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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2021: Nevada Sheep and Mountain Goat

NEVADA'S 2021 BIGHORN SHEEP AND MOUNTIAN GOAT APPLICATION OVERVIEW


Main writer: Jordan Christensen of The Draw

Jump to: NEW FOR 2021 State Info Draw System D. Bighorn Breakdown R. Bighorn Breakdown C. Bighorn Breakdown Mtn Goat Breakdown

If you dream of hunting bighorn sheep in the lower 48 and you are not currently applying for Nevada, this is a mistake. With a total of 389 permits up for grabs, there is not another state that comes close to the number of ram tags that is offered in the Silver State. Breaking that down a little further: there will be over 28 nonresident ram tags offered between the desert bighorn sheep as well as the California bighorn sheep.

Currently, in this year's regulations, the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) has listed any permits for 16 different hunts leaving them as a question rather than a projected number. Six of the 16 are the new archery only hunts that are listed this year for residents. Three of those 16 are for nonresident desert bighorn sheep hunts. There will be another six permits for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep this year for resident hunters. There are still no whispers about any changes regarding a Sierra bighorn hunt although some reports say this herd of bighorn sheep is getting close to or over 600 total animals. There will be nine mountain goat permits offered again this year and, once again, none of these are for nonresidents. 

From the style of draw that you will read more about below to the number of permits available, Nevada is a no brainer for folks serious about hunting bighorn sheep in the lower 48 and should be a part of any serious hunter’s application strategy. 

Note: The application deadline for all species in Nevada is May 10, 2021 at 11 p.m. PST for online applications. You can apply online here.


New for 2021

Enhanced First-Come First-Served queue 

  • First-Come-First-Served (FCFS) queue that will be accessible in the NDOW licensing system. This queue offers NDOW customers the ability to purchase any tags remaining after the second draw or any returned tags without an eligible alternate. Just for the FCFS, the residency eligibility will not be restricted to tags within the queue. So, a nonresident can purchase a resident tag at the nonresident price and vice versa. The only exception is for the junior mule deer/antlerless mule deer tags, which will only be available to eligible resident juniors. 

Tag transfer and deference

  • You now have the choice to defer a tag or restore your bonus points if you experience an extenuating circumstance between the 14-day window of the tag return deadline and the start of the hunt. A tag holder can transfer their tag to another eligible person if the tag holder is diagnosed as terminally ill after drawing the tag. Both the tag holder and the transferee would be subject to all eligibility restrictions. An extenuating circumstance is defined in NAC502.422 and must be accompanied with documentation evidence and verified by NDOW before approval. 

Bonus points 

  • An 11-year-old junior who will turn 12 before the beginning of the last season on their application is eligible to apply for a bonus point. 
  • Active members in the Armed Forces who are stationed outside of the US and lose their bonus points due to a lapse in applying may now be refunded their lost points after they return to the country. 
  • Party hunt members are able to return their party tag to NDOW, but will not receive a refund in bonus points unless all members of that party also return their tags to the agency. 

New hunts 

  • NDOW has added several new hunts for the upcoming season, including six new archery-only desert bighorn sheep options as well as other unit splits and adjusted season dates.

Ewe bighorn draw odds

Remember, we have Draw Odds for all female species. In Nevada, there are many opportunities for females of each species for residents and nonresidents.

Desert bighorn sheep ewe draw odds

Find your resident desert bighorn ewe draw odds here

Find your nonresident desert bighorn ewe draw odds here

California bighorn sheep ewe draw odds

Find your resident California bighorn ewe draw odds here


State information

State quotas will not be set until the May 2021 Commission meeting. This is done to ensure that 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, tag and license fees and an interactive boundary line map, check out our State Profile. You can also view the Nevada Specie Profiles to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy areas.

Nevada State Profile Desert Bighorn Profile Rocky Bighorn Profile California Bighorn Profile Mountain Goat Profile Draw Odds Filtering 2.0 gohunt maps

Important dates and information

  • You may begin applying now.
  • The deadline to apply is May 10, 2021 at 11 p.m. PST.
  • You can apply online here.
  • Bonus point only applications will be accepted until May 17, 2021 at 11 p.m. PST.
  • You can apply for a bonus point only here. You will need to purchase a hunting license if you want a bonus point.
  • Results will be made available on or before May 26, 2021.
  • Second draw deadline for leftover tags is June 14, 2021 at 11 p.m. PST. 
  • Second draw results will be available on or before July 9, 2021.

 

Applying for a state you've never hunted before can be daunting but we are here to make it easy. In the video above, Trail goes over some of the most commonly asked questions when applying in Nevada.

Drought in Nevada

2021

Nevada drought monitor

Nevada drought status as of April 6, 2021. Source: United States Drought Monitor

Like many western states, the majority of Nevada is under extreme drought conditions. The northern portion of the state is faring better than the rest of the state, but is still in rough shape. The good thing is over the last few weeks, it seems that things are headed in a better direction; however, we will need more of what we have seen in the last couple of weeks to really turn things around. 

2020

Nevada 2020 drought monitor

Nevada drought status as of March 31, 2020. Source: United States Drought Monitor

2020 versus 2021 snow depth analysis

This comparison below shows year over year more clearly the incredible amount of moisture that the Silver State is receiving this year in all of its highest elevations.

2021

Nevada's Snow Depth Analysis as of April 13, 2021. Source: Weatherstreet.com

Compared to 2020, snowpack is down and many of the different smaller mountain ranges in the center of the state are lacking in snow — and moisture overall — and are a reflection of the current drought conditions.

2020

Nevada snow depth and snow pack 2020

Nevada's Snow Depth Analysis as of April 6, 2020. Source: Weatherstreet.com

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.

  • 2021 maximum bonus points for desert bighorn sheep: 28
  • 2021 maximum bonus points for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep: 25
  • 2021 maximum bonus points for California bighorn sheep: 28
  • 2021 maximum bonus points for mountain goat: 28

Bonus point only application after the main draw

If you missed the application deadline to apply for a tag or you only 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 17, 2021 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 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 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.


Nevada's 2021 desert bighorn sheep breakdown

It's no secret that Nevada produces some of the biggest deer and elk in the country year in and year out. However, because of how the draw process works and without a maximum point pool, the number one reason why applicants get started in this state is likely due to the insane number of bighorn sheep permits up for grabs with the largest contributor to this number being the desert bighorn sheep. There is set to be a total of 287 desert bighorn sheep permits in this year's draws with four different units listed as a question in regards to bighorn sheep permits being issued as well as a question about the number of permits that are going to be issued on the six new archery hunts for residents this year. What this means is that there is likely to be more permits up for grabs this year — for residents and possibly nonresidents. Potentially, there are going to be over 23 permits available to nonresidents in this year's draws. The unfortunate part of this is that it looks as though in order to create the archery hunts in Nevada there has been a decrease in the number of permits that will be available to nonresidents this draw cycle. However, maybe when the counts are complete and the units in question come through, an equal number of permits will be available. 

Current desert bighorn sheep herd condition

There is no finer herd of desert bighorn sheep in the country than the herds that call the Silver State home. Yet, for the first time in a number of years the total state count came up short in 2020 compared to 2019 with only 9,900 bighorn sheep. This is a decrease of 300 bighorn sheep that were counted during the previous year. This is likely caused by pneumonia, which has impacted several herds, over the last couple of years. 

Top hit list units to consider for 165" or better desert bighorn sheep
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
potential
Harvest success
2020
Average age of
harvested rams
2018-2020
Ram:ewe ratio
Unit 268 175"+ 96% 7.5 104:100
Unit 262 170"+ 80% 7.5 47:100
Unit 263 170"+ 100% 7.5 41:100
Unit 267 170"+ 100% 7.6 55:100
Unit 181 165"+ 100% 6.2 37:100
Unit 183 165”+ 100% 5.7 48:100
Unit 252 165”+ 100% 7.7 51:100
Unit 253 165”+ 86% 7.2 110:100
Unit 261 165"+ 100% 7.9 49:100
Unit 272 165"+ 0% 4.0 135:100
Unit 280 165"+ 80% 9.0 35:100
Unit 281 165"+ 100% 7.9 71:100
Unit 282 165"+ 75% 8.8 48:100
Unit 283 165”+ 80% 6.4 58:100
Unit 286 165”+ 100% 7.5 49:100

The points system

The bonus point race

2021 maximum bonus points for desert bighorn sheep: 28

Managing points and expectations

I have 0 desert bighorn sheep bonus points. What can I expect?

Residents

The odds of drawing the first year you apply in Nevada are less than 1% across the board. However, as a resident and with so many tags available, if you have even the slightest interest in hunting bighorn sheep at all it would be very unfortunate to not apply in your home state.

Find your resident desert bighorn sheep draw odds with 0 points here

Nonresidents

With more nonresident desert bighorn sheep permits up for grabs than all other states combined, Nevada is a state you should strongly consider when planning your yearly application strategy for bighorn sheep. The odds are horrible, they are going to stay horrible and there is no finish line in sight, but with five choices per application — and they consider all five selections before moving to the next applicant — it's anyone's game and you can’t win if you don’t play. 

Find your nonresident desert bighorn sheep draw odds with 0 points here

What can I expect with 15 or more desert bighorn sheep bonus points?

Residents

As crazy as it sounds, as a resident of Nevada, you now have a number of hunt selections you could consider that are slightly over a 10% chance of drawing. Now, these odds are still rough and by no means does this mean you are actually any closer to your goal than when you started, but in the bighorn sheep world, these are absolutely unheard of odds. With a little luck, the draw gods will smile on you and it will be your turn to hunt. Stack your selections according to your goals and cross your fingers. Maybe it will be your year this year. If you are really serious about drawing, maybe consider the archery options; the chances are that your points will hold a lot more value in these hunt codes than any of the rifle options. 

Maximum point holders can see draw odds as high as the mid to upper 20%. Check out the standalone Draw Odds details page for more information.

Find your resident desert bighorn sheep draw odds with 10 points here

Nonresidents

With 15 points as a nonresident, your odds of drawing are still less than 1% in every hunt available. This is likely never going to change for you outside of some major change in how Nevada is planning on conducting their draw process. However, if the goal is to simply draw a permit, then apply for all five choices with the most number of permits available and cross your fingers that your name comes out of the hat early enough to snag one. The odds by applying for the most potential tags with all five choices that one will be left is better simply because there are more permits available. 

Find your nonresident desert bighorn sheep draw odds with 10 points here


Nevada's 2021 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep overview

Like prior years, there will be six Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep permits issued in Nevada this year to residents only. However, this year, they are going about it in a different way. For 2021, there will be two permits issued in Unit 115 for areas outside of the Great Basin Park. Neither of the hunters who hunted this unit last year reported on their hunts and no data was collected. Unit 114 will no longer be broken into two different seasons and will have a very long season, starting Sept. 1 and running to Feb. 20. Last year, the average number of days of hunting in Unit 114 was over 20 on the early and late hunt and no hunters were successful on these hunts. Plan on this being a very frustratingly long hunt and be ready to grind it out for weeks in order to be successful in both of these units. Unit 074, on the other hand, only issued one permit and it only took the hunter four days of hunting and eight total days on the unit to harvest a ram. If you are looking for something a little less intense and difficult, Unit 074 should be your top pick on your application.

Current herd condition

In 2019, Nevada released its latest edition of the big game status book, which is a compilation of all the different surveys on big game populations and other things. In this, we can see that based on numbers, there are currently approximately 200+ Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep living in the Silver State. These bighorn sheep are spread out across six different units with only three of these units containing enough bighorn sheep that the state feels they can conduct hunts for the upper age class rams. The two units in the Ruby’s continue to struggle after the 2014 die-off and, with poor recruitment in Unit 091, the state has decided to not move forward with another ram hunt for this coming season. Because there was a ram taken in Nevada as well as a ram harvested in Utah last season, there simply aren’t enough bighorn sheep for the herd to sustain hunting year after year at this time.

Top hit list hunt units to consider for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy potential Ram:ewe ratio
Unit 115 170"+ 27:100
Unit 114 170"+ 37:100
Unit 074 165”+ NA

The points system

The bonus point race

Only residents are allowed to apply for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in Nevada.

2021 maximum bonus points for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep: 25

Managing points and expectations

I have 0 to 25 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep bonus points. What can I expect?

Applying for these permits comes down to two things: you are a resident of Nevada and it is available. Therefore, you must apply. No matter how hard the hunt looks, seems or actually is, it is still another chance to draw a permit. And as brutal as most of the Rocky Mountain hunts are in Nevada, it’s still a bighorn sheep tag. The odds of drawing are worse than the odds of actually taking a ram on these hunts so figure out how you’re going to be successful once you have the tag in your pocket. Don’t miss a year to get your name in for another chance at a bighorn sheep hunt, especially at the low cost it will take since you have already bought your license and applied for other notable species. 

As of right now, your odds of drawing with the most number of points possible are this:

FIND YOUR RESIDENT ROCKY BIGHORN SHEEP DRAW ODDS


Nevada's 2021 California bighorn sheep breakdown

There are currently 41 California bighorn sheep permits listed in this year's regulations. Five of these are set aside for nonresidents and the others are available to residents. However, there are also three hunts that the division has listed the number of permits with a question mark and we expect to see at least one or more permits allocated for these hunts once the counts have been completed.

For the most part, success rates have been very high with many of the hunts coming in at 100%. However, both Unit 014 and 33 only had a 50% success rate and this should be considered when deciding on what hunts to list in your five selections.

Current California bighorn sheep herd condition

There are estimated to be approximately 1,900 California bighorn sheep currently living in Nevada. This is from an aerial survey conducted in 2017 and is the most current information we have as to what condition the herd is in. This total number was up from the previous year and, yet, lamb recruitment was down from 45:100 to 40:100. Overall, this herd is in good shape and hunters in most units are having good success on mature rams. The overall age class of rams last season was 6.7 with rams aged as high as eight years old and another ram that was only four years old. 

Top hit list units to consider for 160" or better California bighorn sheep
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
potential
Average age
of harvest rams
Ram:ewe ratio Harvest
success 2019
Unit 032* 165"+ 6.0 53:100 100%
Unit 051* 165"+ 7.5 45:100 67%
Unit 033 160"+ 6.0 94:100 100%
Unit 034* 160"+ 8.0 30:100 88%
Unit 035* 160"+ 7.9 55:100 71%
Unit 066 160"+ 6.0 88:100 0%
Unit 031 170"+ 7.4 97:100 83%
Unit 068 160”+ 7.2 67:100 100%

*Units that have nonresident permits

The points system

The bonus point race

2021 maximum bonus points for California bighorn sheep: 28

Managing points and expectations

I have 0 California bighorn sheep bonus points. What can I expect?

Residents

Drawing a California bighorn sheep permit is one of the harder bighorn sheep hunts to draw in the country. Even for residents with maximum points, your odds are barely over 1% on a couple of the hunt areas and less than 1% in the rest. Drawing the first year you apply will take a modern day miracle, but you do have a chance and not applying for a bighorn sheep hunt in your home state would be an absolute tragedy. Don’t get your hopes too high, but get started today and don’t miss a year.

Find your resident California bighorn sheep draw odds with 0 points here

Nonresidents

Chances are that you are not getting started in Nevada because they have California bighorn sheep; however, it would be a mistake to not throw your name in the hat for an additional $14. Your odds on year one are going to be less than .01% and will not get much better than this if the math stays consistent. You should expect that you will never have over a 1% chance to draw this permit, but it's another chance to draw a bighorn sheep and it's a rather cheap chance to have your name in another hat for a bighorn sheep hunt. With the odds so low and the fact that you have five selections to choose, you might as well list what you believe to be the best hunt in the state as your first choice and so on down the list because, if you draw, it will be a full on lighting strike so you might as well have the hunt you wanted if successful. 

Find your nonresident California bighorn sheep draw odds with 0 points here

What can I expect with 15 or more California bighorn sheep bonus points?

Residents

Don’t lose faith now — you're still purchasing your hunting license and it's still one of the most affordable chances to draw a bighorn sheep hunt in the country. Throw your name in the hat and, like you did year one, dream big dreams as someone has to win and, if everyone applying has at or less than a 1% chance of drawing, well, that's equal odds in my book. Who knows? Anything is possible. 

Find your resident California bighorn sheep draw odds with 15 points here

Find your nonresident California bighorn sheep draw odds with 15 points here


Nevada's 2021 Rocky Mountain goat breakdown

With an overall success rate of 89% last year, that means only one hunter was unable to connect on a mountain goat in Nevada. Because this is one of the absolute hardest tags in the country to draw, if you are a resident of Nevada, it is an application you should seriously consider applying for. There are currently a total of nine permits scheduled to draw this coming year with one permit each for Unit 101 and 103 and seven permits for Unit 102. The season dates are two months long and run from Sept. 1 to Oct. 31, which give the lucky winners ample time to hunt and even wait for the hair to get a little longer before they head up the mountain if they so choose. Based upon the last surveys, there are just over 300 total mountain goats located in the Silver State and they all reside in the Ruby Mountains. The herd has suffered immensely over the past 10+ years from Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae and the herd saw sharp declines in 2009 and 2010. Since then, they have had very minimal kid recruitment, but there have now been some better than average counts for kids in the last couple of years. Everyone is holding their breath that this once amazing herd will keep moving in the right directions. 

Rocky Mountain goat 2021 applicants and harvest summary

Unit No. of tags Applications Success
Unit 101 1 633 100%
Unit 102 7 739 86%
Unit 103 1 616 100%

Current mountain goat herd condition

The long story short with Nevada mountain goats is that this herd is in rough shape. As recently as 2009, there were close to 500 mountain goats in Nevada; however, after an outbreak of pneumonia, this herd continues to decline. With very poor recruitment occurring each year, it is hard to say when this epidemic is going to stop. Based upon a declining success rate, it is possible that conditions are in worse shape than they were in 2016 when these numbers were compiled.

Mountain goat draw and harvest summary

Year No. tags
issued
%
success
Harvest No. of
billies
No. of
nannies
%
nannies
2009 28 96% 27 19 8 30%
2010 20 100% 20 12 8 40%
2011 11 100% 11 8 3 27%
2012 6 100% 6 4 2 33%
2013 7 86% 6 4 2 33%
2014 12 100% 12 11 1 25%
2015 12 100% 12 11 1 8%
2016 13 85% 11 8 3 27%
2017 9 78% 7 4 3 43%
2018 8 75% 6 4 2 33%
2019 8 75% 6 5 1 17%
2020 9 89% 8 5 3 37%

Note: Nanny harvest continues to be a concern for NDOW as they try to manage through an already tough situation. 

The seasons

Even though the total populations are rough in Unit 101 and 103, with a two-month season, there is enough time for a hunter to take his/her time to locate a good billy that they are happy to take. Hunts are scheduled to happen from Sept. 1 through the end of October, so if the length of the hair is a more important part of the trophy for you, then you will have late into the fall to make it happen and, hopefully, harvest the mountain goat of your dreams.


The points system

The bonus point race

2021 maximum bonus points for mountain goat: 28

No nonresident permit available in 2021.

Managing points and expectations

I have 0 to 25+ mountain goat bonus points. What can I expect?

Residents

For only an additional $14, you are allowed to apply for mountain goat as a resident of Nevada. However, as you can see below, even with the maximum number of points your odds of drawing are still less than 1%. Taking this into consideration, in my opinion, this is an equal odds drawing. If I am just getting started with zero points and I have a less than 1% chance of drawing and another applicant has 28 points and they have a less than 1% chance of drawing, then we have the same chance. As high as the success rates are on these hunts, if you have any desire at all to hunt mountain goats, it would be a shame not to roll the dice on mountain goats in your home state. Don’t get your hopes up, but you can’t win if you don’t play and this is a pair of dice you should definitely roll. 

If you have less than 28 points, then your odds are even less than the odds shown above. 

Find your resident mountain goat draw odds with 0 points here

FIND YOUR RESIDENT MOUNTAIN GOAT DRAW ODDS WITH 25 POINTS HERE

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