Dennis Cassinelli: Big game hunting in Nevada

Big game hunting has been a tradition for many Nevada families, including my own. I know there are many people who disagree with the concept of hunting big game animals and would prefer no one should have the right to go hunting, or even own a gun or other weapon capable of bringing down a big game animal.

In the environment where I grew up on a farm, hunting was a way of life. As a boy, I owned guns and learned how to safely use them. My uncle and I trapped muskrats and beaver and shot varmints that damaged crops in the fields. When I reached the age to get a deer tag, I bought a tag and license and went with other members of the family to get my deer. Later on, I did the same with pronghorn antelope.

Every fall, we had venison to last us through the winter. My wife and I practically raised our kids on wild game I had harvested. My sons, Tim and John, became avid elk hunters and still hunt today, though I retired from hunting when it became too much work to carry a game animal back to the truck.

When I took my first antelope to the taxidermist to be mounted, she told me I was lucky to have filled my tag, since she believed they wouldn’t be available to hunt much longer. That was back in the 1960s. Her prediction was wrong, however, since there are far more antelope in Nevada today than there were back then.

The fact is, there are more wild game animals available for hunting today and a larger variety of animals that can be hunted than there were 50 years ago. There are several reasons for the improvements in the population of big game animals in recent years. When I hunted big game years ago, the only big game available to hunters was deer, pronghorn antelope, desert bighorn sheep and two areas where elk could be hunted.

Every year before hunting season, surveys with aircraft are taken to determine the conditions of big game populations in the many big game areas. These surveys are used by NDOW to establish seasons and limits for each area. No hunting is allowed in an area unless a sustainable population is observed in these areas.

My brother Ron is a pilot in Elko who participates in these studies by flying over the areas with Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) officials and also flying as a spotter in wildfire areas.

NDOW has developed agreements with other states to bring other species of animals to Nevada we didn’t have here before. In addition to our native Nelson desert bighorn sheep, we now have California bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. Nevada now has seasons on mountain goats, mountain lions and black bears. I’ve heard of reports moose have been sighted in the Paradise Valley and Elko areas. There may one day be a hunt of these animals.

NDOW has aggressively prosecuted poachers who hunt out of season or take more game than they’re allowed. NDOW, in cooperation with BLM and federal wildlife people, have installed guzzlers in many dry desert areas where livestock and game animals can find water where none existed before. Hunting license and tag fees finance many of these services and they wouldn’t exist without support from the hunters. BLM has worked tirelessly to re-seed areas of Humboldt and Elko counties devastated by fires in recent years. It takes several years for these burned areas to once again support wildlife.

There are several organizations supported by hunters that are dedicated to wildlife preservation. The Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society is dedicated to the support of the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and its habitat as well as enhancing interest in hunting opportunities. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation believes hunting is conservation. Early American leaders like Theodore Roosevelt shaped a set of ideals now known as the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. They declared wildlife belongs to all of us, that every citizen is entitled to hunt and fish and science-based, state-regulated hunting would advance wildlife conservation and management. Today, the U.S. has the most successful system in the world and no one does more to uphold it than hunters.

Remember, the deadline for your big game application is April 16. Happy hunting!

This article is by Dayton author and historian Dennis Cassinelli, who can be contacted on his blog at All Dennis’ books sold through this publication will be at a 50 percent discount plus $3 for each shipment for postage and packaging.


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