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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 antler points on either antler (NAC 502.1045/CGR 508/R090-22).

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 may 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)

Party Hunts

A party hunt, referred to in regulation as an application by a group of persons, is two or more people applying together to receive the same tag. A party hunt can only be created for Mule Deer, Antlerless Elk or Antelope with Horns Shorter Than Ears. An applicant selects the party option during the application process, designating them as the party leader and generating a party hunt group number that then can be used by all members who wish to join the party hunt. The party hunt group number can be found on the receipt of the party leader. The group number is entered by participating party members during their application process when prompted if they wish to hunt as an individual or as a party for the party hunt species. Entering the party hunt group number on an application will automatically populate the application with the choices made by the leader of the party hunt. The group number can also be entered through a customer’s account if an application was submitted before the party was created. Entering a group number on a previously submitted application will update the application to match that of the party hunt leader.

Adult hunters cannot join a junior hunt party, but junior hunters can apply as an adult and receive a party tag with adult members. Junior hunters can apply for a junior hunt party tag with other junior hunters. Nonresident hunters and resident hunters can apply to be in a party hunt together but only for the Mule Deer species. Note that some options for resident and nonresident do not match and only choices available to both residencies will allow for both residencies to join a party together.

Party hunt bonus points are factored into party hunt applications by averaging the bonus points across all party members, rounded to the nearest whole number. The most ideal situation for all members of a party is applying with other members who have a similar amount of bonus points. A party hunt member can return their tag but will not receive a refund of bonus points unless all members of the party also return their tags to the Department. A party hunt member may receive their bonus points back if the return was due to a medical, death, or military reason.

Specialty tag and male species applications are awarded first. If an applicant applies for an Antlered Mule Deer and a party for an Antlerless Mule Deer, the Antlered Mule Deer applicant could be awarded the Antlered Mule Deer tag and not included in the awarded party hunt for Antlerless Mule Deer. This does not affect the chances of the party to receive a tag. Besides the above exception, party hunts are collectively successful or unsuccessful. Bonus point costs will only be paid for the species of the tag that is drawn. Party hunts are awarded by lowest draw number followed by remaining quota. If a party of four (4) has a low enough draw number to receive a tag but the remaining quota is two (2), the party will be unsuccessful in the draw. Party hunt quotas are respective to resident and non-resident quota pools. (NAC 502.4185)

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. (NAC 502.4225)

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

License Requirements

A license is valid for one full year from date of purchase. Any person 12 year of age or older who hunts in Nevada is required to have a valid hunting or combination hunting and fishing license. Any person under 12 years of age is not eligible to hunt big game in Nevada but may accompany other licensed big game hunters in the field. A person 14 years of age or older my hunt alone if they hold a valid Nevada hunting or combination license and is not using a fully automatic shotgun or rifle. (NRS 202.300)

Legal Weapon Types for Hunting Big Game

Game Animal/Method


Muzzleloading Rifles







Bighorn Sheep



Mountain Goat

Mountain Lion

Mule Deer

* Includes muzzleloading shotguns.