APPLICATION STRATEGY 2020: Nevada Mule Deer
Nevada's 2020 mule deer application overview
Getting started in Nevada can be a difficult decision for new applicants who are just getting rolling in the point game. With a point system that is nearly three decades old — and no maximum point pool — this state can be daunting. For nonresidents, you are required to purchase an annual hunting license that will cost $156 prior to being allowed to submit any applications. This can be a rough investment considering that you really don’t know when you will hit a finish line, which begs the question: why would anyone choose to apply? Well, it boils down to one of two things. Either, logistically, Nevada is close enough to where you live that the allure of how nice it would be to hunt so close to home is your breaking point or you are the type of hunter who is interested in hunting big deer and the time and money it will take to draw a top-shelf hunt in Nevada is what it is.
Overall, the state has one of the strongest buck to doe ratios out of any western state other than Colorado (in most of its units) and the age class you can find in many of them is incredible. Couple this with excellent season dates in a number of units and, when the time comes that you get to hunt mule deer in the Silver State, chances are that, for many of us, it will be one of the better possibilities at an above average buck we will have in our lifetime. So, whether you are chasing the odds or you are looking for a giant, Nevada is a state you should strongly consider when building your overall application strategy for the year.
Note: The application deadline for all species in Nevada is May 4, 2020 at 11 p.m. PST for online applications. PAPER APPLICATIONS ARE NO LONGER ACCEPTED IN NEVADA. You can apply online here.
New for 2020
- Within seven days of public release of draw results, the successful tag recipient can choose to electronically return his or her tag at ndowlicensing.com.
- Eligible hunters may apply for both antlered and antlerless mule deer hunts, but may only obtain one mule deer tag per year. Eligible juniors may apply for the junior antlered/antlerless mule deer hunt.
Antlerless draw odds
Remember that we have Draw Odds for female species. In Nevada, there are many opportunities for mule deer in the way of antlerless licenses for residents. Note: antlerless mule deer permits are for residents only.
Antlerless mule deer draw odds
State quotas will not be set until the May 2020 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 May 4, 2020 at 11 p.m. PST.
- Paper applications are no longer accepted.
- You must apply online here.
- Bonus point only applications will be accepted until May 11, 2020 at 11 p.m. PST.
- You can apply for a bonus point only here. You will still need to purchase a hunting license.
- Results will be made available on or before May 22, 2020.
- The second draw deadline for leftover tags is June 22, 2020 at 11 p.m. PST.
- Second draw results will be available on or before July 8, 2020.
Drought and snowpack in Nevada
Nevada has not seen as much of this winter moisture as some of the other western states over the past few months. In fact, there are more areas of the state that are classified as abnormally dry than last year. The actual drought areas are similar in size from last year, but have shifted from the eastern side of the state to the West; however, overall, Nevada is experiencing a rather normal year for moisture levels.
2019 vs. 2020 snow depth analysis
Compared to 2019, snowpack is slightly down; however, overall, things look good with decent levels in all of the mountains that normally hold snow in Nevada.
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. If any selection is still available, you will be awarded the permit.
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 May 11, 2020 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 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 rather 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 many 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 and 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.
Junior youth tag holders can harvest an antlered or antlerless deer. This tag allows the junior hunter to hunt during the archery season when the unit is open for archery only, to hunt with a muzzleloader when the unit is open for muzzleloader only and to hunt with any legal weapon when the unit is open for any legal weapon. If a junior hunt applicant is unsuccessful in drawing a tag, bonus points will be awarded for the junior hunt.
Note: Any bonus points accrued in the junior hunt will automatically transfer to the antlered deer category at the time the junior hunter becomes ineligible for the junior hunt by either age or after five years of applying for the junior hunt.
Junior youth must be 12 years old prior to the opening of each hunt choice applied for (usually archery) and must not turn 18 until after the last day of the last season applied for (usually any legal weapon). An eligible junior hunter may apply no more than five times.
Nevada's 2020 mule deer breakdown
For the lack of overall numbers in mule deer across the state, Nevada holds its own when it comes to giant bucks. There is a chance to take an above average buck in almost every unit in the state. The state's management plan is set at 30 bucks for every 100 does. This is second only to Colorado and is one of the main reasons that no matter where you hunt in the Silver State there's a chance to harvest an older age buck. Taking a big buck in Nevada is not out of the question in really any unit in the state. If you decide to wait it out for what most consider the top hunts in the state or you decide to be more aggressive in some of the less popular areas, it's still hard to go wrong when it comes to deer hunting in Nevada.
Current mule deer herd condition
In 2018, there were just under 18,000 deer surveyed in Nevada. This is not the total population in the state; however, using this number of deer, the state was able to assess that there were 49 fawns per 100 does. This is up four additional fawns from the prior year’s survey. The buck to doe ratio in 2018 was at 33 bucks per 100 does in the post-hunt survey across the surveyed areas. Overall, there is not much change to the state's herd conditions and the herd is considered stable.
The hit list units for Nevada mule deer in 2020
Top hit list units to consider for 180" or better mule deer
|% bucks 4pt
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||17||115, 132, 133, 221, 222, 223, 231, 241, 242, 243, 245, 271|
|6||065, 103, 104, 108, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115,
131, 132, 144, 164, 221, 222, 231
|Elko||5||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||6||115, 132, 133, 221, 222, 223, 231, 241, 242, 243, 245, 271|
|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
|Lander||1||068, 151, 152, 153, 154, 155, 156, 161, 162, 172, 173, 183, 184|
The points system
The bonus point race
Maximum bonus points for mule deer: 27
Managing points and expectations
I have 0 mule deer bonus points. What can I expect?
With as little as zero points there are still options that historically have a 100% chance of drawing for residents. These are early archery permits and in units that are managed more for an opportunity to go hunting rather than areas that are managed for a higher age class. If you are looking for a chance to hunt with a rifle, last year you would have had a 57% of drawing with four points in Unit 032. If you are looking for a top-shelf hunt, plan on getting comfortable as without a lot of luck it will be a considerable wait.
Unit 032 and Unit 203 each have better than a 1:4 chance of drawing in the early archery for nonresident hunters. Overall, drawing a quality deer hunt for a nonresident in Nevada is quite tough. If you are just getting started, consider applying for all species of interest as you will more than likely be purchasing the hunting license for a number of years and you should try and draw some of the other amazing hunts found in the Silver State. If you are looking for your first chance to hunt with a rifle, consider applying for Unit 203. With four points, applicants last year had a 33% chance of drawing and, since the hunt occurs in November, this rut rifle hunt could give you a chance at an above-average buck even if this unit does not have a track record for producing many big deer. If you decide to go this route, don’t be afraid to swing for the fence with what you consider the best hunt in the state as your top four choices and use this as the fifth choice as it will not negatively affect your odds by doing this. Who knows? Maybe you are one of the lucky ones and will come out of the hat early with what was meant to be a deer hunt because you just wanted to go hunting now suddenly a top-shelf opportunity.
What can I do with 9 or 10 mule deer bonus points?
Ten points as a resident is a bit of a no man's land. There are a number of hunts that you will have more than a 70% chance of drawing and many of these are in units that have a trophy class of over 180”+. If you are looking to hunt one of the top-shelf hunts in the state, continue applying for what you believe to be the best hunts as your first few selections. If you are not interested in settling for anything less, then be wary of using all five choices.
With a decade under your belt, you have been at this for a long time. The unfortunate reality is that without a maximum point pool there is no real finish line to look forward to. Because you are in a bit of a no man's land at this point, you have more than enough points to draw a number of lower tier hunts, but still not nearly enough for what many believe to be the best hunts in the state. Be careful and wary of applying for a hunt that does not have an above average success rate on the caliber of bucks you are interested in hunting. Other than an inside track on a big deer from a local, often, the averages are what you should expect to see and harvest in the year that you successfully draw.
What can I expect with 15 or more mule deer bonus points?
If you happen to be a resident of Nevada and you have more than 15 deer points, you either have horrible luck or, for one reason or the other, you have selected not to hunt deer for many years. Possibly, you were a nonresident who has relocated to Nevada, which would also make sense. Regardless of how you got here, you are truly in a unique position. There is not a permit in the state that you do not have at least a 1:4 chance at drawing or better and, for many of them, you should have a greater than 90% chance. Choose your selections carefully and, if you do not end up using all selections available, that is okay as it would be unfortunate to draw a fifth choice if it is not a hunt you would be very excited about when the draw results post.
Chances are that you have been holding out for an exceptional hunt in a unit that has a track record for giant deer. If this is the case and you would rather not hunt if it is not on one of these more famous locations, then stay the course and good luck. Remember that the overall buck to doe ratio is managed very high in Nevada and, with some excellent season dates, some of the less popular units during the right time of year are producing some incredible deer. Because the application deadline is in early May, you are able to see what moisture levels are going to look like across the state for the spring and have an idea on what to expect for antler growth. Rolling the dice on an above average year for antler growth in a unit that has a solid population of deer, a higher than average buck:doe ratio, and a hunt during the rut can be a recipe for success if you have the time to put into the hunt when it rolls around. Drawing a deer hunt in Nevada is often one of the better opportunities at a big buck in the country. Take full advantage when it’s your turn and get the most out of a hunt you have waited a long time for.
Additional application opportunities
Nevada Silver State tag
For an additional $25 you can select to be included in the Silver State tag drawings, which would make you eligible for the one permit per species 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 SuperTags, and Super Raffles in other western states. This drawing is open to both residents and nonresidents. After purchasing a $11.75 Resource Enhancement Stamp, you can then buy an unlimited number of raffle tickets for $5.75 each for as many species as you want. You can enter the Dream Tag raffle here.