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Application Strategy 2023: Nevada sheep and mountain goat

 


Photo credit: Dreamstime

NEVADA'S 2023 BIGHORN SHEEP AND MOUNTAIN GOAT APPLICATION OVERVIEW

Jump to: New For 2023 State Information Draw System Desert Breakdown Cali Breakdown Rocky Breakdown Goat Breakdown

Nevada offers more bighorn sheep tags than any other state. The number of desert bighorn sheep has increased from less than 3,000 to around 10,000 today. It also boasts opportunities for desert bighorn, Rocky Mountain bighorn, and California bighorn sheep. Residents of Nevada can apply for all three species, while nonresidents can apply for desert and California bighorn rams. Trophy potential is good and harvest success rates are typically very high. On the other hand, the odds of drawing a tag are poor, which unfortunately is the case in every state for these highly sought after tags. Even with the low odds of drawing a tag, we still believe that applicants should strongly consider applying for bighorn sheep in Nevada. If you are applying for other species in the Silver state, you should absolutely apply for bighorn sheep as well since the application fee is relatively cheap. Nevada is a random draw/bonus point state. This means that the more points you have, the better your draw odds get over time, but the draw is random and as long as you apply you have a chance to draw the tag of a lifetime!  

Resident applicants also have the opportunity to apply for Rocky Mountain goats. There will be seven tags in unit 102 as well as one tag in unit 101 and one tag in 103. Once again, for the minimal cost of applying, every resident should also be applying for mountain goat in Nevada. 

Note: The application deadline for all Nevada species is May 10, 2023 by 11:00 p.m. PT. You can apply online here.


New for 2023

  • Applicants who wish to apply for bonus points only will need to apply prior to the deadline. In previous years, applicants who missed the deadline could apply for points up to seven days after. That is no longer the case. 
  • Nevada’s first come, first served list for surrendered tags has changed. Customers will be limited to either the resident or nonresident tag based on their Nevada residency. This means that nonresidents will only be able to purchase a nonresident tag that was surrendered by a nonresident. 
  • Alternates will now be awarded tags up until 14 calendar days before the hunt season starts.
  • Bighorn sheep
    • California bighorn ram Unit Group 011/013 is closed.
    • Units 012 and 014 have been combined into a unit group. 
    • Units 153 and 183 have been combined into a unit group.
    • New Unit 161 archery ram hunt available for residents and nonresidents.
    • New Unit 267 archery ram hunt available for residents.
    • Unit 102 has reopened to residents only for one Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep ram.
    • Unit 173 North will have a management ram hunt that is a separate hunt category than the standard ram hunt. This hunt is only available for residents. 
    • Unit 181 has been split into an east and west hunt area. There are rifle hunts available for both residents and nonresidents in both units.
    • Units 212 and 213 now only have a single rifle season.
  • Rocky Mountain goat
    • Unit 102 will have a tag available for nonresidents.

State Information

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.

Nevada State Profile Desert Profile Cali Profile Rocky Profile Goat Profile GOHUNT Maps Draw Odds Filtering 2.0

IMPORTANT DATES AND INFORMATION

  • The deadline to apply is May 10, 2023 at 11 p.m. PT.
  • Applicants can only apply online. You can apply online here.
  • Applicants will need to create an account and sign into it to apply. 
  • Applicants will need to buy an annual hunting license to apply if they want to build bonus points. You can apply without buying the hunting license; however, you will not receive a bonus point(s) if you are unsuccessful in the draw. 
  • You will only be charged the cost of a tag if you are successful in the draw. You do not have to front the cost of the tags you apply for. 
  • You can apply for a bonus point only here. You will still need to purchase a hunting license.
  • Resident applicants can apply for desert (Nelson) bighorn ram, desert (Nelson) ewe, California bighorn ram, Rocky Mountain big horn ram, Rocky Mountain goat and desert (Nelson) management ram. 
  • Nonresident applicants can apply for desert (Nelson) bighorn ram, desert (Nelson) ewe, California bighorn ram and Rocky Mountain goat. 
  • Applicants may withdraw or change their application online before the application deadline.
  • Results will be made available on or before May 19, 2023.
  • Second draw deadline for leftover tags is June 12, 2023 at 11 p.m. PT.
  • Second draw results will be available on or before June 23, 2023.
  • Youth must turn 12 years old prior to the opening of any hunt choice to be eligible to apply.
  • 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.
  • Applicants who draw either a bighorn sheep ewe tag or a mountain goat tag must complete a mandatory bighorn sheep and mountain goat gender identification course online.
  • Applicants who drew a bighorn sheep ram or mountain goat tag and hunted cannot apply again for those for ten years.
  • Applicants who drew a ewe bighorn sheep tag and hunted cannot apply again for two years.
  • If you fail to apply for two consecutive years, bonus points will be purged.

EWE BIGHORN SHEEP DRAW ODDS

Remember that we have Draw Odds for female species. In Nevada, there are desert bighorn ewe tags available for residents and nonresidents. This is a separate draw from the ram tags and will not impact your application or bonus points for ram. Ewe hunts are available for desert bighorn ewe in Units 161 and 268 for residents and nonresidents.

Nevada bighorn sheep and mountain goat cost to apply

ItemResident costNonresident cost
Hunt/fish combo license*$75$155
Hunt license*$38N/A
Hunt/fish youth combo license
(12 to 17)*
$15$15
Application fee (per species)$14$14
Bighorn sheep tag$120$1,200
Rocky Mountain goat tag$120$1,200

*Applicants who want to build bonus points if they are unsuccessful in the draw will need to purchase a hunting license or hunt/fish combo license. If they do not, they will not be given a bonus point. Tag fees will only be charged if you are successful in the draw. You do not have to front tag fees when you apply.


The draw system

UNDERSTANDING THE DRAW

Nevada has a random weighted bonus point draw system. Every applicant who applies has a chance to draw the tags they applied for; however, bonus points increase the chances of success in drawing a tag. The Nevada tag quota split for residents and nonresidents is approximately a 90/10 split.

Bonus points

Resident applicants can apply for desert (Nelson) bighorn ram, desert (Nelson) ewe, California bighorn ram, Rocky Mountain big horn ram, Rocky Mountain goat and desert (Nelson) management ram. Every hunt is a separate application. The desert (Nelson) management ram tags are not allocated on a point system. The draw for management ram tags is completely random. The others are all allocated under a random squared bonus point system. 

Nonresident applicants can apply for desert (Nelson) bighorn ram, desert (Nelson) ewe, California bighorn ram and Rocky Mountain goat. These hunts are all separate applications with their own bonus points. 

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 buy a hunting license when you apply if you wish to receive a bonus point after the draw. Applicants who do 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 elk towards a bighorn sheep 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. 

Bonus points are squared in the draw. For example, if you have five bonus points, you will have 26 chances in the draw (5x5+1 (this year’s application) = 26). If an applicant draws a tag or fails to apply for two consecutive years, the bonus points will be purged.

The draw is conducted by a third party company. A random number generator assigns each “chance” 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.

  • 2023 maximum bonus points for desert bighorn sheep: 30
  • 2023 maximum bonus points for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep: 27
  • 2023 maximum bonus points for California bighorn sheep: 
  • 2023 maximum bonus points for mountain goat: 30

Hunt choices

Applicants can apply for up to five choices when they apply. When an application is considered in the draw, the Nevada Department of Wildlife (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.

Group applications

Nevada does not allow group applications for bighorn sheep or mountain goat.

Draw Order

The draw will be conducted in the following order:

  • Group 1

    • Silver State, Partnership in Wildlife (PIW), resident junior mule deer

  • Group 2

    • Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep ram, California bighorn sheep ram, antlered elk, antlered depredation elk, antelope (horns longer than ears), antlered mule deer, Rocky Mountain goat, bear.

  • Group 3

    • California bighorn sheep ewe, desert bighorn sheep ewe, antlerless elk, depredation antlerless elk, antelope (horns shorter than ear), antlerless mule deer.

  • Group 4

    • Resident spike elk, resident management ram, resident one-horn ram

The draw order allows applicants to apply for all species and sex that they wish to hunt without the issue of drawing a lower tiered tag. Applicants are only allowed to draw a single tag for each species.

Secondary draw

Any remaining tags after the main draw will 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 11 p.m. on June 12, 2023. 

Surrendering tags

Within seven days of the results of the draw, applicants who successfully drew a tag can choose to electronically return their tag. Hunters with tags can also 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.

Left-over and returned tag process

All mule deer, antelope, black bear, elk, mountain goat and bighorn sheep tags that remain after the secondary draw and any returned tags that have not been claimed by an eligible alternate will be listed and sold on a first come, first served basis on the NDOW licensing system. The first come, first served program generally opens in early July. Bonus points will be purged if you purchase a leftover or returned tag. 

As previously stated, applicants who drew a tag can return their deer, elk or antelope 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 potentially purchased. New for 2023: in order to purchase a resident returned tag, you must be a resident of Nevada. A nonresident of Nevada can only purchase a tag that was originally drawn and returned by a nonresident. 

More information can be found here

Note: We will have an updated Nevada first come, first served article later this summer when that tag system opens.

UNLOCKING NEVADA’S SYSTEM

Nevada should be considered a long-term goal for drawing bighorn sheep and mountain goat tags. 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. The odds that you will ever draw a bighorn sheep or mountain goat license is extremely poor, but if you decide to apply for other species in Nevada, you should also consider applying for bighorn sheep and mountain goat. Personally, I look at Nevada as a state where I can likely hunt mule deer and/or antelope every five to 10 years and that keeps me applying in hopes that I will also get lucky and draw a bighorn sheep tag and a mountain goat 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 2023 (Nelson) desert bighorn sheep breakdown

Nevada offers more desert bighorn sheep tags than any other state. The statewide average success rate was 83% with an average score of 150 1/8” and the best ram harvested was 180 5/8”.       

CURRENT DESERT BIGHORN SHEEP HERD CONDITION

Nevada has the largest desert bighorn sheep population despite a decline over the past few years due to drought. In 2021, the statewide estimate was 9,300 and, in 2022, the estimate is approximately 8,200. The statewide decline is generally spread across the units. No single area appears to have experienced a large decline. The table below displays the 2021 and 2022 population estimates by unit group.

Desert (Nelson) bighorn sheep population estimates

Units2021 population2022 population

045

120

90

131, 164

80

60

132

130

130

134, 251

170

150

153

20

20

161

550

550

162

50

60

163

270

260

173N

110

110

173S

60

70

181

600

600

182,044

550

550

183

270

260

184

160

140

195

130

130

202

150

140

204

50

50

205, 207

410

330

206, 208

240

210

211

450

400

212

400

350

213

400

350

221, 223, 241

240

220

243

180

170

244

140

110

245, 133

130

130

252

120

100

253

130

100

254

160

120

261

140

120

262

140

120

263

170

130

264, 265, 266

140

90

267, 268

900

800

269

210

190

271

300

300

272

90

90

280

130

90

281

160

110

282

130

60

283, 284

150

110

286

170

100

Total 

9,300

8,200

 

Archery desert bighorn sheep
(not in order of quality)

UnitTrophy
potential
Harvest
success
Ram:Ewe RatioRam Harvested Score
(2022)

161

160”+

New hunt

40:100

-

182, 044

160”+

0%

44:100

-

202

155”+

100%

24:100

168 3/8

211

160”+

0%

49:100

-

212

160”+

0%

78:100

-

213

150”+

50%

50:100

118 7/8

267

165”+

New hunt 

58:100

-

 

Top rifle hit list units to consider for 165" or better desert bighorn sheep

(not in order of quality)

UnitTrophy
potential
Harvest
success
Ram:ewe
ratio
Average Boone &
Crockett 
(B&C)
Ram Harvested 
(2019 -2021)
Best Ram 
Harvested 
(2022)

268

165”+

94%

86:100

160

166 2/8

262

170”+

100%

39:100

161 7/8

170 3/8

263

170”+

80%

49:100

164 6/8

172

267

165”+

89%

58:100

156 6/8

169 3/8

181E

165”+

New hunt

49:100

156 5/8

168 6/8

181W

165”+

New hunt

49:100

156 5/8

168 6/8

205

165”+

100%

46:100

155 3/8

169

183

160”+

100%

56:100

154 1/8

164 2/8

271, 242

165”+

71%

-

162 3/8

169 5/8

252

160”+

100%

51:100

160 6/8

155 4/8

253

165”+

83%

62:100

159 1/8

167 6/8

261

160”+

33%

49:100

150 4/8

161 3/8

280

160”+

100%

35:100

158 6/8

160

281

155”+

33%

43:100

157

153 4/8

283, 284

155”+

100%

73:100

147

154 6/8

286

170”+

50%

67:100

160 1/8

172 5/8

241

160”+

100%

36:100

160 5/8

163 6/8

243

165”+

100%

30:100

160 6/8

180 5/8

 

Nonresident desert bighorn sheep ram - managing points and expectations

Units2023 nonresident
tags
Nonresident odds
w/ 0 pts
Nonresident odds
w/ 10 pts
Nonresident odds
w/ 20 pts

161 early

1

<.01%

.15%

.59%

161 late

1

<.01%

.09%

.36%

161 archery

New hunt

-

-

-

181 east

New hunt 

-

-

-

181 west

New hunt

-

-

-

182, 044

2

<.01%

.07% 

.27%

183, 153

1

<.01%

0.05%

.21%

184

1

<.01%

.10%

.41%

205

1

<.01%

.03%

.11%

211

1

<.01%

.05%

.19%

212

1

<.01%

.07%

.26%

213

1

<.01%

.07%

.28%

253

1

<.01%

.02%

.07%

263

1

<.01%

.01%

.05%

267

1

<.01%

.02%

.08%

268

5

<.01%

.05%

.20%

271, 242

1

<.01%

.02%

.08%

283, 284

1

<.01%

.08%

.31%


Nevada's 2023 California bighorn sheep breakdown

California bighorn sheep populations have declined along with desert bighorn. Trophy potential is good, but not exceptional. There are nine hunts residents can apply for while there are only four that nonresidents can apply for. For nonresidents, the odds are extremely low.

CURRENT CALIFORNIA BIGHORN SHEEP HERD CONDITION

There is estimated to be approximately 1,800 California bighorn sheep in Nevada. This total number is down — once again, likely due to consecutive years of severe drought. Overall, California bighorn sheep populations in Nevada are in relatively stable shape and hunters in most units report good success on mature rams. Overall trophy potential is average, ranging between 150” to 160”. The two best options for trophy potential for nonresidents are going to be Units 035 and 068. Those should be your first choices followed by Units 034 and 032. Residents may also consider Units 051 and 031.

California bighorn sheep population estimates

UnitPopulation estimate 2021Population estimate 2022

011, 013

80

70

012

110

90

014

80

70

021, 022

90

80

031

150

150

032

350

290

033

120

100

034

340

340

035

310

310

041

40

30

051

120

110

066

35

40

068

150

160

Total

2,000

1,800

 

Top hit list units to consider for California bighorn sheep

UnitTrophy
potential
Harvest
success
Ram:ewe
ratio
Average B&C
Rams harvested
(2109-2021)
Best Ram
Harvest (2022)

031

160”+

100%

23:100

156

159 1/8

068

165”+

100%

96:100

156 7/8

164 6/8

035

165”+

100%

59:100

157 6/8

168

051

165”+

100%

27:100

150 2/8

167 4/8

032

155”+

50%

53:100

140 3/8

156 6/8

032, 033

150”+

100%

53:100

147

136

034

160”+

100%

30:100

147 6/8

160 6/8

012, 014

150”+

100%

43:100

148

140

022

155”+

50%

59:100

153 5/8

152 2/8

 

Nonresident California bighorn sheep ram - managing points and expectations

Unit2023 nonresident
tags
Nonresident odds
w/ 0 pts
Nonresident odds
w/ 10 pts
Nonresident odds
w/ 20 pts

032

1

<.01% 

.01%

.04%

034

1

<.01% 

.01%

.04%

035

1

<.01% 

.01%

.04%

068

1

<.01% 

.01%

.04%


Nevada's 2023 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep breakdown

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep tags are only available for residents. Unfortunately, this is one of the absolute hardest tags in the country to draw; however, if you are a resident of Nevada, you should be applying. There are currently a total of three permits scheduled to draw in 2023: one for Unit 102 and two for Unit 115. The season dates are long and run from Sept. 1 to Oct. 31 in Unit 102 and Nov. 15 to Feb. 20 in Unit 115. Based upon the most recent surveys, there are approximately 320 total Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in Nevada. Trophy potential is better in Unit 102 than Unit 115.

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep population estimates

UnitPopulation Estimate 2021Population Estimate 2022

074

30

30

091

40

40

101

40

40

102

50

60

114

100

80

115

60

70

Total

320

320

 

Hit list units to consider for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep

UnitTrophy
potential
Harvest
success
Ram:ewe ratioAverage B&C
Ram Harvested
(2019-2021)
Best Ram 
Harvested 
(2022)

102

170”+

100%

121:100

-

177 3/8

115

155”+

100%

20:100

140

151 2/8


Nevada's 2023 Rocky Mountain goat breakdown

Nevada will offer a nonresident mountain goat tag for the first time in a decade. There will be one nonresident goat tag in Unit 102 in 2023. It’s been a long time since populations were large enough that a mountain goat tag was offered to nonresidents. In fact, when that opportunity was eliminated, NDOW froze nonresident applicants' points and there are nonresident applicants out there today who have 11 points. Mountain goat populations have improved and Unit 102 is now offering 12 resident tags and one nonresident tag for 2023. Trophy potential is average; however, there was a 50 7/8” billy taken in Unit 102 last fall by a hunter who invested 21 hunting days. The average score for all mountain goats harvested was 41”. There were eight billies taken and three nannies. For the $14 cost to have a random chance in the draw, I would highly suggest that residents and nonresidents alike apply.

Rocky Mountain goat population estimates

UnitPopulation
Estimate 2021
Population
Estimate 2022

101

50

55

102

200

240

103

40

45

Total

290

340

 

Hit list units to consider for Rocky Mountain goat

UnitNumber of
resident tags
Harvest
success
Average age harvest
2022
Resident odds
w/ 0 pts
Resident odds
w/ 10 pts
Resident odds
w/ 20 pts

101

1

100%

5

<.01%

<.01%

.06%

102

12

83%

5

<.01%

015%

.59%

103

1

0%

-

<.01%

.01%

.06%

*Unit 102 is offering nonresidents one tag in 2023.


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.

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