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Should you apply in Nevada as a nonresident?

Photo credit: Logan Summers

Typically, when you talk to a normal person about the state of Nevada, the first thing that comes to their mind is either Las Vegas or Reno. When you discuss it further, most have the perception that there’s just nothing there besides the two major attractions. I guess I can see where they’re coming from because if you’re not flying there, you really only have I-80 and I-15 to show you what the Silver State is all about. Most people don’t even realize that the state is about 85% public land and, to me, that’s what I love the most. A lot of hunters are very aware of this, but many are on the fence about whether or not to invest when it comes to big game.

License and species costs


Annual hunting license




Mule deer 












Bighorn sheep




Mountain goat$1,200$1,200$14

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Not only does Nevada have the public land to hunt, but it also provides the quality. As a kid growing up in a neighboring state, all I dreamed about was a chance to one day chase a big Nevada mule deer. For those who know me, I refer to Nevada as the “Land of Giants.” In my opinion, Nevada has the best conservation program in the West and it tends to fly under the radar when it comes to trophy quality animals. I think that some hunters are aware of the quality, but most shy away due to the cost and the difficulty of drawing tags. There’s no sugar coating the fact that, if you look elsewhere, there are much easier tags to get ahold of. So, why Nevada? As a nonresident, is it worth the investment? My answer would be absolutely and I’ll go through a few reasons why I believe this to be true. 

For starters, Nevada runs on a true bonus point system and it's the same system for every species they offer. Some states have multiple systems in place depending on the species, so compared to others, it’s very simple. The way the bonus points work is for every year that you are unsuccessful in the draw, you accrue a point for the following year. Your points are squared and an additional application is added for the current year. An example of this is provided in the table below. The amount of points you have is basically the amount of applications in the bucket. Once all applications are in the bucket, then they get assigned a random draw number. So, in the end, it really comes down to a random chance, but your chances of getting the lower draw number is increased by having more applications in the bucket. The biggest thing to remember is that there’s always a chance. 

Nevada bonus point total examples

No. of pointsMath
(points squared, plus one)
Total applications


(1x1) = 1 + 1 


(2x2) = 4 + 1



(3x3) = 9 + 1



(5x5) = 25 + 1



(10x10) = 100 + 1


So, now that we know how the Nevada system works, let's take a look at a couple different ways to approach it. In all reality, it’s not a state that you can expect to draw every year unless you just have that kind of luck. In which case, I would suggest you play the lotto. However, with a couple of points under your belt, you are definitely in the running for drawing some tags. If we look specifically at mule deer, you are getting fairly competitive for archery with one to three points. For the early or late muzzleloader, you are in the ballpark upwards of five points. All of the rifle seasons — except for the late hunts — you are in the running above six points for the most part. When you look at the percentages of drawing a tag, the numbers might be a little deceiving at first, but when it comes to random odds, anything above 5% gives you a fighting chance. Using standalone Draw Odds and Filtering 2.0 will help you decipher which units to apply for. I am a firm believer that good quality animals can be found in most — if not all — units in the state. 

There are some archery and muzzleloader antelope tags that you have a good chance of drawing with three to five points, but for the rest of the species, I would suggest using those for future planning. For rifle antelope, elk and bighorn sheep tags, there’s really no good way to say it other than it might take some time. Nevada is a state where if you are going to apply for one species, you might as well apply for them all. If you’re already spending the money for a nonresident hunting license, then what’s another $14 to $19 per application for the other species? When the day comes that you finally draw one of those tags, it will be well worth the investment. 

Another big question that I get is, “Should I just grab a point or should I apply?” For elk and bighorn sheep, you should definitely apply. If you don’t draw, you get another point and you can try again next year. If you just buy a point and don’t enter the draw, then you don’t even give yourself a chance. There are multiple people every year who draw a killer bull tag or a bighorn sheep tag with no points at all. I would argue all day long that the caliber of bulls found in Nevada would go toe-to-toe with any other state. To me, that's worth risking $19; no questions asked. Same goes for bighorn sheep. Nevada has the most allotted nonresident sheep tags in the Lower 48. Less than one percent of the hunting population will ever kill a bighorn ram in their lifetime and Nevada gives you the best opportunity to remove yourself from that group. The younger you are and the earlier you start going after those bighorn sheep tags, the more realistic your dreams of killing a ram will be. Who knows? You might be one of the rare few who draws with no points. 

A few years ago, Nevada implemented the First-Come, First-Served option for all of the tags that had been returned for one reason or another. This gives nonresidents a chance at any nonresident tags that have been returned for mule deer, elk, antelope and desert/California bighorn sheep. You have to be super fast at pulling the trigger when one of these tags pops up, but it’s worth a try. One thing I would be careful about in regards to these tags is that if you select and purchase a tag, you will lose whatever points you had for that species. So, be sure it’s a hunt worth burning your points for. 

As a nonresident, Nevada gives you the opportunity to go on some amazing hunts. These hunts won’t happen every year. In all reality, it's more likely a three- to five-year to ten-year state. However, if you can afford the cost of a hunting license and an application fee, you need to be taking a chance at some of the best hunts in the West. If anyone ever asks me whether or not they should apply, my answer will always be yes.

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