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It’s time to plan for this hunting season

As the COVID season wanes and we’re all ready to get back to normal, let’s look forward to a new season of outdoor activity. For hunters it’s tag application time and getting ourselves and our gear in shape.

The application period for Nevada big game tags begins on March 23.

Go online at huntnevada.com or pick up a copy of the Big Game Application book at your nearest sporting goods store for area maps and quotas.

The site includes helpful sections with suggested areas of greater game concentrations and past hunter results.

Other positive references are the local and regional hunting and conservation organizations such as Safari Club International, the Fraternity of the Desert Bighorns, Nevada Sportsmen Unlimited or Wildlife Habitat in Nevada (WHIN). These groups comprise like-minded individuals anxious to help a fellow hunter.

If you’ve applied before, but were unsuccessful with the draw, check recent harvest statistics on the Hunt Nevada website and reapply. Even if you’re unsuccessful, you accumulate points that will give you a greater chance next year.

I use my first choice in an area where I know the terrain, habitat and species habits. Big game is not evenly distributed throughout an area; they are in pockets. The key is to know the location of these pockets and that takes scouting.

If you’re hunting in a new area or don’t have time to do extensive scouting, hire a guide. Research your guide from the same organizations mentioned above. Your guide will recommend positive areas to apply for your tags. Remember they want you to be successful. Their reputation is based on your success.

Another factor to consider when thinking of a guide is the value of their local knowledge as opposed to your expense of scouting time, transportation, fuel, lodging and equipment. We’ve all incurred these and I for one have returned unsuccessful more than once. I’m sure some of you have had the same experience. Can hiring a guide save you money and increase your success rate? For me the answer is yes.

On a recent elk hunt in the Pioche area I called an old friend who guides in this area. He keeps pretty busy during the hunting season, but had a short opening and thought he could help me find what I was looking for – and he did.

I supplied my own camp and food, and met him at a local campground.

Let’s call him “Pine Nuts”, a name he acquired on this hunt due to my lagging a bit behind on our hikes in high country. (No I’m not 30 anymore and have slowed down a bit as my hair has changed color).

He was, however, patient and helpful. As he occasionally waited for me to get my breath or catch up he occupied himself with collecting and sharing pine nuts along the trail. He always seemed to be consuming them from his deep coat pockets or from the ground, thus the name “Pine Nuts.”

We traveled and scouted places I could have never gone. His trail craft was excellent, as is mine after spending many years hunting the far north as a game warden and guide. After a couple of days seeing many elk, but not the one we were looking for, we moved to another secret location. “Pine Nuts” had been there many times before and felt good about the day’s possibilities. He described how we could drive to a secluded area, hike up a long ravine to timberline, belly-crawl through brush and cactus to some downed timber and have a chance to be in range of our animal.

But this time, it happened just as “Pine Nuts” had predicted and we concluded another successful hunt.

So now it’s the start of another season; I’ve done my research, made my calls and will apply for my favorite species and areas and then wait for the postman to deliver the news. Then I’ll call “Pine Nuts”, who is also known as Mark Holt, and master guide at Skull Valley Outfitters. You can call him at (775)726-3440.

It’s also time to get your gear cleaned and organized. A those boots ready for another season? Have those hunting shirts, jackets or pants “shrunk” a size? How about repairs and cleaning the tent and other gear. Now’s the time, a neglected small hole or tear in a tent screen will be an irresistible invitation to a horde of mosquitoes or black flies.

It’s time to sight in that rifle, too, and you may even be able to justify a new one. Sharpening those marksmanship skills shouldn’t be left until the week before the hunt. It’s far better to shoot a few rounds at the range each month than a few boxes at the range to “find the target” just before the hunt.

Don’t forget the vehicle and RV if you’re going to use them. A breakdown on the other side of nowhere can make for a bad day and a carelessly drained RV tank or water line can make a lousy tasting beverage mixed with last year’s antifreeze residue.

Did I forget to mention exercise? Ouch.

Not getting in shape before the trip has been the most common reason for unsuccessful trips. This is best done carrying your pack and rifle. This could be at the gym, but they usually discourage the pack and rifle on the elliptical or stair-stepper. Try getting into the field and working those legs, back and lungs; you may even get to liking the outdoors and hiking scene.

Now all you need is being successful drawing a tag. I’ve found it prudent to have a couple of backup plans just in case. Make plans for your second choice or a depredation tag. Neighboring states often have over-the-counter tags. Don’t give up; finding the tag has become part of the modern hunt.

And finally, enjoy the process, it’s part of the adventure. Good luck, safe hunting and don’t forget there’s also some great fishing now and it’s time for the adventure to begin. More on that next time.

Dan Simmons is a freelance writer in Pahrump. Contact him at dansimmons@usa.net.

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