APPLICATION STRATEGY 2018: Nevada Elk
Nevada's 2018 elk application overview
Applying for Nevada really comes down to a couple of factors. First, if you are interested in applying for desert bighorn sheep, then Nevada is a must because the state offers more nonresident permits every year than any other state. You should be aware that if you are going to purchase a Nevada hunting license for bighorn sheep or any other species, you should apply for all species of interest because the application cost is quite low once you have committed and purchased your annual hunting license. The other factor centers around mule deer and elk. The trophy quality that Nevada offers in many units is hard to beat.
Nevada offers elk hunting in 47 different units across the state and every one of those units has the trophy potential for 300”+ bulls. 24 of those units have the trophy potential for 350”+ bulls. The bottom line is that if you are looking for a very good elk hunt, you could throw a dart at the state of Nevada and chances are you will land on an above average elk unit. However, elk like all species in Nevada should be considered a long-term goal as there is no maximum point finish line in this state. Essentially, every year your name goes into a big bucket of raffle tickets and its anyone guess on which year will be your lucky year. You could draw the tag of a lifetime the very first year you apply or, like many hunters, take over a decade to draw your tag.
Nevada operates their draw on a bonus point system that squares the number of points you have each year and adds one more for that year’s applications. If you have five points, then you will receive 25 raffle tickets for your current points and receive one additional ticket for that year’s application, resulting in 26 total chances for that year. If you have 10 points, then you will enter the draw with 101 tickets. Overall, looking at a state to state comparable, with the cost to apply in Nevada, it is relatively low because the state does not require the applicant to put up the money for each species until that applicant has successfully drawn. With the excellent trophy quality available, apply for Nevada if you are serious about big bulls.
Note: The application deadline for all species in Nevada is April 16, 2018, at 11 p.m. PST for online applications. Paper applications are no longer accepted in Nevada. You can apply online here.
Why Nevada for elk in 2018
High-end quality elk
As stated above, with over half of the units in the state producing 350”+ bulls each year, you would be hard-pressed to find many other states with this kind of stats. There isn’t a unit in the state that doesn’t produce 300”+ inch bulls annually so no matter where you land, the odds of taking a mature bull are very high.
High bull to cow ratios
Nevada has some very high bull to cow ratios in many of their units. For example, many of the northern units in the state are surveyed at roughly 100 bulls to every 100 cows. Not only does that ratio lend itself to a greater opportunity for bulls to make it through the hunts each year and, inevitably, create a higher age class, but, especially during the rut, the likelihood of calling in a mature bull is very high as the competition for cows is so extreme.
Nevada Silver State tag
For an additional $30 you can be included in the Silver State tag drawing, which makes you eligible to draw one permit each year. This permit 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 Super Tags, and Super Raffles in other western states. This drawing is open to both residents and nonresidents. After purchasing a $10 Resource Enhancement Stamp, you can then buy an unlimited number of raffle tickets for $5 each for as many species as you want. You can enter the Dream Tag raffle here.
New for 2018
- There is a new online license portal. All hunters who wish to apply will need to visit www.ndowlicensing.com to build an account prior to applying. You will be required to do this in order to submit any applications this year and will also be able to quickly check draw results there as well.
- When applying for “Point Only” on the new system there are no longer individual codes as there were in the past, you will simply select “bonus point” on the menu and proceed.
- The license fee required at the time of the application has increased to $155 this year, but includes all state stamps and privileges. It is also good for 365 days and can be automatically renewed if you would like.
- Legal shooting hours have been extended to one-half hour after sunset.
- There is a new regulation that prohibits the taking or gathering of shed antlers from public land in Elko, Eureka, Lander, Lincoln, Nye or White Pine counties from Jan. 1 to April 30 each year. Read more on this new ruling here.
New for goHUNT
For 2018, goHUNT has added Draw Odds for female species. In Nevada, there are many opportunities for elk in the way of antlerless licenses for residents and nonresidents. When selecting your units to hunt be sure to also check out our standalone Draw Odds details page to see if opportunities exist that can be added to your hunt.
Antlerless elk draw odds
2018 wait period for tags
- Starting last season, the waiting period for an antlered elk tag is now seven years regardless of hunt success. The previous five-year waiting period remains in effect for antlered elk tag holders who were unsuccessful harvesting in 2016 or earlier.
State quotas will not be set until the May 2018 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 Elk Profile to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy areas.
There is a waiting period of 7 years for both successful and unsuccessful elk hunters in Nevada before you can draw another tag.
Important dates and information
- You may begin applying now.
- The deadline to apply is April 16, 2018 at 11 p.m. PST.
- Paper applications are no longer accepted.
- You can apply online here.
- Bonus point only applications will be accepted until April 23, 2018 at 11 p.m. PST.
- Results will be available on or before June 8, 2018.
- Second draw deadline for leftover tags is June 25, 2018 at 11 p.m. PST.
- Second draw results will be available on or before July 20, 2018.
Notable season overlaps
- Units 072-075 antlered elk muzzleloader hunt overlaps with antlerless elk muzzleloader hunt.
- Units 161-164 antlered elk archery hunt partially overlaps with antlerless elk muzzleloader hunt.
- Unit 262 antlered elk any legal weapon hunt overlaps with antlered deer muzzleloader hunt.
Drought and snowpack in Nevada
As you can see, the majority of the state is abnormally dry and, more importantly, some of the best areas of the state on the eastern border are in a moderate drought. As of March 20, 2018, 100% of the state is experiencing abnormally dry conditions and 12.71% is showing moderate drought. It is worth noting that, historically, even when the snowpack is light, the most important months of the year for moisture are April and May in Nevada. These past few years have had great moisture during these months and, if that happens again this year, we should be in for a great season and also a fantastic calf crop.
As it sits, the Jarbridge as well as the Ruby’s both have decent snowpack right now and should fare well regardless of what kind of weather is received this spring.
Compare the drought monitor status in 2018 to March 28, 2017, and you get a different picture when 6.17% of the state was experiencing drought conditions.
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.
2018 max bonus points for elk: 25
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 April 23, 2018 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 than later, 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, possibly, draw a tag quicker. 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. Always swing for the fence on your first two selections. Remember that your bonus points are squared each year plus one additional point is added for that year’s application. See the Nevada State Profile for more information.
Nevada's 2018 elk breakdown
Nevada continues to have a stable population of elk. The 2016-2017 surveys found the statewide average to be about 50 bulls to 100 cows. This is as high as it has been in over a decade. The number of calves (48:100) is up 10 from last year and is probably a result of the increased moisture the state received during the previous winter. This is exciting news because it means that in six to eight years there should be a bumper crop of mature bulls across the state.
Year in and year out Nevada continues to produce some of the biggest bulls in the country and, if the state receives the typical amount of rain that usually falls in April and May, 2018 will be another banner year for Nevada elk. Statewide, 29% of the bulls taken in the state—not including spike bull hunters—had 50” main beams or better. This is down 1% from the prior year, but is consistent with previous years. 68% of the bulls taken last year on trophy hunts had at least 6 points on one side and seven different units had a better than 75% success rate on bulls with at least 6 points on one side or better. With multiple bulls scoring over 380” and a couple of giant 400”+ bulls, Nevada holds its own for big bulls and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down for the upcoming season.
Current elk herd condition
The 2017 counts show that there was a 6% decrease in the number of elk in the state, bringing the total to 15,000 elk. The majority of these elk are located in the northeast corner of the state, which includes the Jarbridge area as well as the central-eastern portion of the state surrounding Pioche. However, some of the more obscure units with smaller elk populations are also producing quality bulls.
2016 vs. 2017 percentage of 50"+ bulls per unit group compared to bulls taken
|Unit Group||% of bulls 50"+|
|% of bulls 50"+|
|Total bulls taken|
in Unit Group 2017
|062, 064, 066-068||25%||39%||63|
|072, 073, 074||26%||20%||245|
|076, 077, 079, 081||23%||17%||133|
|078, 104, 105, 107, 109||35%||45%||20|
|101, 102, 103|
|104, 108, 121||34%||42%||37|
|108, 131, 132||19%||39%||29|
|221, 222, 223||39%||39%||93|
The hit list units for Nevada elk
Top hit list hunt units to consider for 350" or better elk
|062, 064, 066-068||350"+||36:100||70%||59.9%|
|076, 077, 079, 081||360"+||38:100||74%||66.9%|
|108, 131, 132||350"+||59:100||75%||98.3%|
How to uncover hidden gem elk units
Instead of focusing on primitive weapons, which is often the advice, your best bet is to get as far from the rut as possible and to some of the more obscure areas of the state where there are fewer applicants. With elk, there is not as many permits available and a good number of applicants. The supply does not meet the demand when it comes to elk. Another factor that differs when applying for elk is that sometimes the archery or muzzleloader tag is just as hard as or even harder to draw than the rifle hunts. This is because these hunts typically coincide with the rut and the demand to chase these bulls while they are bugling is very high.
Another method to locate a hidden gem is by using Filtering 2.0 and Draw odds. It has never been easier to help you locate a unit that fits your individual goals. You can sift through information like trophy potential, draw odds percentages, bull:cow ratios, and percentage of 6 point or better per hunt and unit. You will also be able to analyze the number of applications that are submitted each year as well as the number of tags drawn to show you how a specific unit is trending. With all of these tools at your disposal, it has never been easier to locate your perfect hunt.
B&C entry trends for Nevada elk
Nevada's top Boone & Crockett producing counties since 2010 for typical elk
|White Pine||19||065, 104, 108, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115,|
131, 132, 164, 221, 222, 231
|Elko||10||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
|Nye||3||131, 132, 161, 162, 163, 164, 171, 172, 173, 262|
|Lincoln||2||115, 132, 221, 222, 223, 231, 241, 242|
|Eureka||1||064, 065, 068, 131, 145, 161, 162, 163, 164|
Nevada's top Boone & Crockett producing counties since 2010 for nontypical elk
|White Pine||8||065, 104, 108, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115,|
131, 132, 164, 221, 222, 231
|Elko||1||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
Bull:cow ratios and why this matters
Following the bull to cow ratios can be an excellent way of locating a hidden gem and is a critical tool for wildlife managers when deciding how many tags to issue in each unit each year. Essentially, when a unit has a higher bull:cow ratio, you can’t help but assume that some of the bulls are making it through each season; therefore, creating an opportunity for an older age class of bulls. This is not a given, but tends to generally hold true. If you are not looking to break records while you are hunting and are simply looking for a hunt that you can expect to see more bulls per day, then studying these ratios could be the most important data at your disposal. Whether you are planning a youth hunt or just tired of not seeing bulls while you are out hunting, take a look at the total population of elk (very important as well as the bull:cow ratio, which can be misleading at times if a unit doesn’t have a lot of elk the ratios can be skewed) in each unit and compare that to the bull:cow ratio and you will off and running to a very enjoyable hunt.
Top Nevada elk units for bull:cow ratios
|Total population of|
elk in 2017 survey
|078, 105-107, 109||173:100||350"+||350|
|108, 131, 132||59:100||350"+||330|
The points system
Managing points and expectations
2018 maximum bonus points for elk: 25
Resident successful/unsuccessful applicants
Nonresident successful/unsuccessful applicants
I have 0 elk bonus points. What can I expect?
Because you are allowed to list five selections when applying in Nevada, you should always apply for the hunt you would most prefer with your first two selections regardless of how long the odds are. There is always a chance even with zero points. The likelihood of drawing any elk tag other than a cow permit on your first year is quite low.
As we have previously discussed, the demand is high and the supply is low when it comes to elk hunting in Nevada. Aside from some cow elk opportunities, drawing a tag with zero points is going to take some serious luck. The only hunt that you have even a 5% chance or better in drawing your first year is an archery hunt in Units 072-074 (6.3% chance). Remember to always apply for your dream hunts with your first two selections and follow up with either a continuation of this plan or, at a minimum, be realistic in what your end goal is. If a unit has historically produced a certain caliber of bulls over the last few years, it would be unrealistic to believe that just because you drew the permit something miraculous would happen. In short, buckle down; you have a few years of applying before things get serious.
For nonresidents, Nevada should be considered a long-term goal. In order to have more than even a 5% chance of drawing a nonresident elk tag in Nevada, the applicant needs at least four points and even that only covers one unit. The reality is this is a long-term goal from the start. You are applying in this state for your chance at the bull of a lifetime or you are getting the most value out of your hunting license because you are applying for desert bighorn sheep, too. Where ever you sit in this spectrum do not get deterred. For a nominal fee each year, your name is in the hat and you have a chance to draw a tag in some of the best elk hunting the West has to offer.
Another option to consider if you simply can’t wait to hunt elk is to watch for opportunities on the second draw period. Any of the hunts that go undersubscribed in the first drawing will now be available in the second drawing and there is no nonresident quota for these permits. Essentially, a nonresident has the same odds of drawing any of the available permits as a resident. Remember that if you draw in the second drawing or even purchase a leftover permit in late July you will lose any bonus points that you have accrued.
What can I do with 3 or 4 elk bonus points?
With three or four points there are a few more options to consider. Listed below is a list of hunts that you will have a 25% or better chance at drawing with four points. Take a hard look and remember you can’t get your points back if you keep the tag and hunt, so apply as if this could be the only elk hunt you are going to have in quite a long time or, at a minimum, for the next seven years, regardless of success or not. Study the standalone Draw Odds here and adjust your individual point value to see your best odds for drawing a tag or planning for a future hunt. Another option is to adjust the filters to show draw odds that are 25% or higher. That will give you a great starting point for further research.
Resident hunts with a 25%+ chance of drawing with 4 points
|062, 064, 066-068|
|076, 077, 079, 091|
early rifle, late rifle)
With three or four points you are starting to get the hang of this. Step 1: Apply. Step 2: Wait. Step 3: Feel rejected by another unsuccessful draw. Step 4: Wait a year and repeat. Now you are really in the fraternity of traveling hunters. Don’t get to down on yourself; you are not alone. With any luck, you have been also applying for the other species in the state and may have had some luck with drawing other tags. The unfortunate reality is that you are still a long ways from having a real crack at any success outside of blind luck. Stay the course and keep applying for your dream hunt with all five of your selections. Who knows? This could be your year.
What can I expect with 9 or 10 elk bonus points?
Well, you have waited your turn and, with 10 points, you now have some serious options to consider. Most of the hunts listed above in the three to four point section you now have more or less 95%+ odds of drawing. You also have a number of late rifle hunts and one early rifle hunt that are not out of reach. Here is a list of rifle hunts that had a better than 45% chance of drawing last year with 10 points. Remember to always apply for the best hunts in the state with your first two selections; however, if you are itching to get your chance at a bull these options will give you a little better crack at making that a reality sooner than later.
Resident rifle hunts with a 45%+ chance of drawing with 10 points
|062, 064, 066-068|
(early rifle, late rifle)
Well, you are in luck. After 10 years of applying, you now have a few options that have a 10% or better chance at drawing. One in 10 isn’t too bad and who knows? Maybe you come out of the hat early and draw one of the best tags in the state. Here is a list of hunts that drew at 10% or better for nonresidents in 2017.
Nonresident hunts with a 10%+ chance of drawing with 10 points
|062, 064, 066-068|
(archery, early rifle, late rifle)
|108, 131, 132||350"+||35:100||11%||73%|
What can I expect with 15 or 20 elk bonus points?
Hopefully, at this point, you have had some luck with some of the other species. Depending on your age, it is likely to think that when it does happen for you, if your luck stays on the same course that it has been, this may be the best or only crack at a monster bull you will have in your home state. This is not the time to venture off course outside of an airtight plan for a specific bull. Continue to apply for the best hunts in the state with all five of your choices and keep your fingers crossed; it’s bound to happen at some point.
At this point, you know how Nevada’s system works better than most as you have no doubt looked closely into why you have not drawn at this point. The long and short comes back to what we have talked about a few times already. Regardless of points, it is simply a large bucket of raffle tickets and there isn’t very many winners each year. Depending on your age and your goals, you may decide to chase the odds a little and look towards a late rifle hunt in the northern area of the state or stay the course and continue to apply for the best tags in the state. Regardless, don’t sell yourself short. Always apply for the top shelf hunts in areas with your first two selections even if you are looking towards some better odds with your final three selections. If you were to come out of the hat early, you would want to hunt the best area of the state. However, if time is a factor, research is critical and using our Filtering 2.0 and Draw Odds features can really increase your chances of having a quality hunt even if it is not in a unit that is typically considered the best.