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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2017: New Mexico Sheep and Exotics

New Mexico desert bighorn sheep

New Mexico's sheep and exotics application overview

Jump to: New for 2017 State Information Draw System Rocky Bighorn Breakdown Desert Bighorn Breakdown Ibex Breakdown Oryx Breakdown Barbary Sheep Breakdown

New Mexico is one of the most diverse states when it comes to wildlife. In previous articles, we have covered deer, elk, and antelope; however, if you are in search of desert bighorn sheep from a destination that holds some of the largest in the West, then look no further than New Mexico. This state is home to phenomenal bighorn hunting opportunities as well as unique opportunities to pursue exotic species like ibex, oryx, and barbary sheep making New Mexico truly a Land of Enchantment.

Note: The application deadline for all species in New Mexico is March 22, 2017 at 5 pm MST. Follow this link to apply online.



Why New Mexico for sheep and exotics in 2017?

  • No point system means that every year you have the same chances as everyone else to draw that tag of a lifetime.
  • It is the only destination for free ranging ibex and oryx.
  • You can hunt barbary sheep during the off season months in winter and spring.
  • Hunting ibex with archery equipment in the Florida Mountains is one of the most challenging hunts anywhere.

 

New for 2017

  • Some bighorn sheep have been relocated to the Jemez Wilderness and are doing well. Hopefully, this means additional opportunities in the future.

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 Rocky Bighorn Profile Desert Bighorn Profile Ibex Profile Oryx Profile Barbary Sheep Profile Draw Odds Filtering 2.0

Important dates and information

  • Draw applications are due on March 22, 2017 by 5:00 p.m. MST.
  • For those who had New Mexico tags in 2016, late harvest reports must be submitted by March 22, 2017 for you to be eligible for the draw.
  • Apply online here.
  • There are no bonus points or preference points in New Mexico.
  • Application and full license fees are charged at the time that the application is submitted.

Drought or snowpack in New Mexico
 

New Mexico is in the middle of a relatively low drought (not severe, but a slight drought nonetheless). Projections for 2017 are looking as though it should be a rainier than usual year, which should help drought conditions.



The draw system

Understanding the draw

New Mexico requires that all applicants pay the full amount at the time of application. For the species covered in this article, a nonresident tag fee is a hefty sum to front ahead of time. For example, a nonresident bighorn sheep tag has a price tag of $3,173. Sending off that amount at the time of application discourages a lot of hunters and many choose not to apply. This can be viewed as a benefit to those that do apply because it simply raises their odds of drawing a tag.

All draw applications are entered into an automated system that randomly assigns each application a sequence number. Based upon this number, the system matches the first, second, and third choices on the application with available tags. If all choices have already been awarded, the system advances to the next application. For more information about the draw hunt system, click here.

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. The outfitter draw is truly your best chance to pick up a tag as a nonresident. You can also find guided draw results on our stand alone draw odds page here.

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.

Without a point system to gain preference over the years, it is important to have a complete understanding of how the draw works and understand draw odds for each of the seasons available for the species that you are applying for. Choice placement is important. Obviously, you should consider the most desired and probably most difficult to draw choice first. Your second choice should be the next most desirable selection and your third choice should be the one with the best odds.

One application for bighorn sheep

Although New Mexico has two bighorn sheep species available, there is only one application. You can mix and match your hunt choices between Rocky Mountain bighorn and desert bighorn. It is also important to know that once you are drawn for a sheep tag, then that species of sheep is no longer available for you to apply for. For example, if you are successful in drawing a Rocky Mountain bighorn tag, then you will only be eligible to apply for desert sheep in the future.

Bighorn sheep raffle opportunity

Two tags will be raffled by New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) with the assistance of the New Mexico Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation: one tag for desert bighorn sheep and one for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. Raffle tickets must be purchased by midnight June 22, 2017. To purchase tickets contact Lanny Rominger: lanny.rominger@yahoo.com or (505) 821-5064. The raffle winner for desert bighorn sheep will choose one hunt from the desert bighorn hunts remaining after the auction winner has chosen his/her hunt. The raffle winner for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep will choose one hunt from the Rocky Mountain bighorn hunts remaining after the auction winner has chosen his/her hunt. Hunt dates are Aug. 1 to Dec. 31, 2017, except in Unit 53 (Wheeler Peak), where the dates are Aug. 1 to 10, 2017 and Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, 2017.

Podcast listening

Podcast episode to hear more information on the New Mexico application with Jay Scott Outdoors.

Episode 257 - New Mexico Ibex, Oryx, Elk and Bighorn Sheep Breakdown with Joseph Graham of Graham's Guide Service

Listen as Jay talk's with "Ibex Nut" Joseph Graham of Graham's Guide Service — A goHUNT Business Member, about New Mexico Ibex, Oryx, elk and bighorn sheep hunts. This episode is full of great info for anyone applying in New Mexico.

Episode 260 - New Mexico Elk, Deer, Bighorn Sheep, Ibex and Oryx with goHUNT.com’s Trail Kreitzer

Trail Kreitzer of goHUNT's INSIDER and Jay Scott discuss drawing tags in New Mexico for elk, deer, antelope, bighorn sheep, and ibex. Hear the story of Trail's adventure on his archery elk hunt last year in Unit 45.

You can find the podcast index for all of the episodes on Jay's websiteiTunes and on PodBean.



New Mexico's 2017 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep breakdown

The Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in New Mexico can be found in some very diverse terrain. The units in the north end of the state like the Pecos hunt of Unit 45 and the Wheeler Peak hunt in Unit 53 are classic bighorn sheep habitat. These areas are high alpine, steep mountains that will require horseback or backpack to access the sheep. Other parts of the state have units that are not nearly as remote or as high in elevation, but still rugged. The remoteness will require hunters to be prepared physically and mentally if they are drawn. The opportunity to draw a tag is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in New Mexico so make the most of it if you are lucky enough to draw.

Current rocky bighorn herd condition

The bighorn units are managed very conservatively and decisions are made on an annual basis to open or close areas to achieve management objectives. Because of this, both Rocky Mountain and desert bighorn populations have been improving over the past 10 years.

NEW MEXICO ROCKY MOUNTAIN BIGHORN SHEEP POPULATION ESTIMATES (2002-2014)


How to uncover hidden gem units

While all of the units are truly capable of providing a chance at harvesting a 170” or better ram, some do it with more regularity. Utilize our Unit Profiles to locate a history of the bighorn sheep hunts within the unit. This will not indicate a trend in trophy quality, but it will provide a historical look at the longevity of that herd. While some of the newly opened, or re-opened, units are alluring, they can also prove to be risky. These new units do not have as many past hunters to gather information from.

The seasons

The desert bighorn sheep seasons are offered as “any legal sporting arm,” which means that the tag holder can elect to hunt with any legal weapon. The weapon chosen must abide by the limitations set forth in the regulations.

Copy: Average statewide california bighorn sheep horn stats

 

B&C entry trends for New Mexico rocky bighorn sheep

Units listed below may not have a current hunt for this species. Units in this table are included if any part of the unit is found within the county.

New Mexico's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for rocky bighorn sheep

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Taos 16 45, 49, 50, 53, 55A
Mora 2 45, 49
Catron 1 16B, 22, 23
 


The 2017 hit list units for rocky bighorn sheep in New Mexico

Top units to consider for 170” or better rocky bighorns
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
Potential
Pecos hunt area of Unit 45 180"+
Wheeler Peak hunt area of Unit 53 170"+
Latir hunt area of Units 53, 55 170"+
Rio Grande Gorge hunt area
of Units 49, 50, 53
170"+
San Francisco River/Turkey Creek
hunt area of Units 16B, 22, 23, .
170"+
Dry Cimmarron hunt area of Unit 58 170"+
TOP 10 B&C ROCKY BIGHORN SHEEP LOCATIONS SINCE 2010

 


 

How to apply for a Rocky Mountain bighorn tag in New Mexico

New Mexico bighorn sheep application process

Remember if you are interested in hunting Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep this year that you will need to list the hunt code BHS-1-201 as one of your three sheep choices. Once you list this hunt code you will be able to select three choices from the various Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep hunt areas and hunt dates. An example application from the NMGFD website is shown above. Notice that you can select three area hunts for each hunt choice.


 

Managing expectations for rocky bighorn sheep

Let’s face it: it is possible that you will never draw a tag since there are no points in New Mexico, but we all know that someone will. You will also need to be prepared to send off a large amount of money each year to apply (fortunately nearly all of it is refundable). Remember that one thing is for certain: you cannot draw if you do not apply.

Find your draw odds



New Mexico's 2017 desert bighorn sheep breakdown
 

Gary New Mexico desert bighorn taken with Frontier Outfitting
 
Desert bighorn taken with Frontier Outfitting — A goHUNT Business Member

New Mexico has been a great success story for desert bighorn sheep. For years, the desert sheep hunts were conducted in Unit 27 on the Peloncillo Mountains. This was also the only destination available for nonresidents to hunt desert sheep until 2012 when it all changed. In 2012, several new areas opened for the first time ever and, with that, came a flood of older age class ram harvests. For two years, the “cream” was largely skimmed off the herd in these new areas, but many mature rams still exist. Although we may never again see a statewide average harvest score like we did for those two seasons, the statewide average is still very impressive at approximately 166” in 2016.

Current 2017 desert bighorn sheep herd condition

The overall condition of the desert sheep herds remains stable. Again, stellar management is the reason behind this success. Even with the last two seasons behind us, there are still reports of many mature rams across the state that are eight years or older with horns scoring well over 165” B&C. With drought conditions waning, those lucky enough to draw a tag in 2017 are in for a great year.

NEW MEXICO DESERT BIGHORN SHEEP POPULATION ESTIMATES (2003-2014)


How to uncover hidden gem desert bighorn sheep units

The truth is that all of New Mexico’s desert sheep hunt areas are capable of fulfilling dreams of a 160”+ ram. What makes a unit a true gem is finding the hunt choice that fits your needs and specific criteria. Read through the Unit Profiles to settle on an area that meets your physical requirements or limitations.

The seasons

The desert bighorn sheep seasons are offered as “any legal sporting arm,” which means that the tag holder can elect to hunt with any legal weapon. The weapon chosen must abide by the limitations set forth in the regulations.


 

B&C entry trends for New Mexico desert bighorn sheep

Units listed below may not have a current hunt for this species. Units in this table are included if any part of the unit is found within the county.

New Mexico's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for desert bighorn sheep

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Hidalgo 7 26, 27
Sierra 4 17, 19, 20
Socorro 4 13, 17, 19, 20
Grant 1 26
Otero 1 19

 


The 2017 hit list units for desert bighorn sheep in New Mexico

Top units to consider for 165” or better desert bighorn sheep
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
Potential
Peloncillo hunt area in Unit 27 175"+
San Andres hunt area in Unit 19 175"+
Ladrones hunt area in Unit 13, 17 170"+
Hatchets hunt area (early and late)
Unit 26
165"+
Caballos hunt area (early and late)
Unit 20
165"+
Fra Cristobal hunt area in Unit 20 165"+
TOP B&C DESERT BIGHORN SHEEP LOCATIONS SINCE 2010

 


 

Managing expectations for desert bighorn sheep

As mentioned, New Mexico does not utilize a point system for any of their big game species. This is great news for the first time applicant because it is never too late to jump in the race. The playing field is even and this creates equal chance for all.

Prepare yourself to have a lot of patience. The odds are that you will never draw a tag, but we all know that someone will. You will need to also be prepared to send off a large amount of money each year to apply. Fortunately, nearly all of it is refundable. Remember that one thing is for certain: you cannot draw if you do not apply.

Find your draw odds



New Mexico's 2017 ibex breakdown

New Mexico Ibex taken with Compass West Outfitters

New Mexico Ibex taken with Compass West Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

Ibex, New Mexico’s unique hunt opportunity, is quickly gaining popularity among Western big game hunters. Persian ibex are found exclusively in Unit 25 in the Florida Mountains on the southern edge of the state and are sure to challenge even the most skilled of hunters. The terrain they live in is among the most unforgiving of any mountain hunt in the Lower 48. There are various seasons along with different weapon types to select from.

Current ibex herd condition

Ibex are by nature a resilient species, which allows them to thrive in the otherwise desolate terrain of the Florida Mountains. Ibex numbers have continued to rise in recent years despite state efforts to reduce them with the implementation of a population management hunt geared toward harvesting females and immature ibex. Predation is rarely an issue and the numbers are conservatively managed by the NMGFD, which means that the overall health of the herd is in great shape.

NEW MEXICO STATEWIDE IBEX HARVEST


One unit, multiple options
 

New Mexico Ibex taken with Graham's Guide Service
Ibex taken with Graham's Guide Service — A goHUNT Business Member

While there might be only one unit with a huntable population of ibex, you can apply for various weapon types, which gives you some options. There are two archery choices with different season dates to select from. There is also a once-in-a-lifetime rifle option, which is the most sought after of all the ibex hunt choices. The muzzleloader option is quickly gaining popularity among applicants due to New Mexico’s very liberal muzzleloader restrictions. Muzzleloaders can be equipped with any scope, propellant, or projectile, making them hardly primitive. The season dates are scattered from mid-October through January, depending on the weapon type. Refer to the unit profile for Unit 25 to see the various dates offered.



Managing expectations for ibex
 

Ibex taken with Mangas Outfitters
Ibex taken with Mangas Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

The key to hunting ibex is to either get extremely lucky in the draw or get very serious about physical fitness and extended range archery shooting. An ibex hunt is quite possibly the most difficult of archery hunts anywhere. Yet, your odds are greatly increased if you opt to apply for an archery season. The muzzleloader season is not nearly as difficult to draw as the once-in-a-lifetime rifle season, but it is still far from easy. If you are proficient in all three weapon types, then you should apply for rifle as your first choice, muzzleloader as your second choice, and one of the archery seasons as your third choice.

New Mexico Ibex Draw Odds

Weapon Resident Nonresident
Archery Oct. 1-15, 2017: 43%
Jan. 15-29, 2018: 25%
Oct. 1-15, 2017: 37%
Jan. 15-29, 2018: 15%
Muzzleloader Dec. 6-20, 2017: 2.2% Dec. 6-20, 2017: 1.3%
Rifle Nov. 15-29, 2017: 1.4% Nov. 15-29, 2017: 0.71%

 

Find your draw odds



New Mexico's 2017 oryx breakdown
 

New Mexico Oryx taken with Ridgeline Outfitters
New Mexico Oryx taken with Ridgeline Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

New Mexico’s oryx are extremely unique and resemble something out of Africa. Known as gemsbok in their native country, oryx are among the largest of the plain’s game. Native to the arid regions of southern Africa, the habitat found in southern New Mexico is a nearly identical. A mature oryx bull is incredibly majestic with its long horns and is considered by many to be among the very best table fare of all big game species. The large majority of oryx are hunted on the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) Unit 19 near Alamogordo and are under strict management. In addition to the oryx found on the WSMR, there are also hunts available on the McGregor Range at Fort Bliss (Unit 28). There are fewer oryx found on Unit 28 than Unit 19, but there are still plenty for a quality hunt. 

There are also several “off range” oryx hunts offered that have a variety of available season dates, but these are seasons with extremely low success—if any— because the state is trying to keep the oryx numbers exclusively on the WSMR and McGregor ranges. Take caution prior to applying for any “off range” hunt choice.

There are special regulations specific to oryx hunting in New Mexico. You can view those regulations here.

Current oryx herd condition

Thanks to an extremely controlled environment and strict management, oryx numbers are increasing. These animals are very prolific and have no set rut, which means that they can breed at any time throughout the year. In their native Africa, they have the African lion to prey on them, but in southern New Mexico, man is the only predator. It is not uncommon to see several bulls each day while in the field. The bulls grow impressive horns that can reach 30” to 40” in length. Originally intended to be exclusively on the WSMR when introduced in 1969, these oryx have extended their range throughout the WSMR and beyond. Remember that harvesting an oryx off range is not as easy as on the range.

The seasons

The most desired of all the tags is the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in Unit 19. The Stallion Range and the Rhodes Canyon area within the WSMR offer the very best opportunity to harvest an amazing trophy. There are several choices with various season dates, but every season is a quality opportunity and all hunts are “any legal sporting arms” hunts.



How to uncover hidden gem oryx units

Limited choices make it difficult to really uncover any hidden gems. The best strategy would be to apply for the premier once-in-a-lifetime choices as your first and second choices, followed by a broken horn choice listed as your third choice (some people may not want to hunt a broken horned oryx, so keep that in mind).



The 2017 hit list units for oryx in New Mexico
 

New Mexico Oryx taken with Brugman Outfitting Service
New Mexico Oryx taken with Brugman Outfitting Service — A goHUNT Business Member

The premier choice would be to apply for the seasons offered in Unit 19 in either the Stallion Range or the Rhodes Canyon area. There are five of these hunt choices to select from and they range from October through February. Additionally, you can utilize Draw Odds to narrow down some other possible options.

Top units to consider for 30” or better oryx
(not in order of quality)

Unit Season
dates
Trophy
Potential
Harvest
success
Unit 19 Jan. 5-7, 2018 30-40"+ 95%
Unit 19 Jan. 19-21, 2018 30-40"+ 92%
Unit 19 Nov. 10-12, 2017 30-40"+ 88%
Unit 19 Feb. 16-18, 2018 30-40"+ 84%
Unit 28 Jan. 13-14, 2018 30-40"+ 87%
Unit 28 Dec. 2-3, 2017 30-40"+ 43%

 


 

Managing expectations for oryx

The odds of drawing a tag for oryx are low for nonresidents because the same quota applies as the other species. Be prepared to wait several years if you are applying for the premier once-in-a-lifetime choices. When the opportunity does arise and you are drawn, you will be in for a great hunt.

If your goal is purely to get drawn so that you can hunt oryx, then complete all of your hunt choices—this will ensure that you have the greatest chance of drawing a tag. Remember that the fifth choice will indicate that you are willing to participate in a population management hunt should one become available. The population management hunts are usually antlerless since the intention is to control the herd numbers.

Find your draw odds



New Mexico's 2017 Barbary sheep breakdown
 

New Mexico Barbary sheep taken with JH Outfitting
New Mexico Barbary sheep taken with JH Outfitting — A goHUNT Business Member

The most nomadic species of the New Mexico exotics is the Barbary sheep. Considered by many to be the “poor man’s bighorn,” these sheep offer a challenging hunt. In their native lands of northern Africa, they were called aoudad. The best success is found on private ranches offered through outfitters, but there are also opportunities on public lands to hunt as a do-it-yourself (DIY) experience. An outfitter is your best bet at success; however, if DIY on public land is your game, then scouting is an absolute must.

Current Barbary sheep herd condition

The Barbary sheep are doing well in New Mexico with the numbers stable to increasing. These are the most difficult of species in New Mexico to gain an accurate count because of the vast area that they cover and the difficulty in locating them. The billies grow impressive horns and make for a very fulfilling hunt.

The seasons

The majority of hunters that pursue Barbary sheep in New Mexico book a hunt with an outfitter on a large ranch. There is no real season associated with hunting them this way and units available are 2, 4-7, 9, 10, 12, 15, 17, 18, 19, 21, 25, 31, 33, 34, 38-59 except for the February season offered in Units 31, 34, 36, and 37. There are only three draw hunts to select from that offer a chance to hunt on public lands. The hunt choices offer dates throughout the entire month of February. If you draw a tag, then you are eligible to hunt with any legal weapon. Over-the-counter private land only hunts are in Units 32, 34, 36, 37 and Units 29, 30 (Hunt Code BBY-1-201).

NEW MEXICO STATEWIDE BARBARY SHEEP HARVEST


The 2017 hit list units for Barbary sheep in New Mexico

There are two main hunt choices that you should select from: Unit 29 and Unit 30 before selecting Units 32, 34, 36, and 37. Remember that to be successful, it is best to hire an outfitter. You can look up New Mexico outfitters here. If you plan to hunt on your own, plan to spend some time afield in search of these roaming sheep. Doing research with an outfitter is the key to finding success for Barbary sheep. These hunts are generally inexpensive and can be completed during the winter and spring when there are no other conflicts.


 

Managing expectations for Barbary sheep

Barbary sheep taken in New Mexico with Brugman Outfitting Service

Barbary sheep taken in New Mexico with Brugman Outfitting Service — A goHUNT Business Member

As with all species, there are no points associated with Barbary sheep in New Mexico. Draw odds range from 0.07% to 41% for residents and from 0% to 18% for nonresidents. Contracting with an outfitter will increase your chances of drawing if you are a nonresident as well as give you a greater opportunity of finding a quality sheep.

Find your draw odds

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