APPLICATION STRATEGY 2018: New Mexico Sheep
New Mexico's 2018 sheep application overview
New Mexico is a truly diverse state when it comes to pursuing big game. New Mexico is also the only state to offer opportunity to hunt three different sheep species. This state is home to phenomenal bighorn hunting opportunities with desert and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep as well as the unique opportunity to pursue a more affordable sheep hunt for Barbary sheep.
Note: The application deadline for all species in New Mexico is March 21, 2018, at 5 p.m. MST. Follow this link to apply online.
Why New Mexico for sheep in 2018?
- No point system means that every year you have the same chances as everyone else to draw that tag of a lifetime.
New for 2018
All sheep hunters must have a 2018 tag in addition to their hunting license at all times during the hunt.
License and big game tag required while in the field
- 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.
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.
A 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.
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.
Important dates and information
- Draw applications are due on March 21, 201, by 5:00 p.m. MST.
- 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.
- Apply online here.
- Application and full license fees are charged at the time that the application is submitted.
Drought or snowpack in New Mexico
As of March 6, 2018, 99.92% of the state is experiencing some sort of drought conditions. This means that winter kill will be minimal, however, mortality will become an issue as things warm up if the weather patterns do not change.
The New Mexico sheep draw advantage
Understanding the draw
New Mexico requires that all applicants pay the full amount at the time of application. 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. While the number of nonresident tags is limited, any deterrent the may increase your odds should be seen as a good thing!
Also, 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. Plus, it only makes sense that if you are going to draw the tag of a lifetime, you invest in the services of an outfitter to make it the trip of a lifetime.
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.
New Mexico state law has established the following quotas for draw hunts:
- 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.
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.
New Mexico's 2018 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep breakdown
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in New Mexico live in some very diverse terrain. Classic Rocky Mountain sheep habitat includes the Pecos hunt of Unit 45, the San Francisco River/Turkey Creek hunt in Units 16B, 22, 23, and 24, the Wheeler Peak hunt in Unit 53. Other hunt areas offer their own set of challenges, but, rest assured, that anywhere Rocky Mountain sheep live will be a challenging hunt requiring the highest fitness and strict resolve. If you are considering putting in for a sheep tag, you need to start preparing now—both physically and mentally—for the challenge that may lie ahead.
Current rocky bighorn herd condition
Thanks to very deliberate management policies in New Mexico, the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep herds have been improving with more growth in sight.
How to uncover hidden gem units
All units in New Mexico have the capacity to produce a record book ram, but care should be taken in trying to game the system to get drawn. It might be enticing to look into newer areas in hopes of drawing a tag more easily, but there will not be as many mature rams, which means your chances of finding one will also be lower. Utilize Filtering 2.0 to evaluate hunt options based not only on draw odds, but also harvest success percents, to find which hunts will offer you the best combination of both.
The Rocky Mountain 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 rocky bighorn sheep
New Mexico's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for rocky bighorn sheep
|Units found within county|
|Taos||21||45, 49, 50, 53, 55A|
|Catron||1||16B, 22, 23|
The 2018 hit list units for rocky bighorn sheep in New Mexico
Top units to consider for 165” or better rocky bighorns
How to apply for a Rocky Mountain bighorn tag in New Mexico
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 New Mexico Game and Fish Department (NMGFD) website is shown above. Notice that you can select three area hunts for each hunt choice.
Managing expectations for rocky bighorn sheep
Once you are prepared to put forward a large sum of money for the application (all of which is refundable if you do not draw, except for the $13 application fee), then you need to prepare for the odds of drawing.
Ewe bighorn opportunities
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep ram opportunities
For residents, the draw odds are 0.78%. Not great, but remember: someone is going to draw those tags and it might be you if you are a resident.
For nonresidents, those odds are 0.11%. Again, not great, but there is always a chance in a state with no point system.
For those who want to have the combination of the best chance of drawing and the best chance at a successful hunt, contracting with an outfitter is a great way to go. The draw odds for the guided draw are 0.25%—not as good as the resident odds—but twice as good as the nonresident odds. Be prepared for a long wait, but you only need lightning to strike once for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
New Mexico's 2018 desert bighorn sheep breakdown
New Mexico has some excellent desert bighorn hunting opportunities. With strict management and excellent habitat, desert bighorn grow mature and big. Although the tags may be incredibly difficult to come by, drawing a tag ensures that you will have a shot at some of the largest desert bighorns on the continent.
Current 2018 desert bighorn sheep herd condition
The population of desert bighorn in New Mexico has been steadily increasing over the past decade. A mild winter should continue this trend. Although drought conditions could have a negative effect, this is not likely since desert bighorn are especially adept at keeping their vitality in the midst of tough conditions.
How to uncover hidden gem desert bighorn sheep units
There only six units in New Mexico for desert bighorn and all are capable of producing a 165”+ 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 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
New Mexico's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for desert bighorn sheep
|Units found within county|
|Socorro||5||13, 17, 19, 20|
|Sierra||4||17, 19, 20|
|Dona Ana||2||19, 20|
The 2018 hit list units for desert bighorn sheep in New Mexico
Top units to consider for 165” or better desert bighorn sheep
Managing expectations for desert bighorn sheep
Just like with Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, drawing a desert bighorn tag is a long shot, but not impossible.
For residents, the draw odds are 0.97%. This is slightly better than the Rocky Mountain counterpart, but still very slim odds.
For nonresidents, the odds are 0.09%. Again, not great, but there is always a chance in a state with no point system.
Just like with Rocky Mountain, draw odds are doubled for nonresidents who contract with an outfitter at 0.18%, though residents would do better to put in on their own since the guided odds are not as good as the nonresident odds.