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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2018: New Mexico Deer

2018 New Mexico deer application strategy article

New Mexico's 2018 deer application overview

Jump to: New for 2018 State Information Draw System Mule Deer Breakdown Coues Deer Breakdown

New Mexico is home to a unique variety of deer species. Deer hunters can select from mule deer, Coues deer, and eastern whitetail. With options like this, New Mexico is a great destination for anyone looking for an opportunity at quality deer hunting. With no bonus point system in place, every applicant has the same odds as everyone else. New Mexico makes applying very inexpensive so you have every reason to apply in 2018!

Note: The application deadline for all fall hunts is March 21, 2018 by 5:00 p.m. MST. Apply online here.



Why New Mexico for deer in 2018?

No points

Everybody has the same chance of drawing! Just the right amount of luck can provide you with an opportunity of a lifetime. 

Increased draw odds with an outfitter

If you are willing to hire an outfitter, you can increase your odds of drawing. 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. Check out the guided draw odds on our standalone draw odds page under New Mexico. Also be sure to check a recent article on the benefits of the guide draw here.

Extensive public land

In addition to the vast Gila Wilderness—the largest plot of public land in the Lower 48—New Mexico has excellent opportunities for quality deer hunting in wildlife management areas such as the Burro Mountains.

Deer breakdown

Overall mule deer hunt quality is average, though improving. 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 offers some true trophies on private lands. Possibly the best feature about the New Mexico application process is that you can mix and match species types on your application.

New Mexico statewide deer harvest - updated 2018

Low cost to apply

Applying in New Mexico for deer is a no-brainer. If you are unsuccessful in the draw, your hunting license cost can be refunded so you are only out $13.

The cost to NOT build points

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

Idaho and New Mexico deer application cost comparison for nonrefundable fees

The cost to NOT build points

Deer 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 $14.14 No
Deer tag $368* Yes $301.75 Yes
Total out of pocket $446   $485.39  
Refunded if unsuccessful $433   $301.75  
Net cost to apply $13   $183.64  

* Quality and High Demand price. Standard license price would be $283.

 

New for 2018

License and big game tag required while in the field

New Mexico new notched tag system 
Example of New Mexico's new notched tag system.
  • This year, New Mexico is implementing a new tag system, utilizing a notched tag to be placed on the harvested animal in addition to the printed license. All hunters must be in possession of a hunting license and the proper big game tag while in the field.
  • Tags will be mailed to all successful draw hunt applicants and are available at all license vendors and NMDGF offices for over-the-counter (OTC) licenses. A tag will be provided at the time an over-the-counter license is purchased.
  • Telephone or online purchases for javelina and private-land deer, elk, antelope, Barbary sheep and oryx licenses must be made at least 14 days prior to the start of the hunt to allow time to mail the tag(s). Tag(s) will be mailed to the address provided by the customer. Customers may obtain a duplicate tag in person at any license vendor or NMDGF office. If a duplicate tag is obtained, the original tag number will be invalidated, and the license must be reprinted. It is illegal to use an invalidated tag.

Early purchase available for 2018–19 Licenses

Licenses for the 2018–19 license year that begins April 1, will be available online, by telephone and at license vendors and NMDGF offices beginning March 22.

Donate an unused license

A license may be donated to NMDGF for transfer to a youth (17 years of age or younger), a resident veteran or a resident first responder who has been qualified through a nonprofit organization that promotes hunting.

New criminal penalty for felony waste of game

Upon conviction, a person may be sentenced to $5,000 and 18 months in prison. Convicted felons cannot possess a firearm, may not vote and are ineligible to become outfitters or guides.

Outfitters and guides: New rule effective January 1, 2018

Outfitters and guides can review the new rule here.

Free mobile app available

A free mobile app is available from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. Powered by Pocket Ranger®, the mobile app offers easy access to maps, fishing reports, license purchases, rules and regulations, Operation Game Thief and "New Mexico Wildlife" magazine.

State information

View important information and an overview of 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 Mule Deer Profile Coues Deer Profile Whitetail Deer Profile Draw Odds Filtering 2.0

Important dates and information

  • Draw applications are due by March 21, 2018 by 5:00 p.m. MST.
  • You can apply online here.
  • For those who had New Mexico tags in 2017, late harvest reports must be submitted by March 21, 2018 for you to be eligible for the draw.

Drought or snowpack in New Mexico

New Mexico February 2018 drought monitor status

 

2018 New Mexico drought status update. Source: New Mexico Drought Monitor

Due to minimal precipitation during the summer of 2017, most of New Mexico is experiencing severe drought conditions. As of February 20, 2018, 99.92% of the state is experiencing some sort of drought conditions. No doubt, this will have an impact on the health of the deer population in New Mexico. The state has also experienced a lackluster snowpack and the winter has been very mild. Below you will find a comparison to February 28, 2017, when 77% of the state was experiencing zero drought conditions.

February 28 2017 New Mexico drought monitor status
February 2017 New Mexico drought status comparison. Source: New Mexico Drought Monitor

Impact of wolves in New Mexico

There are currently fewer than 100 Mexican wolves in the wild within the state. Up until 2014, the population had been slowly increasing, but it has seen a recent decrease, according to a recent study in the state. The federal government and the State of New Mexico are currently in litigation over the federal government’s plan to release more wolves in the state. There have not been any additional wolves released because of this litigation, which means that herds have not been recently affected.



The draw system

Mule deer taken with Wilderness Outfitter Productions

A great mule deer taken with Wilderness Outfitter Productions — A goHUNT Business Member

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 New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) 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 permits under this quota:

  • 84% of draw licenses are awarded to New Mexico residents.
  • Up to 10% of draw licenses are awarded to residents and nonresidents applying with a New Mexico registered outfitter.
  • Up to 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 prior to the draw. The outfitter will then assist you in the application process.

Because the draw system is not based on points, your chances of drawing are the same as everyone else who applied for the same tags. Since the New Mexico draw system will consider your first three choices before moving on to the next applicant, the order that you select a hunt choice has a significant impact on your odds of drawing that choice. Be sure to list your preferred hunt first as you will have the greatest chance of drawing your first choice. For an in-depth breakdown of your draw odds for any given hunt, be sure to check out the Draw Odds tool.



New Mexico's 2018 mule deer breakdown
 

New Mexico mule deer taken with Brugmans Outfitters Service
New Mexico mule deer taken with Brugman's Outfitting Service — A goHUNT Business Member

Mule deer quality has declined over the past few decades, but there are still some quality bucks to be found in the more desired hunt units.

Current deer herd condition

If you compare New Mexico to other western states, the average mule deer quality is below average. Overall, deer numbers across the state have declined over the last few decades. There are still a few good areas within the state that provide a quality hunt for quality bucks, but these areas are very few. Some very good bucks have been taken over the past few years, but most of the units provide a chance for a branch antlered buck, not a high scoring buck.



How to uncover hidden gem mule deer units

New Mexico mule deer taken with T and R Outfitting and Guide Service

New Mexico mule deer taken with T and R Outfitting and Guide Service — A goHUNT Business Member

Though the most desirable units have a great reputation, there are great bucks to be found in other units. By utilizing Draw Odds and Filtering 2.0, it is possible to locate the other units that offer the best shot at a trophy class mule deer. Remember: Contracting with an outfitter can increase your odds of drawing as well! Below is just a small snapshot of what you'll be able to uncover during your research on INSIDER.

Resident hunts with the best combination of trophy potential, draw odds and harvest success

Unit Season
dates
Weapon
type
Trophy
potential
Draw
odds
Harvest
success
Public land
%
Unit 15 Oct. 27 to 31 Muzzleloader 170"+ 44% 25% 77.5%
Unit 18 Oct. 27 to 31 Muzzleloader 170"+ 99% 30% 66.6%
Unit 24 Sept. 1 to 24 &
Jan. 1 to 15, 2019
Archery 170"+ 57% 25% 62%
Unit 2A Sept. 27 to Oct. 3 Muzzleloader 170"+ 42% 37% 65.7%
Unit 33 Nov. 17 to 21 Rifle 170"+ 25% 50% 57.8%

 

Nonresident hunts with the best combination of trophy potential, draw odds and harvest success

Unit Season
dates
Weapon
type
Trophy
potential
Draw
odds
Harvest
success
Public land
%
Unit 15 Oct. 27 to 31 Muzzleloader 170"+ 46% 25% 77.5%
Unit 18 Oct. 27 to 31 Muzzleloader 170"+ 100% 30% 66.6%
Unit 24 Sept. 1 to 24 &
Jan. 1 to 15, 2019
Archery 170"+ 76% 25% 62%
Unit 33 Oct. 20 to 24 Muzzleloader 170"+ 75% 28% 57.8%
Unit 36 Nov. 10 to 14 Rifle 170"+ 63% 27% 53.3%

New for goHUNT

For 2018, we have added Draw Odds for all female species. In New Mexico, there are few opportunities for deer in the way of antlerless licenses. Unit 32 is the only unit with antlerless deer draw odds in New Mexico. You can find your draw odds below.

Antlerless deer draw odds

Find your resident antlerless deer draw odds here

Find your nonresident antlerless deer draw odds here


 

B&C entry trends for New Mexico mule deer

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. Data provided below courtesy of the Boone and Crockett Club.

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

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Rio Arriba 15 2B2C45A5B6A6C7455051A51B52
San Juan 4 2A, 2B, 2C, 7
Catron 1 12131516A16B16C16D16E21A2223
Cibola 1 910111213
Lincoln 1 18, 19, 32, 36, 37, 38
Sandoval 1 6A6B6C79

Map of New Mexico's typical mule deer B&C all time entries 2018

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

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Rio Arriba 3 2B2C45A5B6A6C7455051A51B52
Sandoval 1 6A6B6C79

Map of New Mexico's nontypical mule deer B&C all time entries 2018



The 2018 hit list units for mule deer in New Mexico

New Mexico mule deer taken with Grahams Guide Service

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

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

Unit Trophy
Potential
Avg. harvest
% or past 5 yrs.
Public land
%
Unit 2B 180"+ See unit profile 84.6%
Unit 2C 180"+ Muzzleloader: 45%
Rifle: 79%
Late archery: 36%
89.7%
Unit 5B 180"+ Rifle: 86% 81.8%
Unit 12 170"+ Early archery: 6%
Muzzleloader: 7%
Rifle: 12%
39.1%
Unit 13 170"+ Early archery: 14%
Muzzleloader: 22%
Rifle: 19%
Rifle: 14%
43.7%
Unit 15 170"+ Archery: 5%
Muzzleloader: 25%
77.5%
Unit 18 170"+ Early archery: 17% 
Muzzleloader: 30%
Rifle: 28%
Rifle: 21%
Late archery: 17%
66.6%
Unit 24 170"+ Early archery: 35%
Muzzleloader: 26%
Rifle: 30%
Rifle: 12%
62%
Unit 2A 170"+ Early archery: 16%
Muzzleloader: 37%
Rifle: 26%
Late archery: 32%
65.7%
Unit 33 170"+ Early archery: 16%
Muzzleloader: 28%
Rifle: 57%
Rifle: 50%
57.8%
Unit 36 170"+ Early archery: 27%
Muzzleloader: 36%
Rifle: 33%
Rifle: 27%
53.3%
Unit 4 170"+ Rifle: 36%
Rifle: 35%
11.7%
Unit 41 170"+ Early archery: 43%
Muzzleloader: 75%
Rifle: 69%
Rifle: 55%
20.4%
Unit 47 170"+ Early archery: 0%
Muzzleloader: 54%
Rifle: 25%
Rifle: 41%
23.6%
Unit 51A 170"+ Early archery: 20%
Rifle: 26%
86.2%
Unit 51B 170"+ Early archery: 0%
Rifle: 33%
Rifle: 54%
66.3%
Unit 52 170"+ Early archery: 11%
Muzzleloader: NA
Rifle: 28%
Rifle: 26%
92.1%
Unit 54 170"+ Rifle: 33%
Rifle: 27%
10.6%
Unit 55A 170"+ Rifle: 33%
Rifle: 20%
Rifle: 29%
Rifle: 27%
13%
Unit 57 170"+ Early archery: 38%
Muzzleloader: 58%
Rifle: 54%
Rifle: 50%
Late Archery: 50%
14.7%
Unit 7 170"+ Early archery: 39.5%
Muzzleloader: 60%
Rifle: 57%
39.5%

 


 

Managing expectations for mule deer
 

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

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

If you are only interested in trophy mule deer, then you should stay focused on Unit 2B, Unit 2C, and Unit 5B. 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. Either way, expect to wait a few years until luck finally comes your way.

Find your resident mule deer draw odds here

Find your nonresident mule deer draw odds here

Researching for hunts in New Mexico

A good way to go about researching potential trophy mule deer units in New Mexico would be to use Filtering 2.0, select mule deer, adjust the trophy potential slider to 170"+ and then select your residency. With New Mexico's draw system, Filtering 2.0 is very powerful because you can see how many people applied for each hunt as well as the draw odds. A good starting spot on Filtering 2.0 for residents can be found here and nonresidents here.

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

Use Filtering 2.0 extensively to find hunt choices that have high harvest success as well as decent draw odds to pick the best hunts. Also, be sure to check the New Mexico regulations since many hunts throughout the state do not differentiate between mule deer and whitetail. Remember to list a high quality choice as your first choice because you just might get it. 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.

Resident opportunities with >60% draw odds found within late archery hunts

Unit Trophy
potential
Draw
odds
Harvest
success
Public land
%
Unit 18 170"+ 71% 17% 66.6%
Unit 20 160"+ 74% 42% 65.1%
Unit 21A 160"+ 100% 16% 97.9%
Unit 21B 160"+ 100% 16% 62.1%
Unit 22 160"+ 100% 16% 63.9%
Unit 23 160"+ 100% 20% 63.2%
Unit 25 160"+ 84% 12% 74.6%
Unit 27 160"+ 81% 20% 67.6%
Unit 29 150"+ 100% 8% 84%
Unit 32 160"+ 77% 26% 34%
Unit 34 160"+ 83% 25% 67.8%
Unit 36 170"+ 63% 27% 53.3%
Unit 38 160"+ 65% 25% 31.9%
Unit 40 150"+ 100% 17% 10.4%

You can jump right to this filter setting for residents at 60% draw odds or better on the late archery hunts here.

Nonresident opportunities with >60% draw odds found within late archery hunts

Unit Trophy
potential
Draw
odds
Harvest
success
Public land
%
Unit 18 170"+ 73% 17% 66.6%
Unit 21A 160"+ 100% 16% 97.9%
Unit 21B 160"+ 100% 16% 62.1%
Unit 22 160"+ 100% 16% 69.3%
Unit 23 160"+ 99% 20% 63.2%
Unit 25 160"+ 100% 12% 74.6%
Unit 29 150"+ 97% 8% 84%
Unit 32 160"+ 60% 26% 34%
Unit 38 160"+ 100% 25% 31.9%
Unit 40 150"+ 100% 17% 10.4%

You can jump right to this filter setting for nonresidents at 60% draw odds or better on the late archery hunts here.

Find your resident mule deer draw odds here

Find your nonresident mule deer draw odds here



New Mexico's 2018 Coues deer breakdown
 

New Mexico Coues deer taken with JFW Ranch Consulting
New Mexico Coues deer taken with JFW Ranch Consulting — A goHUNT Business Member

New Mexico offers some fantastic opportunity to harvest a quality Coues deer. Arizona gets far more press when it comes to trophy bucks so the opportunity is more attainable in New Mexico. However, New Mexico offers its own set of challenges as well. The terrain is rugged and remote in prime Coues habitat. Also, 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. Unit 27 sits right in the middle of a high traffic corridor so be prepared to have some potential run-ins if you decide to hunt there.

Current deer herd condition

Coues deer are more adaptable to drought conditions and numbers have held steady, which means great hunting opportunity.


 

B&C entry trends for New Mexico Coues deer

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. Data provided below courtesy of the Boone and Crockett Club.

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

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Hidalgo 5 2327
Grant 3 2327
Catron 1 23
Sierra 1 24
 

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

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Catron 1 23
Grant 1 2327
Hidalgo 1 2327

 


 

The 2018 hit list units for Coues deer in New Mexico

Unit selection is pretty limited when it comes to Coues deer in New Mexico. 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. Unit 23 has a dedicated hunt within the Burro Mountains that offers much better quality and opportunity due to much fewer tags. The rest of Unit 23 has an enormous amount of tags so expect pressure to be high. 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. In these other units, hunt designation is for "Fork Antlered Deer" and Coues deer can be legally taken if the opportunity presents itself.

Top units to consider for 95” or better bucks
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
Potential
Public land
%
Unit 24 100"+ 62%
Unit 27 100"+ 67.6%
Unit 23 95"+ 63.2%

 


 

Managing expectations

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

For Coues deer, give good consideration to the Burro Mountain hunt option in Unit 23 due to the limited amount of tags and possible animal quality. Also, Unit 24 has become a great Coues unit over the past few years. Utilize Filtering 2.0 to find hunts that are close to the rut to give yourself the best chance of finding a mature buck.

Find your resident Coues deer draw odds here

Find your nonresident Coues deer draw odds here

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 fit your abilities and preference. There is an opportunity to be had in New Mexico, so if you are most concerned with just drawing a tag, use Filtering 2.0 to discover the best one. Some hunts offer 100% draw odds to residents and up to 40-70% odds for nonresidents and any of these hunts can produce a quality Coues buck!

Find your resident Coues deer draw odds here

Find your nonresident Coues deer draw odds here



New Mexico's 2018 whitetail deer breakdown

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 B&C records. Obviously, this is not the destination for a book whitetail.

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