Thanks to some wet winters we've had over the past few years, animal populations are thriving. So much, that the Nevada Department of Wildlife is recommending an increase in big game hunting tags.
Wildlife biologists estimate the mule deer population to be at 112,000. That's up 3,000 since last year. Combine that with an increase in males and they're recommending more than doubling the number of hunting tags issued this year.
"That's good news for sportsmen because a lot of our sportsmen will go two, three, four years without a tag," NDOW Spokesperson Chris Healy said. "This year, we're going to be able to satisfy the need."
Healy says populations can get so high that it's actually bad for the herds.
"If there's too many animals on small amounts of winter range, then you weaken all the animals and if it gets really cold and real snowy, then you could lose animals," Healy said.
Even though the past few years have been good to animal populations, officials say that can all change very quickly, with Nevada's unpredictable winters.
"You can't stockpile these deer for the future," Healy said. "There's no guarantee that climatic conditions that we've experienced, the positive ones, will last."
But it's not just Mule Deer populations on the rise. Antelope numbers are 5,500 above average, with Elk populations up almost 5,000. There are 2,100 more Desert Bighorn than the ten-year average and the California Bighorn numbers have grown by 200.
"We produce really, and we're very proud of this, the most accurate mule deer harvest numbers, count numbers, population numbers of any agency in the United States," Healy said.
Those numbers are also good for NDOW. They get very little general fund tax money, so their funding comes almost exclusively from boat registrations, fishing license sales, and hunting licenses and tags.
"One of the things we like to do is make sure that when the opportunity is there for our sportsmen, that we're able to connect the numbers out in the field into opportunity for our sportsmen by using the proper number of tags," Healy said.
The Wildlife Commission will hear the recommendations at next week's meeting and will make the final decision on how many tags will be issued. The earliest hunting season begins in August, depending on the animal, weapon, and region of the state.