I am writing this in response to “Contentious Deer” and “Majority of Wildlife Board Resigns” articles printed in the EDFP between May 12-15.
Elko County Commissioner Charlie Myers was correct in stating that the NRS 501.297 states, “The boards shall solicit and evaluate local opinion and advise the Commission on matters relating to the management of wildlife within their respective counties.”
I was at the Elko County Wildlife Advisory Board meeting where one of the main discussions was the increase in mule deer tags. What I saw was a room full of lifetime Elko County sportsmen, ranchers, outfitters and dignitaries asking to see the science behind these proposed quota increase numbers. Elko CAB members Matt Murray and Tom Barnes voted against the increase and I commend them for “evaluating local opinion.” Lincoln, White Pine and Eureka County Wildlife Advisory boards listened to the public comments and all voted against the increase in deer tags quotas for their respective counties.
NDOW data shows Area 10 deer estimates were down 1,500 animals in 2012 from 2011 but they proposed doubling the tags for that area. NDOW stated that the increase in buck numbers limits fawn recruitment via competition for limited winter range in some areas. My question is which specific areas and where is the study of this occurrence in each specific area? There is none!
A previous Area 10 doe hunt was implemented in 2009. NDOW mule deer expert Tony Wasley stated by examining a large sample of the harvested does, it should show that these deer are habitat restricted according to body composition and age structure. Current Area 10 biologist Caleb McAdoo stated we have too many old does with no fawns out there. To this day, we are still waiting for a summary of the study of the last Area 10 doe hunt.
Based on what charts we did receive from NDOW, we know that the average age of does harvested in the Area 10 2009 doe hunt was 3.4 years old; this contradicts what NDOW believes, that we have too many old does. There were several old does in the 10- to 11-year-old range that had fawns or signs of milk or nursing. How can a doe this old, that’s living in a habitat restricted herd, have a fawn? How can they still be alive? These points have been brought up numerous times with no response from NDOW.
Let’s look at Area 6. According to NDOW, the deer herd increased 2,100 animals from 2011-2012. This is in an area that NDOW has repeatedly stated can’t support one more deer on the winter range because of the past fires. These fires have also destroyed intermediate migration corridors between summer and winter ranges. If there is no habitat, how can the deer herd increase?
So here we are year after year listening to NDOW talk about how the entire state of Nevada is habitat-restricted and can’t support any more deer. There are many mountain ranges large and small in the state that have historically had mule deer on them that haven’t been burnt by fires and livestock grazing has been reduced dramatically and you won’t find a single deer.
We agree with NDOW statements about the perfect storm situation with three wet springs followed by an open winter helping the deer herds. These wet springs help all wildlife in a desert but what they don’t mention is the past State Wildlife Commission eliminated all doe hunts and cut buck tags 25 percent across the state to help give the deer a little boost. This no doubt helped with the increase in deer. That State Wildlife Commission has now been replaced with new members appointed by Governor Sandoval that seem to care only about sheep and not deer.
Here is a little science that we do know. NDOW survey flights, according to their own model, are subject to plus or minus 20 percent. This is a 40 percent margin of error. NDOW has stated a 3 percent statewide herd increase and they are doubling the mule deer tags statewide. Where is the science to justify that increase?
At the end of the day one thing is evident, if you dig deep enough, and that is revenue. You won’t find this information on the NDOW website but, it’s a breakdown of how much money the increase of deer tags will generate for NDOW including the 3-to-1 federal matching funds.
Each resident tag generates approximately $135, excluding license fee, and $3 predator fee. Each non-resident tag produces $981.50, not including license fee, and $3 predator fee. Guided tags $1,221.50 with the same exclusions. Here are some figures for the increase in tag quotas:
Additional resident tag revenue: $1,713,825
Additional non-resident tag and guided tag revenue $1,133,055
Doe hunts: $179,280
For a total of: $3,026,160
I wonder how much of this $3 million increase will be spent on helping the mule deer or will it be used for more sheep transplants, sheep relocations and sheep guzzler projects?
The 2012 Tag Draw was conducted Wednesday, May 23, and of the 923 available doe tags in Area 10, NDOW only received 143 applications. This tells me that the sportsmen of Nevada do not want doe hunts and do not want to harvest does.
I think it is clear that the increase in tag quotas and doe hunts are all about revenue and not about what the citizens of Northern Nevada want.
Pat Laughlin is president of Nevada Alliance 4 Wildlife and was a member of Gov. Jim Gibbons Mule Deer Restoration Committee.