Wednesday, 01 March 2006 00:00

NDOW’s lack of planning kills bighorns

Nevada Hunters Association

 

In July, 2005 a couple riding on ATV’s discovered 22-24 dead desert sheep carcasses at the McCullough #3 water development in southern Nevada. At least 3 of the sheep were very large rams in the Boone & Crockett category. All the sheep appeared to have died in a close time range of each other.

Published in HA Newsletter 30
Wednesday, 01 March 2006 00:00

Editorial 2006 Spring

If there is any hope at all for Nevada sportsmen, it is the November election and the 2007 legislative session. The mess sportsmen have been handed by the last two governors and their appointments to the Wildlife Commission can be overcome. To achieve this, it will take sportsmen to get involved. This will not require any of your money, only a few minutes of your time.

 

In order to make the necessary changes, we need to elect a governor who is a hunter. The last year sportsmen in Nevada had a governor who hunted was in 1979. In reality, hunters have been neglected for over 25 years! Unlike our current governor, Jim Gibbons will not lie to the sportsmen. He wants our deer brought back, again unlike our current governor, Kenny Guinn who has done nothing about this for eight years.

Published in HA Newsletter 30

A rebuttal to Dave Rice’s article which appeared in the Reno Gazette Journal, January 25, 2008

 

I read with interest your article in the Reno Gazette Journal, January 25, 2008, concerning Nevada's declining deer population.

I do not know whom the NDOW expert, Biologist Mike Cox is, but he is a long way from knowing or telling the "real story" of what went on during the big deer years in Nevada. If he thinks that the main reason for the decline of Nevada deer herds is the overall condition of habitat, he either does not know what he is talking about or he is creating "smoke and mirrors” for NDOW.

I ran the operational Predatory Animal Control program throughout the State of Nevada for the U. S Fish & Wildlife Program, during the 1970s and 80s, as the Assistant State Supervisor.  I believe I have on-the-ground and in-the-air understanding of what went on during the big deer years in Nevada.  There were three full-time Government Mountain Lion Hunters employed year-around hunting lions.  Coyote and mountain lion numbers were kept under control.  Deer tags, for Nevada hunters, were unlimited in number and were available for over-the-counter purchase at hunting-license dealers statewide.

In 1972, a big change occurred in the Animal Damage Control business throughout the west.  President Richard Nixon banned the use of toxicants in the government control program by executive order.  (He was soliciting the environmental vote that was just starting to emerge.)   With the loss of toxicants and nothing to replace it with but a few trappers, coyote numbers began to rise dramatically. Throughout the state of Nevada, deer numbers fell to 96,000 by 1976. Predation upon livestock by predators was a serious problem. In the late 70s, political pressure by the livestock industry and their representatives in Washington, D.C. brought about a dramatic increase in the Federal budget for Animal Damage Control.

The federal government began to appropriate large sums of money in order to prove that coyote numbers could be controlled by what they liked to call "non-toxic methods.”  This program increased use of aircraft, both fixed -wing and rotor-wing, to shoot coyotes from the air and additional trappers on the ground to replace the controversial use of toxicants.  (This was meant to look good to the environmentalist.)

At that time, there was a large, domestic range-sheep industry, operating throughout the state of Nevada.  Domestic sheep acted as a "buffer species" to deer for predatory animals.  Predators, largely, lived on domestic sheep, which were much easier to kill than mule deer.  The Ruby Mountains, in Elko County for example, had over 50,000 domestic sheep that summered on this mountain range in the 1970s.

In the early1980s, wild-animal longhair fur prices went sky high and private trappers were out in force. There were large numbers of coyotes and bobcats harvested by private trappers since fur prices were at an all time high.  Gas was around $1.25 a gallon. Coyote varmint callers were out in force.  All of the private trapping and shooting plus the concentrated government effort to control predator numbers began to pay off.  By the year 1988, the mule deer population responded to these concentrated predator-control efforts and mule deer numbers statewide were quoted by NDOW at 240,000.  NDOW was busy patting themselves on the back for what a masterful deer management program they had in place throughout the state of Nevada.  They credited the quota system for deer tags, which was put in place in 1976, and favorable weather conditions, relatively mild winters during that period, for the large increase in deer numbers, but never once did they mention the dramatic decrease in predator population numbers brought about by private hunters and trappers and the federal government program.

Now then we move forward in time, the range sheep industry began to disappear due to labor problems, government regulations, land use changes by public land administrators, imports, etc. Therefore, control efforts in and around range sheep herds decreased.  Cattle numbers began to decline.  Longhair fur prices fell, gas prices went up, vehicle prices went up, predator hunting declined, and soon predator population numbers began to come back.  Today the Nevada landscape is filled up with coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions with some prowling the alleys of towns and cities.  Predators have a "free-roll" statewide.

So what do you think has happened to our deer population?  It has steadily gone down-hill with the decrease in predator control efforts and will continue to do so unless there is a dramatic decrease in predatory animal population numbers. NDOW has blamed the mule deer decline on overgrazing by livestock, poor habitat, too many fires, too cold, too wet, too dry, not enough snow, too much snow, etc. They are in denial when it comes to the overall effect that predators have on our mule deer and upland game bird population numbers in the State of Nevada.

In 2007, NDOW reported, there were 114,000 mule deer in the State of Nevada. Looks to me like we are almost out of deer. I wonder, what are the coyote, bobcat, and mountain lion numbers statewide in 2008???

I would solicit your printing this in your column

Thank you,

James "Mike" Laughlin

Supervisory Wildlife Biologist (Retired)

Bachelor of Science Degree- Wildlife Biology- Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona

 

Ed. Note: Of course, the Reno Gazette-Journal did not print the rebuttal.

Published in HA Newsletter 33
Thursday, 27 March 2008 00:00

Gibbons Should Choose As He Sees Fit

Reprinted from The Sparks Tribune

Some sportsmen’s groups are attacking Gov. Jim Gibbons, claiming “unease” for him being a “conservative western Republican” while serving in the U.S. Congress.

 

Not surprisingly, some of these same, who, by the way, DO NOT poll their membership before making such outlandish comments, were big fans of liberals such as Kenny Guinn and Harry Reid.

 

I know that for a fact, since I am a lifetime member of one of the most prominent critics, Nevada Bighorns Unlimited (NBU). Much to my embarrassment, one so-called spokesman for NBU, Larry Johnson, even went so far as to claim “Harry Reid saved hunting in Nevada,” a statement Reid quite wisely used in a campaign mailer targeted to fishing and hunting license holders throughout the state.

 

Reid saved hunting? What a joke. Without belaboring the point, a handful of anti-Gibbons types are being quoted as supposedly representing the views of certain organizations but in fact are simply expressing their own distorted views.

 

So  the current attack, well documented in a large article by Associated Press writer Sandra Chereb in last Sunday’s Sparks Tribune, is an attempt to keep Gibbons from properly exercising his prerogative and replace members of the Nevada State Wildlife Commission with his own choices. They want Gibbons’ enemy and former Gov. Kenny Guinn’s appointed commissioners reappointed.

 

Apparently, they believe Gibbons is too stupid to make wise choices. Not surprisingly, both of those they want reappointed are former board members of NBU. I am not sying the two commissioners in question are not good men; in fact, I respect both of them and have high regard especially for Jim Jeffress, whose opinions I deeply value. I am saying that Gibbons is fully capable of selecting others equally qualified without needing to pander to the elitist NBU mentality.

 

Another group criticizing Gibbons and supposedly representing sportsmen is the Coalition for Nevada’s Wildlife. As a founding member of this coalition, I know a great deal about its makeup.

 

Originally, many sportsmen’s groups started with this coalition, formed at a meeting in Winnemucca in 1993. I was at that original meeting and was an active participant on the board for about three years thereafter. However, since NBU was and remains today the primary source of its funds, it gradually eroded away from representing many divergent views to instead being simply a front for NBU. In fact, when we held the original elections for officers, that point was made very clear, and NBU board member Larry Johnson was selected as president. Now, about 14 years later, surprise, surprise – that same Larry Johnson remains president. The idea of a “coalition” is a joke. Divergent views are, in fact, not welcomed.

 

The current complaints about Gibbons really boil down to an elitist view of how wildlife in Nevada should be managed. The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) has the management responsibility, and frankly, has been for years spending disproportionate time and efforts on programs catering to groups like NBU at the cost of the rank-and-file sportsman.

 

For example, Nevada has less than 200 bighorn sheep tags available yearly so only a tiny share of Nevada sportsmen has a chance at getting such a tag. By comparison, up to 30,000 to 50,000 deer tags are available in a good year. Despite these huge differences, NDOW focuses a grossly disproportionate amount of time, dollars and effort on the bighorn sheep, and the influence of groups like NBU is one of the reasons why.

 

Gibbons was elected with the support of smaller sportsmen’s groups on the promise to bring balance back to the wildlife equation. For the good of all sportsmen, not a handful of the rich and powerful, he should honor his campaign pledges and restructure the commission as he sees fit.

 

Ira Hansen is a lifelong resident of Sparks, owner of Ira Hansen and Sons Plumbing and his radio talk show can be heard Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. on 99.1 FM.
Published in HA Newsletter 33
Tuesday, 01 July 2008 00:00

A New Day for Wildlife

The Outdoorsman was published in Idaho during the early 1970s in response to severe declines in wild game populations across the U.S. With widespread national circulation, it published documented biological facts to disprove the unsupported “balance-of-nature” theories advanced by environmental activists.  These facts were provided to state and federal fish and game management agencies and elected officials, and are credited with the restoration of abundant wild game populations, which peaked in the western states in 1988.

During that period of wildlife abundance, non-hunting activists at the national and international level infiltrated state wildlife management agencies with their agendas.  The resulting steady decline in wild game populations throughout the West for the next 15 years caused The Outdoorsman to be resurrected in March 2004 by former editor and publisher, George Dovel.

Published in HA Newsletter 33

Reprinted from the Sparks Tribune

For 15 years in a row, here in the Tribune, I have written an annual column on the status of Nevada’s deer herd and, remarkably, the numbers have barely moved, with the herd remaining at rock-bottom levels: a little more than 100,000 animals. By comparison, we reached a peak in 1988, when 250,000 deer roamed the state.

 

That’s the bad news. But hope is on the horizon – at least the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) is making major strides to, within its rather limited constraints, do something about it.

Published in HA Newsletter 33

In the 2001 Legislative session, HUNTER’S ALERT, working with Nevada Hunters Association and Assemblyman Jerry Claborn were successful in passing Assembly Bill 291. This bill enacted a $3.00 predator fee for every big game tag that hunters applied for. It should be noted that no other so-called sportsmen’s organization helped in the passage of this bill which was desperately needed to restore our deer.

 

This bill provides over $300,000 a year for predator control. The original intent of the bill was to do predator control to bring back our deer. However, former governor Kenny Guinn’s appointments to the Wildlife Commission, Tommy Ford, John Moran, Clint Bentley, Jack Robb and Jim Jeffress decided to do more sheep projects than deer projects. The reason for this is that the Wildlife Commission was stacked with sheep club members. It shows that they could care less about people who want to hunt deer.

 

To them, it was more important for 150 people to hunt sheep than the 35,000 hunters who want to hunt deer. I guess nobody in the sheep club hunts deer. Nothing like being a selfish bunch! NDOW has refused to do any predator control on its own. So with the money provided by sportsmen, they farm it out to Wildlife Services.

Published in HA Newsletter 33

NDOW director Ken Mayer has held the post for almost three years. During these two plus years, he has done nothing to bring back our deer. Quite the contrary, in the last two legislative sessions, there were bills proposed to enhance our mule deer. He opposed both of them.

 

Recently, a bolt of lightning must have struck the director. On July 8, chief of big game, Mark Atkinson announced that Tony Wasley had accepted the new position of Mule Deer Wildlife Staff Specialist. This is the same Tony Wasley, Elko based biologist, who recommended killing 987 does this year. But it gets better with this mule deer specialist. A 2004 press release by Kelly Clark on NDOW’s website quotes some of Wasley’s mule deer studies and comes up with this conclusion: “Most hunters ask what we can do to achieve higher numbers of deer. Pray for good summer rain. Nevada is the driest state in the Union and water is key in wildlife management. Without rain and snow to keep creeks running, springs fresh, grasses, forbs and brush tender and green for food and cover, deer numbers dwindle.”

Published in HA Newsletter 34
Monday, 01 June 2009 00:00

NDOW’s New Favorite Excuse

When NDOW needs an excuse to grab at, make it habitat!

 

For twenty years, HUNTER’S ALERT has listened to the twenty excuses from NDOW about the loss of our deer. The excuse that NDOW used most often was drought. For many years, the favorite motto for NDOW was “When in doubt, use drought” for the loss of our deer. Either NDOW wore out the drought excuse or the drought has subsided as NDOW has now changed their main excuse to the “loss of habitat”.  NDOW’s new motto is “If you need an excuse to grab at, make It habitat”.

Published in HA Newsletter 34

Reprinted from Reno Gazette Journal,

June 24, 2009

At the May meeting to set tag quotas, the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners voted 7-1 to support the recommendations of Elko-based Nevada Department of Wildlife biologist, Tony Wasley to issue 987 doe mule deer tags in areas 101, 102 and 104A, which encompass all of the Ruby Mountains north of Harrison Pass.

Published in HA Newsletter 34
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