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Big Game Hunting

Big Game Hunting

General Provisions

Definitions (as used in these regulations)

Antlerless deer — Any deer without antlers (NAC 502.008).

Antlerless elk — Any elk without antlers (NAC 502.009).

Antelope with horns longer than its ears — Any pronghorn antelope having at least one horn that is longer than either ear of the antelope (NAC 502.002).

Antelope with horns shorter than its ears — Any pronghorn antelope without horns or with both horns that are shorter than its ears (NAC 502.003).

Antlered deer — Any deer having at least one antler that is visible above the hairline of the deer (NAC 502.007).

Antlered elk — Any elk having at least one antler that is visible above the hairline of the elk (NAC 502.0074).

Spike elk — Any antlered elk having not more than two points above the top of the ear on either antler (NAC 502.104).

Ewe — Any female bighorn sheep having a horn or horns of at least 5 inches in length each as measured on the outside curve of the horn from the skull to the tip (NAC 502.345).

Junior hunt — A hunt authorized by a regulation of the Commission which is limited to an applicant who (NAC 502.063):

  1. Possesses a hunting license or a combined hunting and fishing license;
  2. Will attain his or her 12th birthday before the first day of each hunting season to which his or her application relates; and
  3. Will not attain his or her 18th birthday until after the last day of each hunting season to which his or her application relates.

Note: A person who is otherwise eligible to apply for a junior hunt may apply for a junior hunt not more than 5 years (NAC 502.333).

Unit — The State of Nevada is portioned off into sections and given corresponding numbers for reference. These sections are know as units or management units. The units help biologists of the Department track and manage wildlife within the state. Units also define where in the state a person can hunt the species designated on their tag. For more information, see the unit map included in this guide book.

Season — The time frame of which a person is allowed to hunt. Seasons can range from as little as two (2) days up to 365 days.

Weapon Class — The term weapon class is used to determine what type of weapon is allowed to be used during a hunt. Weapon classes are broken out into three (3) main categories: any legal weapon, archery, and muzzleloader. See the Legal Weapon Types table for more information.

Legal Weapons For Big Game

Centerfire Firearm
NRS 503.150 and NAC 503.142

Rifles: Must use a centerfire cartridge of caliber .22 or larger, but not larger than .50 caliber with a case length no longer than 3 inches.

Handguns: Must use a centerfire cartridge of caliber .22 or larger and a barrel length of 4 inches or more.

Prohibited Firearms: Any firearm capable of firing more than one round with one continuous pull of the trigger. Any firearm equipped with a sighting system that uses an electronically controlled or computer controlled firing mechanism.

Prohibited Ammunition: Full metal jacket, full steel, full steel core, tracer or incendiary bullets or shells.

Shotgun (only legal for deer and mountain lion): 10, 12, 16 or 20 gauge. Shotgun barrels may be smooth or rifled for either species.

For Deer: Only rifled slugs or shotgun rounds with sabots that contain a single expanding projectile may be used for deer.

Muzzleloading Rifle and Musket

NAC 503.142 and NAC 503.145

During a “Muzzleloader-Only” Hunt:

Caliber: Firearm must have a single barrel of .45 caliber or larger. Ignition: Wheel-lock, matchlock, or flintlock ignition system, or percussion ignition system that uses a primer or percussion cap; (in-lines are permitted.)

Legal Projectiles: Lead ball, lead bullet, semi-jacketed bullet or a metal alloy bullet that expands. A saboted round may be used.

Sights: Only open sights or peep sights are permitted; scopes prohibited. A sight that is operated or powered by a battery, electronics or a radioactive isotope such as tritium is prohibited. Scopes are permitted only during an “any legal weapon” hunt.

Powder: Only black powder or a black powder substitute may be used.

A muzzleloading tagholder may carry a flintlock or percussion handgun during a muzzleloading-only hunt, however, it may not be used to hunt big game.

Note: Per NAC 503.146, the Department may issue a scope permit to a person with a visual disability which will authorize the use of a 1x magnification scope during a hunt that is restricted to archery or muzzleloading weapons only. Applications must be submitted to the Department on a form provided by the Department.

Bow and Arrow
NAC 503.144

Bow includes any longbow, recurve bow or compound bow. A crossbow is not a bow.

Bow characteristics: A bow used in hunting a big game mammal must have a minimum draw weight of 40 pounds and a maximum let-off of 80 percent.

Arrows: Legal hunting arrows must have a broadhead attached, be 24 inches in length from the end of the nock to the tip of the broadhead and have a 300 grain minimum weight with all components installed.

Broadheads: Fixed broadheads must be at least 7/8 inch wide at the widest point; mechanical heads must be at least 7/8 inch wide at the widest point when in the open position.

It is unlawful: For any person to carry any rifle, musket or handgun equipped with a telescopic sight or with a barrel length of 8 inches or more in the field while hunting under archery regulations (i.e., an archery-only hunt). To carry a bow with an arrow nocked on the bowstring while in or on any motorized vehicle (exceptions in 503.144). To hunt any wildlife with an arrow that has any chemical, explosive or electronic device attached.

NAC 503.143

Unless a tag holder holds an Archery Disability Permit, it is unlawful to:

  • Hunt a big game mammal with a crossbow during either a ‘bow-only’ or a ‘muzzleloader-only’ hunt.
  • Carry a cocked crossbow containing an arrow or a bolt while in or on any motorized vehicle while the vehicle is on a public highway or other public right-of-way.

Archery Disability Permit: A person with a permanent physical disability can now qualify for a permit that authorizes them to use a crossbow or a bow that uses a mechanical device that can anchor a nocked arrow at full draw or partial full draw during an archery hunt.

As used for this permit, “permanent disability” means a disability which prohibits a person from manually drawing and holding a legal bow at full draw. Contact your local NDOW Office for information.

Sight Attached to Firearm or Bow
NAC 503.145

A sight attached to a firearm or bow that is used to hunt a game mammal or game bird, or a sight attached to a crossbow that is used to hunt a big game mammal, may be illuminated or powered by:

  1. A battery contained within the sight;
  2. Light-gathering fiber optics;
  3. A radioactive isotope such as tritium; or
  4. Iridescent or fluorescent paint.

It is unlawful for a person to hunt a big game mammal, a game mammal or a game bird with a weapon that is equipped with a sight that is capable of casting or projecting a beam of light that is visible to the unaided human eye from the sight to the animal.

Hunter Education Requirements

Anyone born after January 1, 1960 is required to provide proof of Hunter Education, in order to purchase a Nevada hunting license. Proof of Hunter Education is an official Hunter Education card or certificate from any state or Canadian province, with the Hunter Education number and state or provincial logo or seal or a previous year’s hunting license with the Hunter Education number or mark. If you have taken a hunter education class in another state or Canadian province, verification must be provided. (NRS 502.330)

Bonus Point Information

What is a Bonus Point?

An accumulated credit (or point) that authorizes the Department to issue an applicant additional computer generated random draw numbers during a draw. One point is accumulated for every application that is unsuccessful in the computerized draw for an established species category. The bonus point system grants an applicant one random draw number for each bonus point that has been accumulated going into the drawing for that species category. Each bonus point random draw number is in addition to the application random draw number. The total number of accumulated points is squared and added to the current application to arrive at the total number of random draw numbers that will be assigned to the application for that species category (e.g. Hunter has two bonus points entering draw: 2² (2 x 2=4) 4+1 (for current application) = 5. Applicant receives five random numbers for draw) This system provides applicants with an added chance of receiving a low random number in the draw, hence improving their draw odds, while still providing a chance (no matter how small) for any applicant.

Bonus Point Program Guidelines
NAC 502.4187-4189 and NAC 502.4225

Residents and nonresident tag applicants receive bonus points for all hunts that have a quota set by the Wildlife Commission when they are unsuccessful in drawing a tag through the computerized random draw system. In addition to deer, elk, antelope, sheep, goat and black bear applicants also receive bonus points for wild turkey. Prior to applying or during the application process applicants must purchase the hunting or combination hunting and fishing license to earn bonus points.

Bonus points are awarded by specific species categories, each encompassing all separate weapons hunts available in that category. These categories are: antlered mule deer, antlerless mule deer, antlered Rocky Mountain elk, antlerless Rocky Mountain elk (antlerless elk), spike Rocky Mountain elk, Pronghorn antelope whose horns are longer than their ears, Pronghorn antelope whose horns are shorter than their ears, mountain goat and black bear. Rams, from each of the following subspecies: Nelson (desert) bighorn sheep, California bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. Ewes, from each of the following subspecies: Nelson (desert) bighorn sheep, California bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep.

Those points cannot be transferred to another person or into another species category.

Applicants are only able to accumulate one bonus point per species category per hunting license. So, if you applied for any legal weapon tag and were unsuccessful, and then applied for an archery tag in a separate draw, and were unsuccessful, you still only accrue one point because these are both in the antlered deer category.

However, if you apply for any legal weapon tag, and are unsuccessful, and then apply for a doe tag in separate draws, and are unsuccessful, you would receive a bonus point for each because they are in two different categories — antlered deer and antlerless deer. Depredation and management hunts do not earn bonus points.

Those applying as a “party hunt” will have their points averaged (total points of all hunters in the party, divided by the number of hunters) and rounded to the closest whole number. Bonus points are squared by species category, resulting in the number of draw numbers that an individual hunter or hunt party will receive in that drawing.

A hunter’s bonus points revert to zero in a particular species category when he is successful at obtaining a tag or fails to apply for two consecutive years.

Because the draw numbers that determine whether or not a hunter draws a tag are generated randomly across all applications, there is no guarantee that a hunter will draw a tag for the species category because he or she may have more bonus points than anyone else.

Bonus Point Program Exceptions NAC 502.4187

Bonus points are not awarded for depredation hunts or management hunts. (Refer to NACs 502.4188 and 502.4189)

Refund of Fee for Hunting License – Loss of Bonus Points

An applicant who fails to obtain a tag may obtain a refund of the fee for his/her hunting license if the license is not a combined hunting and fishing license and he/she:

  1. Purchased the license solely to apply for a tag;
  2. Does no hunting under the authority of the license; and
  3. Submits the license to the Department on or before the last weekday of August of the year in which the license was valid. The Department shall accept the license only if it is received on or before that date.

Please be aware that an applicant will not be awarded any bonus points if they obtain a refund for their hunting license.

License Requirements

License or permit required for hunting; limitations on hunting by minors
NRS 502.010

  • Any person 12 years of age or older, who hunts big game mammals in Nevada is required to have a hunting license or combination hunting and fishing license.
  • A child under 12 years of age cannot hunt big game animals. The child may accompany licensed big game hunters.
  • A child under 18 years of age, hunting with a firearm, must be accompanied at all times by the child’s parent or guardian. A parent or guardian may authorize an adult to take the child hunting, if that adult is licensed to hunt and accompanies the child at all times; or
  • With the permission of a parent, a child 14 years of age or older may hunt alone if the child has a valid hunting license in his or her possession and uses a shotgun or rifle that is not a fully automatic firearm. (NRS 202.300)

Information to be Furnished by Applicant

Statement of parent or guardian required for minors; penalties for false statements; use of invalid license unlawful
NRS 502.060

A person applying for and procuring a license, tag or permit, shall give to the license agent the person’s name and residence address.

If a child under the age of 18 years is applying for a license to hunt, the child’s parent or legal guardian must sign the application and an attached statement acknowledging that the parent or legal guardian has been advised of the provisions of NRS 41.472.

Any person who makes any false statement or furnishes false information to obtain any license, tag or permit issued pursuant to the provisions of this title is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Any person who makes any false statement or furnishes false information to obtain any big game tag issued pursuant to the provisions of this title is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.

It is unlawful for any person to hunt, fish or trap using any hunting, fishing or trapping license which is invalid by reason of expiration or a false statement made to obtain the license.

Any person convicted of violating these provisions forfeits any bonus point or other increased opportunity to be awarded a tag in a subsequent drawing conducted for that tag if the bonus point or other increased opportunity was acquired by the false statement or false information.

As used in this section, “big game tag” means a tag permitting a person to hunt any species of pronghorn antelope, bear, deer, mountain goat, mountain lion, bighorn sheep or elk.

Legal Weapon Types for Hunting Big Game

Game Animal/Method


Muzzleloading Rifles







Bighorn Sheep


Mountain Goat

Mountain Lion

Mule Deer

* Includes muzzleloading shotguns.