Welcome to Small Game Hunting in Nevada
We want to take this occasion to encourage you and your family to participate in small game hunting opportunities in Nevada. Even though Nevada is the driest state in the country, there are some quality prospects out there waiting for upland game hunters of all experience levels. Best of all, Nevada consists of mostly public land and with a little pre-hunt map work, you can wander the hillsides as you wish.
Each winter sets the stage with varying circumstances for upland game and waterfowl populations, and winter 2017–2018 was no different. A good indicator for the upcoming season can be found by viewing the U.S. Drought Monitor, which indicates that Nevada has been in “moderate drought” in the southern portion of the state to “abnormally dry” throughout most of the rest. There are always some exceptions to consider. For example, after relatively poor precipitation last winter, the months of March and May offered great relief for much of central and northeastern Nevada. This should mean moderate to good production for many upland game species and a silver lining to build some excitement for the upcoming season.
Reported observations of California quail production indicate that this should be a better than average year for this species in agricultural valleys like Carson, Lahontan, Mason, and Smith Valley. Surrounding mountain ranges should offer good hunting with more public land opportunities. In eastern Nevada, dusky (blue) grouse production has shown promise. Observed broods are sizeable and relatively abundant in the Schell Creek and Cherry Creek Ranges of White Pine County. The Ruby Mountains in Elko County offers the more extreme upland game hunter with opportunities for dusky and ruffed grouse as well as Himalayan snowcock in the upper elevations (emphasis on the word “upper” here). Speaking of ruffed grouse by the way, annual drumming surveys conducted in spring 2018 resulted in fairly high detection rates at our designated survey routes. If you haven’t pursued this exciting species in Nevada yet, this may be the year to do it.
Sage-grouse continue to be a species of conservation concern and we are closely monitoring populations throughout the state with intensive research projects. In general, these projects indicated that sage-grouse nest and brood success have improved this year when compared with 2017. Unfortunately, wildfire remains the greatest persistent threat to sage-grouse in Nevada. The 440,000 acre Martin Fire that was almost 60 miles long and up to 25 miles wide, burned some of the most important habitat in the state. The Department, working collaboratively with the Bureau of Land Management, wildlife conservation organizations, and private landowners, remains committed to help restore strategic portions of this fire so that the area can return to a healthy and functional landscape.
As with most years, everyone wants to know about chukar populations and phone calls started coming into the office as early as May. Unfortunately, the aerial chukar density surveys had not been completed at the time of this writing. Considering the indications from the U.S. Drought Monitor and wet March and May periods, we expect chukar hunting to be moderate to good throughout most of central Nevada into Elko County. Traditional and popular chukar hunting ranges like the Pine Forest, Jackson, Black Rock, and Calico Mountains did not receive the extensive May rains like other portions of the state and production in these areas may have suffered. Chukar hunting in this region of the state may only be fair, but chukar have a knack for proving folks wrong. Look for the annual “Nevada Chukar Forecast” on our website around September 1 for more complete results.
Marsh conditions in much of Nevada are in great condition with residual water from past wet winters. The abundance of water also means nut grass and sago pondweed are abundant in many marshes. These conditions should help attract and hold migratory birds in Nevada for longer this winter. Surveys indicate that the better conditions have already translated to a greater number of ducks and geese in the state. Dust off your gear and get your retrievers ready, this should be a great year in the marsh.
Waterfowl hunting offers a great way to introduce young hunters to the outdoors, providing opportunities for excitement and identification of a host of wildlife species while out at the marsh. Our nine-day youth upland season offers young hunters and their parents some flexibility to get out early and gauge populations of quail, chukar, and rabbits. Overall, small game seasons offer opportunity – opportunity to get away from a fast-paced world to reconnect with nature, family, and friends. So get online and get outside!
Tony Wasley, Director