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Quotas Clarified

Have you ever wondered how NDOW recommends quotas? What are they? How are they set? Why do we need them?

A quota is the number of tags for any given species that are made available to hunt that game species. Determining a quota is an important part of maintaining the balance between the quality of animals and the hunting experience, while preserving healthy and sustainable populations. Quotas receive enormous scientific input and deliberation from wildlife biologists, county wildlife advisory boards, the public, and the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners long before they made their way onto the pages of this book.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife adheres to the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation to maintain the public trust as explained in the Public Trust Doctrine.


NDOW biologists conduct both fall and spring surveys to determine estimated animal populations in a given area. For example, in the case of mule deer, biologists conduct post-season aerial surveys to determine the ratio of bucks (adult males), does (adult females), and fawns (juveniles) remaining after the deer seasons are concluded. This survey typically takes place during the rut, when bucks are more likely to be seen.

During the spring, biologists once again conduct aerial surveys, this time determining the ratio of adults to fawns. This data is used to determine fawn survival and recruitment related to the severity of the winter and to estimate population size.

Finally, NDOW relies upon harvest data provided by hunters after their season has ended. These surveys provide vital information—including animal sex, age class, antler points, effort, and more—that allows biologists to assess the metrics of the number of animals removed, along with the success rates of each area.

After all the data is collected, it is input into a computer model that provides an estimate of an area’s population. From there, biologists add the population estimate into an array (data program) that distributes the quota recommendations into various weapon classes.


That’s not the end of the road, though. Once the recommendations are made, they are passed along to 17 county wildlife advisory boards at the end of April, where they are reviewed and receive input from the public. Each advisory board, with the public’s input, then votes to either support or suggest an alternative quota recommendation.

The quota recommendations then make their way in front of the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners. Once again, the public can make comments at this stage. After the quotas become official, NDOW issues the tags to the applicants via a randomized draw process (see Mule Deer Hunts for more info).


The process allows for continued healthy wildlife numbers in Nevada. Through setting responsible and conservative quotas, NDOW aims to strike a balance between managing quality big game animals that Nevada is known for while also allowing reasonable numbers of hunters to participate in big game hunting.

Did you know that big game harvest reporting is mandatory in Nevada regardless of hunter success? Currently, the Department experiences a 98 percent return rate. After the hunt, harvest reports can be submitted at

Visit for a complete list of county wildlife advisory boards and information including meeting times, dates, location, contacts, and more. Anyone can attend meetings and give their input on quota recommendations.

Some hunters wonder why quotas aren’t posted before the big game application period opens each year. This is because during the spring, biologists are still conducting aerial surveys and analyzing critical data to set the quota limit. In addition, the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners doesn’t approve quota recommendations until May each year, typically right around the time that the application closes.