Application strategy 2022: Nevada mule deer
NEVADA'S 2022 MULE DEER APPLICATION OVERVIEW
Nevada has historically been a great mule deer state and, in a good year, the number of trophy caliber bucks it produces is impressive. Unfortunately, the past two years have not been good and the reality is that Nevada’s mule deer herds and trophy quality is really struggling. Currently, the entire state is experiencing severe drought conditions and the most prolific trophy producing areas of the state are in extreme and exceptional drought conditions. Mule deer herds in Nevada are used to dry conditions, but the past two years have been truly exceptional. With what we are learning about a mother’s nutritional level and the impact that it can have on a buck’s trophy potential throughout its life cycle, it’s hard to be too optimistic. It's likely to require several more years of average or above average moisture before it rebounds.
For applicants who have built up a significant number of bonus points, you may consider applying for a point only and waiting for a better year. Applicants with very few or no points should still take the opportunity to research the hunts available and apply. There will be trophy caliber bucks available — just not the number that Nevada produces on a good moisture year. If you are simply interested in the opportunity to hunt, you should absolutely apply for mule deer along with the other species offered in Nevada. Overall, it’s likely to be a tough year for mule deer hunters, but it’s still a good state to be applying in and building points.
Note: The application deadline for all Nevada species is May 10, 2022 by 11:00 p.m. PT. You can apply online here.
New for 2022
- New to this year is an enhanced first come, first served queue that will be accessible at NDOWlicensing.com. This queue offers customers the ability to purchase any tags remaining after the second draw or any returned tags without an eligible alternate. Customers will be limited to adding one first come, first served tag to their cart in a seven-day period.
- The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) has added or changed dates for some hunts for the upcoming season. Within the 2022 rules and regulations booklet those hunts will be highlighted in bold blue.
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 Species Profiles to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy units.
Nevada is a fairly easy state to apply in. You will have to create an online account if you have not previously done so. That can be done by going here.
IMPORTANT DATES AND INFORMATION
- The deadline to apply is May 10, 2022 at 11 p.m. PT.
- Applicants can only apply online. You can apply online here.
- Applicants can apply without buying a hunting license; however, they will not receive a bonus point if unsuccessful in the draw.
- You can apply for a bonus point only here. You will still need to purchase a hunting license.
- Applicants who wish to apply for points can only do so up to one week after the deadline has passed.
- Results will be made available on or before May 27, 2022.
- Second draw deadline for leftover tags is June 13, 2022 at 11 p.m. PT.
- Second draw results will be available on or before June 24, 2022.
- Applicants may withdraw or change their application online before the application deadline.
- Youth must turn 12 years old prior to the opening of any hunt choice to be eligible to apply.
- An 11-year-old who will turn 12 before the beginning of the last season on their application is eligible to apply for a bonus point.
- Applicants must have completed a hunter education course if they were born after January 1, 1960.
- It is illegal to place, maintain or use a trail camera on public land from Aug. 1 to Dec. 31 of each year.
- There is no waiting period for applicants who draw a deer tag whether they harvest or not.
- If you fail to apply for two consecutive years, bonus points will be purged.
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.
Nevada mule deer cost to apply
|Item||Resident cost||Nonresident cost|
|Hunt/fish combo license*||$75||$155|
|Hunt/fish youth combo license (12 to 17)*||$15||$15|
|Mule deer application fee(s)||$14||$14|
|Mule deer tag||$30||$240|
2021 versus 2022 snow drought analysis
Nevada has been, and will probably always be, the driest state in the US; however, the past two years have been extremely dry. Mule deer fawn production and survival is down across most of the state, resulting in a slight decline in populations. Mule deer antler growth has definitely been impacted and the number of trophy bucks was way down in 2021. That trend is going to continue into the fall of 2022 even though range conditions will improve somewhat. The winter of 2022 has been better than the previous two years, which is good news; however, the entire state is still experiencing severe drought conditions and the southern third of the state is in extreme and exceptional drought conditions. The outlook is better than it was in 2020-2021, but we anticipate it being a below average year for antler growth.
The draw system
UNDERSTANDING THE DRAW
For all species, Nevada has a random draw bonus point system. The draw is random and every applicant who applies has a chance to draw; however, bonus points increase your chances over time of being successful. Nevada tag quota is approximately a 90/10 split for residents and nonresidents.
Nevada has a bonus point system where applicants will receive one bonus point for each year they apply and are unsuccessful in the draw. You must opt in and buy a hunting license when you apply if you wish to receive a bonus point after the draw. Applicants who do not opt in and buy the hunting license will not receive a bonus point. Bonus points are species specific. For example, you cannot apply bonus points you have accrued for mule deer towards an elk application. Applicants can apply for bonus points only if they do not want to select hunts. We recommend that applicants apply for hunts and not points only. Remember that the draw is random and odds are low and you will receive a point if you are unsuccessful in the draw. The only reason not to apply for hunts is if you cannot afford the cost of the tag should you draw it or the time off of work.
The draw is conducted by a third party company. Bonus points are squared plus one for this year’s application in the draw. A random number generator then assigns each bonus point a new random number. The lowest random number generated then becomes the application draw number. They will begin with the lowest random number applicant and begin awarding tags move up in ascending order.
For example, if an applicant has eight bonus points for antlered elk, you square eight to get 64 and add one (applicant with zero bonus points is assigned one random number) for a total of 65 random numbers with the lowest being the draw number assigned to the antlered elk application. If you draw a tag and decide to retain it and hunt your points will be purged.
Applicants can apply for up to five choices when they apply. When an application is considered in the draw, NDOW will attempt to allocate the first choice. If all permits are gone for that hunt, they will attempt to allocate the second choice. If all tags are gone for your second choice, they will attempt to award you a tag for your third choice. They continue through all five hunt choices before moving to the next applicant. Thus, applicants could draw any of their five hunt choices. Due to this process, applicants should include hunts for all five choices to increase their chances of drawing a tag. Also, applicants should stagger their hunt choices from best hunt (worst odds) to better odds (decent hunt). If you were to apply inversely (best odds to worst odds), you are essentially wasting your latter hunt choices.
Nevada allows hunters to apply on a group application for deer, antlerless elk and antelope (horns shorter than ears). Residents and nonresidents can apply together on a group application. Doing so does not increase odds for a nonresident; the nonresident tags will still come from the nonresident quota. Applying as a group does have the potential to negatively impact odds slightly as Nevada will not over-allocate tags to cover a group application if there are not enough tags to satisfy the size of the group. Bonus points for a group application are averaged and rounded to the nearest whole number. For example, if a group of three applicants apply with seven, five and 13 bonus points, the application will go into the draw with eight bonus points.
The math looks like this: 7+5+13 = 25/3 (group size) = 8.3333 rounded to 8.
8 squared is 64 + 1 (this year’s application) = 65 random numbers generated for the group application in the draw. If the application is successful, all members of the group will receive a tag.
If a group application has been drawn and the group wants to return their tags to have bonus points reinstated, every member of the group must return their tag.
Any remaining tags remaining after the main draw become available in a second drawing to both residents and nonresidents. If you apply and draw a tag in the second drawing, your bonus points will be purged. Online applications for the second draw are due by June 13, 2022.
Within seven days of the results of the draw, applicants who successfully drew a tag can choose to electronically return their tag. Hunters who drew a deer tag can turn them back in up to one day prior to the start of the season. In this case, they will retain their bonus points and gain one for this year’s application.
Leftover and returned tag process
Any leftover tags or tags that have been returned and were not claimed by an alternate will be listed and sold on a first come, first served basis on the NDOW licensing system site.The first come, first served program generally opens in early July. Bonus points will be purged if you purchase a leftover or returned tag.
Applicants who drew a tag can return their tags up until one day prior to their hunt starting. If the tag is not accepted by an alternate, it will be listed randomly on the first come, first served list and can be added to your cart and purchased. More information can be found in the link here. Note: we will have an updated Nevada first come, first served article later this summer when that tag system opens.
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.
UNLOCKING NEVADA’S SYSTEM
Nevada should be considered a medium to long-term goal for drawing mule deer tags. Nevada offers good hunting opportunities and the key to drawing a tag is to continue to apply. Applying in Nevada is a cost/value analysis. It is expensive for a nonresident to buy the license, apply and build points year after year for every species. Mule deer tags are easier to draw when compared with elk or bighorn sheep. If you decide to apply for mule deer in Nevada, you should also strongly consider applying for any and all species you are interested in. Personally, I look at Nevada as a state where I can likely hunt mule deer every five to 10 years and that keeps me applying in hopes that I will also get lucky and draw an elk and/or bighorn sheep tag along the way.
A few application tips for Nevada: 1) Always apply for hunts and never points only. The draw is random; as long as you apply you have some chance. 2) Always include five choices for each hunt when you apply. NDOW considers all five of your choices and your odds of drawing any tag are slightly better if you include all five choices. 3) With five choices available, the first hunt selections on your application should be for great hunts or the hunt(s) you desire most. The last three selections can be a continuation of moving toward hunts that have progressively better odds. The reason for this method is that you never know when you will be one of the first applications considered and you want to draw the best possible hunt on your application.
Nevada's 2022 mule deer breakdown
I’ve already covered the potential mule deer issues that Nevada is experiencing due to drought conditions. The outlook is not great, but there is a sliver of hope. The winter and spring moisture has been better than the previous two years and provided that trend continues throughout the spring months, it’s possible that bucks will pack on better growth. The northern portion of the state is faring better than the south and southwest. Unfortunately, those areas most heavily impacted are historically the best for producing big bucks. There are still some great bucks in the north and northeast portion of the state, but the overall quality there has not been as good as the southern half. It’s never a bad year to have a mule deer tag in Nevada; however, 2022 is certainly not likely to be the best.
Nevada has a great season structure with a variety of options to consider. The archery hunt opens very early on Aug. 10 and lasts almost a month, running through the first week of September. The bowhunt can be a great time to hunt when bucks are in bachelor herds and more easily spotted with their red summer coats. Depending on the area, focusing your efforts on or around water can be effective. Nevada also offers late season rut archery hunts in several units. Odds of drawing these hunts are much lower than most of the early season options, but if you are intrigued by hunting late season rutting mule deer with your bow, the late archery hunts should be somewhere on your application.
The muzzleloader hunts may be one of the best hidden gems in Nevada. The season starts right after the archery hunt ends in early September and runs into October, which is a long season for muzzleloader hunters. Much like the archery hunt, during this time of year, the bucks are still in their summer range and often maintain a predictable behavioral pattern. Bucks may not feed long after first light or for extended periods prior to dark in the evening, but they are more consistent and easier to see with the red summer coat. Hunters who have the ability to scout and hunt for multiple days have done remarkably well on the muzzleloader hunt. Be aware that temperatures can be high and the days are long, but the odds of drawing a tag are often better than they are for the rifle hunts. It’s also worth noting that Nevada does offer a few late season rut muzzleloader hunts. The odds of drawing the best hunts within those is low, but it is an option to explore.
Nevada offers a single rifle season in some units, others have two seasons and there are even a few that have three rifle seasons. The rifle seasons in Nevada are relatively long when compared to other states. The bulk of the hunts run from Oct. 5 to Nov. 5. Some hunts run from Oct. 5 to 20. There are also late November and even a few December hunts.
CURRENT MULE DEER HERD CONDITION
Drought conditions have been hard on many areas of the state and populations have declined again from 2020 to 2021. The 2020 surveys yielded a statewide buck:doe average of 29:100 and a 39:100 fawn to adult ratio. The spring of 2021 fawn to adult ratio dipped to approximately 33:100. Several unit groups have fawn to adult ratios that are 17-30:100. Unfortunately, it’s tough to expand and grow populations when the fawn survival is so low. The estimated population of deer in Nevada currently is estimated to be 84,000.
Nevada mule deer population estimates by unit group (2020-2021)
|Unit group||Population estimate (2021)||Population estimate (2020)|
|043 - 046||1,700||1,800|
|061,062,064, 066 - 068||7,300||9,200|
|071 - 079, 091||11,100||11,400|
|101 - 108||13,000||14,000|
|151, 152, 154, 155||2,000||2,000|
|161 - 164||3,600||4,000|
|171 - 173||3,400||3,700|
|181 - 184||1,250||1,300|
|202, 205 - 208||380||450|
|221 - 223||3,800||4,200|
|241 - 245||1,300||1,200|
|251 - 254||400||400|
|261 - 268||500||500|
Top hit list units to consider for 180" or better mule deer
|Buck:doe ratio||Harvest success||Percentage bucks 4 point or better|
The points system
Managing points and expectations
Maximum bonus points for mule deer: 29
What can I expect with no bonus points
Residents have 10 hunts that have 10% or better odds (eight archery, two muzzleloader) Out of those hunts, three had 100% odds. Those three are archery hunts in Units 032, 035 and 101-109. The 101-109 had 13% harvest success and 170”+ potential in Units 101, 102, 103 and 108. The archery hunt in Units 061,062, 064-068 had 14% harvest success, 170”+ potential and 12% odds of drawing. The two muzzleloader hunts with decent odds are in 101-109 with 32% harvest success and 032 with 17% harvest success. Those hunts had 12% and 15% draw odds respectively.
The best odds for a mid-season rifle hunt is in Units 171-173 with 9.8% odds and 170”+ potential. We currently do not have harvest success rates for this hunt, but it may be a good fifth choice for someone who just wants to try to hunt mule deer in Nevada.
The table below identifies the seven hunts that have the best draw odds with no bonus points for nonresidents. We display odds for 146 nonresident mule deer hunts in Nevada. Out of those, only 37 had odds of greater than 1%. There are 15 hunts that have odds of 3% or better. As you can see, there are very few hunts that have good odds with no points. If you have no points, you will need to decide if you want to maximize your chances of drawing a good hunt and only include hunts from the GOHUNT hit list or if some of the hunts in the table below would meet your objectives. If that is the case, include some of these on your application for choices three through five.
Best draw odds for nonresidents with 0 bonus points
|Nonresident odds with 0 points|
What can I expect with five bonus points?
There were 51 hunts that had odds of 50% or better with five bonus points. 28 of those hunts are early or late archery hunts. There are some very intriguing archery hunts within this group including 131-134, 221-223, 192, 071-079 and 091. All of these areas have 180”+ potential, decent harvest success and draw odds of 50% plus. The late archery hunt in 192 had 58% odds and 33% harvest success.
Muzzleloader hunts are underrated generally and hunts in 071-079, 091 and 192 had 50% plus odds and great trophy potential. 192 does have much less public land so be aware of that and do your research before applying.
There are some very interesting hunts worth considering for rifle hunters, including early rifle hunts 161-164 and 071-79, 091. There are several other options that are less well known. With some time to scout and hunt, there are good rifle hunt options with only five points.
The key to drawing hunts with five points or close to that number is to pursue the archery hunts. There were 48 archery hunts and 18 of them had 25% or better draw odds with five points. Below are some of the better options with good draw odds. If you want to try to burn your points, the archery hunts listed below are decent options.
Nonresident better archery options with 5 bonus points
with 5 points
Firearm hunters have some options within the muzzleloader, early rifle and mid rifle hunts. The better muzzleloader options are for Units 151-156, 171-173, 041-042. Early and mid rifle hunts in 101-109 also had good odds as well as 171-173.
What can I expect with 10 bonus points
With 10 bonus points, the draw odds for archery 241-245, 231 and late archery in 081 and 194/196 are close to 50% or better. Early muzzleloader hunters should research 194/196, 221-223, 231, 131-134 and, of course, 241-245, which is the best quality and odds greater than 12%. The late muzzleloader hunts in 021, 081 both had odds approaching 30% and 114/15 had 42% odds. The archery and muzzleloader hunts offer the best odds at hunting the better areas.
Rifle hunters have a lot to think about. The early rifle draw odds are very good. All of them are better than 50% and many are better than 75%. Some of the best hunts to consider for your first few choices are the late rifle hunts 221-223, 115, 121, 114-115, 131-134 and 194-196. Most of those hunts have odds ranging from 5% to 14%.
Something to consider is that, with 10 points, you may want to maximize those and only apply for the best hunts and/or save them for a better year when the trophy potential is better throughout the state.
If you have been applying for a decade in Nevada as a nonresident, you may want to consider applying for only the best hunts and save your points for another year when Mother Nature is kinder to the Silver State. If you do go ahead with applying and want to try to use your points and still have a better than average hunt, the archery hunt in 221-223, 065, 111-113 and 121 are worth researching. The late archery hunts in 021 and 121 should also be considered.
Muzzleloader hunters can research the hunts in 111-113, 121, 065, 051 and 031. The late muzzleloader hunt in 202, 205-208 is also interesting.
The rifle hunt odds are mostly in the 1% to 7% range for draw odds. Some options with 10% to 20% range are 051, 192, 203, 291 and early rifle hunts in 111-113, 114-115, 131-134 and 221-223.
What to expect with 15 bonus points
Without a maximum point draw in Nevada, this can be very frustrating for applicants with a lot of points. The best advice is to think carefully about using all five choices at this point and ensure that the hunts you are applying for all line up with your current goals. Given the drought conditions, this is not a year to roll the dice on a unit that doesn’t have a strong track record for older age class bucks.
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. Make sure you click the box while applying if you want a chance to draw 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 and you are allowed to buy an unlimited number of raffle tickets for $5.75 plus processing fees for each for as many species as you want. You can enter the Dream Tag raffle here.