archery hunt are much better. If you are interested, you also have a decent chance at drawing a few of the late archery hunts. Units to keep in mind for this would be Unit group 202, 205, 206, 207, 208 as well as Unit 203.
If the goal is to draw a rifle permit, keep applying. Depending on your goals, use your five choices accordingly each year; there are a few units in the center of the state that you have a decent chance at drawing like Units 141-145 (38%), Units 151-156 (35%), and Units 171-173 (41%). With a little luck, if these units fit the bill for what you are looking for, you could be in the field during these October rifle hunts. However, you are more than likely in for a long wait on the premier units, but if that’s the goal, then keep your eye on the prize and roll your dice. We know that Nevada’s lady luck has shown her face in that state more than once. If you are still simply trying to get in a quality hunt, look towards the archery and muzzleloader hunts for the best odds. If rifle is your style, then focus on the early season choices as your third through fifth choice.
What can I expect with 9 or 10 mule deer bonus points?
Your wait should be approaching its end. With 10 points, there are few hunts in the state that you wouldn’t be a top point holder. Almost all of the archery early or late and muzzleloader hunts are at your fingertips and there are few rifle hunts that aren’t very far out of reach. Now is the time to swing for the fence since you have invested a decade into your plan. Now is not the time to settle outside of a specific buck in an obscure unit and an airtight plan. All of your focus should be on the top hunts in the state. With a little luck, you will be in the field sooner than later with the tag of a lifetime in your pocket.
Unfortunately, you are still in no man’s land. Often, we have seen hunters get deterred at this junction as the anticipation or frustration can become overwhelming and hunters will choose to burn their points on a chance than buckle down and see the original plan through. With over 40% of the hunts in the state at a 50% chance of drawing, it can become very appealing. Be realistic in your expectations and apply accordingly. If a unit has difficulty producing the caliber of bucks you are looking for, you should expect a similar experience when you are there. Grit your teeth and, at a minimum, continue to apply for the best tags in the state with your first two selections.
What can I expect with 15 or 20 mule deer bonus points?
Well, things just haven’t gone your way. That’s the truth. You have done your part and, yet, here you sit, waiting. Stay the course. It’s bound to happen at some point and, when it does, make the most of it. You will have your crack at some of the best mule deer the West has to offer.
You know more than most at this point—the ins and outs of the Nevada drawing system—and you probably know exactly what you are up against. There are a number of hunts across the state that you may very well be a top point applicant if you choose to apply. However, even an archery hunt in the top shelf units of the state are still tough to draw because of the limited number of permits available to nonresidents. With any luck, you have been applying for the other species that Nevada has to offer and have had more luck with them than deer. Even with 15 points, many of the best units are still not offering you a 1% chance of drawing. Keep swinging for the fence and when the day comes, you will have drawn a tag for some of the best mule deer hunting in the country. Check out the standalone Draw Odds details page to get a better idea of how many people are applying in each unit and at every point level to help guide your application process.