Become an INSIDER to gain access to this article

Join now

APPLICATION STRATEGY 2016: New Mexico Elk, Deer, Antelope

 

Bull elk walking near ponderosa pines
Photo credit: Getty Images

New Mexico's elk, deer and antelope application overview

Jump to: New for 2016 State Information Draw System Elk Breakdown Mule Deer Breakdown Coues Deer Breakdown Antelope Breakdown

Trophy quality among New Mexico’s elk and antelope are among the best in the West. The moisture of 2015 was ideal across most of the state, leaving the range conditions in good shape going into the winter. The current winter has brought adequate moisture again and, with the current El Niño pattern, we can hope for another great antler year in the Land of Enchantment.

Elk numbers across the state are in great shape with an increasing bull to cow ratio in many units. New Mexico continues to produce some of the largest antelope bucks thanks to the stellar genetics and great management. New Mexico is home to a unique variety of deer species. Deer hunters can select from mule deer, Coues deer, and eastern whitetail.

With no bonus point system in place, it is never too late to begin applying in New Mexico. This article will give you the knowledge you need to develop an application strategy and apply for 2016.

Note: The application deadline for deer, elk, and antelope is March 23, 2016 by 5 p.m. Mountain Time. Apply online here.



Why New Mexico for elk, deer and antelope

Draw change translates into new opportunity for nonresidents

Big bulls!

The famed Gila region continually generates big bulls and other areas, such as the units near the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation, are also consistent producers.

Giant antelope!

The reigning world record antelope hails from New Mexico and was recently harvested in 2013… Need we say more?

No point system brings hope

Although this can be viewed as a bad thing by some, having no point system means that some good old fashioned luck can provide you with an opportunity of a lifetime. Everybody has the same chance of drawing!

Special allocation for guided hunters

If you plan to hire an outfitter once you are fortunate enough to draw, then increase your odds of drawing by applying with an outfitter. The outfitter draw receives a special allocation of tags and by contracting with an outfitter prior to applying, you can gain an edge on the competition.

The cost to NOT build points

Applying in New Mexico for elk makes sense when compared to Idaho who also doesn't have a bonus points program.

Idaho and New Mexico application cost comparison for nonrefundable fees

The cost to NOT build points

Elk tag application cost comparison
New Mexico vs Idaho — Nonresident only
  New Mexico Idaho
Application item Cost Refundable Cost Refundable
Annual hunting license $65 Yes $154.75 No
Application fee $13 No $14.75 No
Online processing fee N/A N/A $21.08 No
Elk tag $773 Yes $416.75 Yes
Total out of pocket $851   $607.33  
Refunded if unsuccessful $838   $416.75  
Net cost to apply $13   $190.58  

 



New for 2016

•  Unit 6B Valle Caldera elk tags are now offered through the draw application process and provide an incredible elk hunting experience. (See more information below)
•  New Mexico residents that are active military or veterans can now receive 50% off licenses, permits, and stamps.



State information

View important information and an overview of the New Mexico’s rules/regulations, the draw system, tag and license fees and an interactive boundary line map on our State Profile. You can also view the New Mexico species profiles to access historical and statistical data to help you locate trophy units.

New Mexico State Profile Elk Profile Mule Deer Profile Coues Deer Profile Antelope Profile

Important dates and information

•  Deadline to apply for deer, elk, and antelope is March 23, 2016 by 5 p.m. Mountain Time.
•  Apply online here.
•  Draw results will be available on the New Mexico Game and Fish Department (NMGFD) website by April 27, 2016.
•  Results will also be available by phone and in NMGFD offices.
•  There are no bonus points or preference points in New Mexico.
•  A valid game hunting license must be purchased prior to applying.
•  Application and full license fees are charged at the time that the application is submitted.
•  Unsuccessful draw applicants will receive a full refund for the draw license, minus the application fee.
•  Unsuccessful draw applicants also may receive a full refund of the game hunting license fee, if requested at the time of application.
•  The first three hunt choices are considered when an application is drawn.
•  If you enter a fourth choice, then you will be placed in a separate pool where permits are awarded for hunts that have not met their full number.
•  The fourth choice on the application indicates that you are willing to accept a population management hunt choice, which is often an antlerless permit.
•  You may not edit your application once submitted.
•  You can withdraw your application prior to the deadline, request a full refund (less the application fee), and then you can re-apply.
•  You can mix deer species on your deer application choices.
•  New Mexico has a mandatory harvest reporting! Regardless of whether you harvest or not, you must report.

New Mexico state law has established the following quotas for draw hunts:

•  84% of draw licenses are awarded to New Mexico residents.
•  10% of draw licenses are awarded to residents and nonresidents applying with a New Mexico registered outfitter.
•  6% of draw licenses are awarded to nonresidents applying without a New Mexico registered outfitter.



The draw system

Understanding the draw

You must purchase an annual big game hunting license in order to apply for a big game species. This license can be purchased online at the time of application or at a NMGFD office. The license is valid for the calendar year.

All draw applications are entered into an automated system that randomly assigns each application a sequence number. Based on this number, the system matches the first, second, third choices on the application with available tags. If all choices have already been awarded, the system advances to the next application. New Mexico does not grant preference or bonus points to unsuccessful applicants. If an applicant selects a fourth-choice hunt, he/she will be placed in a second pool from which tags may be awarded if a hunt has not met its full number. Only successful applicants will be notified by email. An unsuccessful applicant will not be notified, but may check their NMDGF account online. For more information about the Draw Hunt System, click here.

Remember that New Mexico distributes their deer, elk, and antelope permits under this quota:
•  84% of draw licenses are awarded to New Mexico residents.
•  10% of draw licenses are awarded to residents and nonresidents applying with a New Mexico registered outfitter.
•  6% of draw licenses are awarded to nonresidents applying without a New Mexico registered outfitter.

If you want to improve your chances at drawing a tag and you are willing to hire an outfitter if you draw, then use our Outfitter Directory to find a New Mexico outfitter to contract with prior to the draw. The outfitter will then assist you in applying for the draw.


 

Unlocking New Mexico’s draw system

As mentioned previously, the only choices that actually matter are the first three choices on the application. The fourth choice should not be filled in unless you are willing to take an undersubscribed hunt choice, which is usually a population management antlerless permit for elk or a very undesirable deer hunt choice that is undersubscribed.

New Mexico elk application process

When selecting your hunt options, do yourself a big favor and list the hardest to draw hunt choice as your first choice and the least difficult desired hunt choice as your third choice. Use our Draw Odds and Unit Profiles to search for hunt choices that fit your criteria. Pay attention to the difficulty in drawing your respective choices.

Remember that there is no points system in place in New Mexico so you have the same chance at drawing as the next applicant. You will need some genuine luck to draw a tag in New Mexico!

Draw odds calculator for New Mexico

Hopefully by now you have had an opportunity to look into our Draw Odds feature. It is important to understand that New Mexico considers your first three choices when your application is drawn prior to advancing to the next drawn application. Obviously the order that you select a hunt choice has a significant impact on your odds of drawing that choice. You will notice that your odds are generally much higher of drawing a hunt selection listed first choice than when listed as a subsequent choice (second or third). We obtain lists from the state of New Mexico that indicate the draw choice position that each tag was drawn. This important data allows us to provide you with the most accurate odds down to the choice level.



New Mexico elk breakdown

7x7 Unit 12 New Mexico bull elk taken with Southwest Big Game Brokerage

7x7 Unit 12 New Mexico bull elk taken with Southwest Big Game Brokerage — A goHUNT Business Member

Current elk herd condition

Wet winters and wet springs bring forth exactly what elk hunters desire — big antlers! The timing of the 2015 storms could not have been scripted any better. Moisture came at the perfect moment to provide quality forage throughout the entire antler growth stage of the elk. This meant that range conditions going into the current winter were near ideal. We have also experienced decent moisture so far this winter although certain parts of the state are slightly behind normal. According to the National Weather Service, the southwestern portion of the U.S. is officially in an El Niño pattern, which means great things for the antler growth cycle again.

Prior to 2015, the majority of New Mexico was caught in a terrible drought that lingered on for years. Wildlife, especially elk, felt the drought’s wrath as antlers did not reach their capacity due to inadequate habitat and calf recruitment was struggling. That all changed in 2015 and, hopefully, 2016 continues to be wet enough at the right times.

New Mexico statewide elk harvest

The seasons

Archery

The early season dates are reserved for the archery hunters. Most of the units in New Mexico used to offer three different archery seasons in the month of September, but now there are only two seasons to select from. The first season is a pre-rut experience as the weather is still very warm and bulls are not seeking cows during the early days of this season. If you plan to hunt the first archery season, then plan to be near water sources. You should anticipate that the bulls will not be vocal until the last few days of this season.

The second archery season is still pre-rut. With dates that span ten days around the third week in September, you can plan on some vocal elk and bulls in search of cows. Calling will work here and chasing bugles in early morning and late afternoons is a good tactic. Obviously, this will be the hardest of the archery seasons to draw due to the high demand.

Rifle and muzzleloader

The peak of the elk breeding cycle takes place during the last week of September and the first week in October. For the most part, New Mexico does not offer seasons during this time period so that elk have an opportunity to breed undisturbed. Unit 12 and Unit 43 are the exceptions that offer peak rut rifle season dates. While Unit 43 is a low density area with a challenging elk hunt (17% harvest success), Unit 12 is actually a unit that provides a decent chance at harvesting a quality bull during these peak rut dates (69% harvest success).

Youth hunters and mobility-impaired hunters actually get the first opportunity to hunt many of the quality units with longer range weapons like rifles and muzzleloaders. While most of the units have rifle and muzzleloader seasons that begin Oct. 15, there are several youth and mobility-impaired seasons that take place Oct. 8, which would still capitalize on rut behavior.

There are also a few decent units, which have seasons that begin on Oct. 8 and are available for hunters that are not youth or mobility-impaired. Below is a list of units that offer rifle or muzzleloader units with elk seasons that have a season that takes place Oct. 8 to 12 and have a 40% or better success rate.

Second week of October rifle and muzzleloader
seasons with 40% or more harvest sucess

Unit

Season
dates
Weapon
type
Harvest
Success
Trophy
potential
Unit 4 Oct. 8 to 12 Rifle 50% 330"+
Unit 6A Oct. 8 to 12 Muzzleloader 43% 320"+
Unit 9 Oct. 8 to 12 Muzzleloader 67% 300"+
Unit 36 Oct. 8 to 12 Muzzleloader 53% 360"+
Unit 51A Oct. 8 to 12 Rifle 40% 310"+
Unit 51B Oct. 8 to 12 Rifle 40% 310"+
Unit 55A Oct. 8 to 12 Muzzleloader 68% 320"+
Unit 56 Oct. 8 to 12 Rifle 100% 300"+
Unit 57 Oct. 8 to 12 Rifle 56% 320"+
Unit 58 Oct. 8 to 12 Rifle 56% 300"+


 

Late season New Mexico bull elk taken with Milligan Brand
Late season New Mexico bull elk taken with Milligan Brand — A goHUNT Business Member

There are also rifle and muzzleloader seasons with dates that are later in the fall. Although the rut period is over during these seasons, there is still a chance to harvest a good bull. Some of the local outfitters and guides actually prefer the later seasons because if they locate a good bull later in the fall, the bull will usually stay in that area, which allows them a good chance to harvest that bull. Some broken antlers are common during the later seasons since it takes place after the rut.

Areas to consider

The famed Gila National Forest has long been the king of the New Mexico elk units. The units that make up the Gila are Unit 15, Unit 16A, Unit 16B, Unit 16C, Unit 16D, Unit 16E, Unit 21A, and Unit 22. Obviously, some of these units are better than others. Unit 16A and Unit 16D are generally the two best options out there for producing the best bulls on a consistent basis, but they are also the hardest units to draw.

New Mexico's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for typical elk

County

No. of
entries

Units found
within county

Catron 6 12, 13, 15, 16A, 16B, 16C, 16D, 16E, 21A, 22, 23
Lincoln 6 18, 36, 37, 38
Colfax 2 48, 49, 54, 55A, 55B, 56, 57
Cibola 1 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

 

New Mexico's top B&C producing
counties since 2000 for nontypical elk

County

No. of
entries

Units found
within county

Colfax 2 48, 49, 54, 55A, 55B, 56, 57
Sierra 2 16B, 16C, 21A, 21B, 24
Caltron 2 12, 13, 15, 16A, 16B, 16C, 16D, 16E, 21A, 22, 23
Sandoval 1 6A, 6B, 6C, 7, 9

 

Valles Caldera National Preserve — Unit 6B

The opportunity to apply for the Valles Caldera National Preserve (VCNP) in Unit 6B through the draw system is new for 2016. Historically, the VCNP was only available through a separate raffle that was handled through the National Preserve. Now you can select from the seasons offered in Unit 6B in the regular draw. Hunters that are drawn for Unit 6B (VCNP) will be required to wear 244 square inches of orange while hunting. A hunter orientation and a seven-day vehicle pass ($20) will also be required.

Don’t overlook the areas that surround the Gila like Unit 13 and Unit 17 as well as Unit 34 and Unit 36, which are further east near the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation. These units are contenders for generating big bulls that regularly score over 350” B&C. Another bonus: the region around Unit 34 and Unit 36 has actually received as much winter moisture as the Gila region this year.

If sheer trophy size is not what you’re after and you would consider a tag that allowed you to hunt for opportunity, then look north to Unit 51A, Unit 51B and Unit 52. Both of these units issue a good number of tags and have high numbers of elk. Although not known for bulls scoring over 330”, these two units are just the place to get you into branch antlered bulls and a fun hunt. If you are looking for more of a physical unit that will take you into some of the most pristine country that New Mexico has to offer, then Unit 45 is your choice. Unit 45, also known as the Pecos, will require the hunter to backpack or horseback into the rugged terrain for a chance to harvest bulls that typically range from 280” to 320” B&C.

The goHUNT hit list units for New Mexico elk
 

New Mexico bull elk taken with Frontier Outfitting
New Mexico bull elk taken with Frontier Outfitting — A goHUNT Business Member

Below is a list of what we consider to be the top trophy producing units in New Mexico for big bull elk.

Top hit list units to consider for 350" or better bulls

Unit

Trophy
potential
Unit 16A 370"+
Unit 16D 370"+
Unit 6B 370"+
Unit 13 360"+
Unit 16C 360"+
Unit 17 360"+
Unit 36 360"+
Unit 15 350"+
Unit 16E 350"+
Unit 34 350"+


New Mexico bull taken with Beaverhead Outfitters
New Mexico bull taken with Beaverhead Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

Unit 16A and Unit 16D continue to be at the top of the trophy food chain in New Mexico. With miles of public land that have enough rugged terrain to hide big bulls, we expect these neighboring units to continue to generate giants. To the east of the Gila in the Magdalena and San Mateo mountains is Unit 17, which has large wilderness areas that offer some very rugged and rough terrain to hide some big bulls. Yet, when the bulls rut, they become vulnerable and venture out into moderate terrain that is somewhat open. You can now apply through the public drawing for Unit 6B and hunt the VCNP. If you are lucky enough to draw one of the few tags in Unit 6B, then you are in for an incredible experience with low hunting pressure. Unit 15 is on the western edge of New Mexico and borders some of Arizona’s very best elk hunting; Unit 16D is its southern border. This unit has miles of public forest service with both gentle and rugged terrain. North of the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation and near Riudoso you will find Unit 36, which has some of New Mexico’s best bulls. This unit has a fair amount of private land, which means that it is important to do your homework. On the southern border of the reservation lies Unit 34. This unit has been extremely popular over the years and has gained a reputation of producing action packed hunting with a high density of elk and high bull to cow ratio. Unit 13 is full of big ranch properties that will frustrate and restrict some hunters. For hunters who are willing to spend a little time learning land boundaries and scout, they will find that Unit 13 is capable of producing bulls as large as Unit 16A and 16D.



Elk application strategy

How do I apply if I am only concerned with trophy quality?

Giant New Mexico bull elk taken with Mangas Outfitters

Giant New Mexico bull elk taken with Mangas Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

Since you have three choices to consider on your application, you need to approach this carefully When your application is drawn, all three choices are considered before moving on to the next application. Do yourself a favor and select three seasons from our Hit List units above. Remember that you can select seasons of varying weapon types for your application. Use our Filtering 2.0 and Draw Odds tools to select your three hunt choices. Remember to list the season that you have the lowest chance of drawing first. Your third choice should be the option with the best chance of drawing. If you have a trophy hunter’s mindset, you will need to be patient because it may take years to get lucky and draw a tag. Good luck!

How do I apply if I am interested in opportunity more than quality?

With this approach it is important to figure out what’s best for you. Filtering 2.0 and our Unit Profiles will help you discover some good options. A good selection for a first choice would be a premium, harder to draw tag. Aim for the stars on choice number one. You may just get lucky and be one of the first applications drawn, which is why we recommend that you select quality as your first choice. Your second and third choice should focus on opportunity. For your second choice, look at seasons that fit your weapon and hunting style, but offer a decent harvest success. Opt for a season from the table above that lists some choices with 40% or better harvest success and early October dates. For your third choice, pick a hunt that has easier draw odds, but still has a chance to provide success. If you are a bowhunter, early archery season in either Unit 12 or Unit 52 are good choices. If you are willing to do a backcountry hunt, then consider early archery in Unit 45.

Find your draw odds



New Mexico mule deer breakdown
 

New Mexico mule deer taken with WASA Outfitters
New Mexico mule deer taken with WASA Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

New Mexico is one of only two western states to offer three different deer species which makes it an extremely diverse state for deer. Although mule deer trophy quality seems to be improving in New Mexico, the overall mule deer hunt quality is average at best. Solid Coues deer opportunity exists in the few units that have them. The third deer species is eastern whitetail, which are very limited in habitat, but offer some true trophies on private lands. Below is a breakdown by species. Remember that you can mix and match species types on your application to fill out your three choices!

Current mule deer herd condition

If you compare New Mexico to other Western states, the average mule deer quality is poor. Overall deer numbers across the state have declined over the last few decades. There are only a few good areas within the state that actually provide a quality hunt for quality bucks, but these areas are very few. Most of the units provide a chance for a branch antlered buck, but not a high scoring buck.

New Mexico statewide mule deer harvest
State did not separate buck/doe data in 2012.

The goHUNT hit list units for New Mexico mule deer

The standout units for mule deer continue to be Unit 2B, Unit 2C, and Unit 5B. These three units are found adjacent to the famed Jicarilla Apache Indian Reservation and hold some of the highest mule deer densities in the state along with the transient Jicarilla buck that wanders through. These three units provide a chance to harvest a buck that exceeds 180” B&C.

Top hit list units to consider for mule deer

Unit

Trophy
potential

Unit 2B 180"+
Unit 2C 180"+
Unit 5B 180"+
Unit 4 170"+
Unit 5A 160"+
Unit 10 160"+
Unit 15 160"+


Other units around the state will produce an occasional big buck simply because it is possible for a random buck to grow old anywhere in the state. Unit 4, Unit 5A, Unit 10, and Unit 15 are capable of producing a big mule deer, but not with regularity.

New Mexico's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for typical mule deer

County*

No. of
entries

Units found
within county

Rio Arriba 13 2B, 2C, 4, 5A, 5B, 6A, 6C, 7, 45, 50, 51A, 51B, 52
San Juan 4 2A, 2B, 2C, 7

*Five counties with one entry
 

New Mexico's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for nontypical mule deer

County*

No. of
entries

Units found
within county

Rio Arriba 2 2B, 2C, 4, 5A, 5B, 6A, 6C, 7, 45, 50, 51A, 51B, 52
San Juan 1 2A, 2B, 2C, 7

 



Deer application strategy

It is best to be proficient with primitive weapons if you are looking to capitalize on the limited high quality deer hunting opportunities that New Mexico has to offer. Remember that you can mix and match deer species and weapon types among your three choices on the deer application.

It is very important to avoid listing a fourth choice for deer since there are many undersubscribed hunts across the state. Listing a fourth choice will indicate that you are willing to accept any undersubscribed or population management hunt that is available.

How do I apply if I am only concerned with trophy quality?

If you are only interested in mule deer, then you should stay focused exclusively on Unit 2B, Unit 2C, and Unit 5B. Being proficient with multiple weapon types is important here. The very best mule deer hunts are the late archery in January in Unit 2B and Unit 2C. There is also a good November rifle option in Unit 2C that is in mid-November and should have limited rut activity.

How do I apply if I am interested in opportunity more than quality?

With this mindset, it is important to use our Filtering 2.0 extensively to find hunt choices that have high harvest success. Look for hunt choices that have dates that fit your schedule. Remember to list a high quality choice as your first choice, just in case you get lucky. Follow it up with two acceptable, good success rate hunt choices that fit your trophy potential. Remember that you can mix and match deer species.

Find your draw odds



New Mexico Coues deer breakdown

When it comes to deer in New Mexico, Coues deer may be the highest quality deer species. Coues deer enthusiasts generally look to Arizona and Old Mexico as the places to hunt trophy Coues. This gives New Mexico the ability to grow some trophy bucks since the hunting pressure is somewhat low and the terrain is relatively remote and rugged.

Illegal immigrant travel should be a consideration before hunting areas along the U.S./Mexico border. Much of southwest New Mexico is situated along some major illegal immigration trafficking routes. This can be a major issue in Unit 27 so be prepared if you decide to hunt there.

Current Coues deer herd condition

Coues deer are more adaptable to drought conditions and numbers have held steady offering a great hunting opportunity.

The goHUNT hit list units for New Mexico Coues deer

There are only three units that have designated Coues deer numbers. These units are Unit 23, Unit 24, and Unit 27. All three of these units are capable of producing a trophy Coues deer scoring over 90” and as high as 100” plus. There are pockets of Coues deer that inhabit a few other units that lie adjacent to these three units, but not high enough numbers to justify an actual season and tag designated as Coues deer only.

Top hit list units to consider for 100" or better Coues deer

Unit

Trophy
potential

Unit 24 100"+
Unit 27 100"+
Unit 23 95"+

 

New Mexico's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for typical Coues deer

County

No. of
entries

Units found
within county

Grant 3 23, 24
Hidalgo 3 23, 27
Sierra 1 No current hunts*

 

New Mexico's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for nontypical Coues deer

County

No. of
entries

Units found
within county

Grant 1 23, 24

 



Coues deer application strategy

How do I apply if I am only concerned with trophy quality?

As for Coues deer, select from the weapon type and date that fits your schedule best. Use our Draw Odds calculator to see what your most difficult to draw choice is and list that as choice number one. Again, the easiest to draw choice should be listed third.

How do I apply if I am interested in opportunity more than quality?

With this mindset, it is important to use our Filtering 2.0 extensively to find hunt choices that have high harvest success. Look for hunt choices that have dates that fit your schedule. Remember to list a high quality choice as your first choice, just in case you get lucky. Follow it up with two acceptable, good success rate hunt choices that fit your trophy potential. Remember that you can mix and match deer species.

Find your draw odds


 

Whitetail deer

By far the fewest in number among New Mexico’s deer species are the eastern whitetail deer. Nearly all of the whitetail are found in northeast New Mexico on large ranches with creek or river bottoms and agricultural fields nearby. Surprisingly, there are some trophy bucks to be found that often exceed 140” B&C, but arranged access through an outfitter is highly recommended prior to considering hunting New Mexico for whitetail deer. An interesting fact is that there has only been one whitetail deer from New Mexico that has ever been entered in Boone and Crockett records. Obviously this is not the destination for a book whitetail.



The deer seasons

Archery

There are designated archery seasons for both mule deer and Coues deer. In fact, some of the very best seasons available for deer in New Mexico are archery seasons. Unit 2B and Unit 2C have January archery mule deer seasons that will get you in the field at the tail end of the rut and should provide a chance to hunt and track in the snow. Unlike other archery deer seasons in other units, the late archery tag in these two units is among the most challenging of all seasons to draw.

Coues deer can also be hunted during the rut in January with archery equipment. All three Coues deer units provide this opportunity and these tags are among the easiest to draw.

Early archery for all species of deer in September is also available in every unit statewide. This will provide a chance to hunt bucks in velvet and in summer patterns. There are some high alpine opportunities in Unit 45 and Unit 49 that will allow for above timberline bowhunting, but much of the state will be forests or deserts.

Muzzleloader

Muzzleloader only seasons are available in most of the units across the state. Season dates vary unit to unit. There are some great opportunities with muzzleloaders thanks to the liberal laws that allow any scope, propellant, or projectile to be used in New Mexico. With the right setup and a lot of practice, you can develop a gun and load that is capable of legally and effectively shooting out to 300 yards or more. This is a great opportunity as these weapons are hardly primitive.

Rifle

Every unit across the state offers a season that allows rifle deer hunting. The dates vary unit by unit. Some seasons will take place later in the fall, but not late enough to provide a rifle rut hunt. The only real rut mule deer hunt with a rifle is the Nov. 12 to 16 season offered in Unit 2C, and this is really timed with the early stages of the rut.



New Mexico antelope breakdown
 

Antelope buck taken with WASA Outfitters
Antelope buck taken with WASA Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

Antelope are probably New Mexico’s shining star of the three species covered in this write up. With the reigning world record antelope harvested in 2013 from New Mexico, it shows that the state has the potential and that the glory days are alive and well.

Current antelope herd condition

Like the other species, moisture is necessary to produce a high scoring trophy antelope. The overall condition of the antelope herd is in good shape and numbers are promising. There are large ranch properties across the state that hold trophy bucks as well as some quality bucks available on public lands.

New Mexico statewide whitetail antelope harvest

How the antelope draw works

When you apply for rifle or muzzleloader antelope in New Mexico, and are lucky enough to draw, then you will be assigned a ranch to hunt. You do not know what ranch you will be permitted to hunt at the time of application. Most ranches in New Mexico have great antelope to hunt; others are not as good. Archery antelope hunters are allowed to hunt the public lands within the unit.

Like other species, you will have three choices to consider when applying for antelope. You can mix up your choices with rifle, muzzleloader, or archery options.

goHUNT's Hit List units for antelope

•  Unit Group 15, 16 (A, B, C, D, E17, 21 (A, B)
•  Unit Group 18, 36, 37, 38
•  Unit Group 41, 42, 43, 46, 47, 48, 54, 55 (A, B), 56, 57, 58, 59
•  Unit Group 7, 9, 12, 13

Top hit list units to consider for 80" or better antelope

Unit

Trophy
potential
Unit 13 80"+
Unit 15 80"+
Unit 16A 80"+
Unit 16C 80"+
Unit 16D 80"+
Unit 16E 80"+
Unit 17 80"+
Unit 29 80"+
Unit 36 80"+
Unit 38 80"+

 

New Mexico's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for antelope

County

No. of
entries

Units found
within county

Socorro 25 13, 14, 16E, 17, 18, 20, 21B
Catron 24 12, 13, 15, 16A, 16B, 16C, 16D, 16E, 21A, 23
Mora 24 42, 46, 47, 48

 

 


Antelope application strategy

How do I apply if I am only concerned with trophy quality?

If a book antelope is what you are after, then you must be applying for New Mexico antelope. Your first selection should be for our number one pick in our Hit List. This area has more high end antelope bucks than any other part of the state. With continued moisture, this year should be a great year to have that tag. Select other unit groups from the Hit List as second and third choices. If you are proficient with a bow, then look to this same unit group as a substitute for your third choice.

How do I apply if I am interested in opportunity more than quality?

Opportunity and antelope rarely are found within the same sentence. New Mexico is really no exception. As with other species, select a top end unit group as your first choice in case you are drawn early. Follow that up with archery choices to finish out your second and third choices. Utilize the Draw Odds calculator to find an easier choice to use as your third choice. Good luck!

Find your draw odds

Comments

50 States for 50 Bucks
Save 25% During Our Flash Sale!
Get Hunting Gear for Less