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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2019: New Mexico Elk and Deer

2019 New Mexico elk and deer application strategy article

New Mexico's 2019 elk and deer application overview


Main writer: Jason Browning of The Draw

Jump to: New for 2019 State Information Draw System Elk Breakdown Mule Deer Breakdown Coues Deer Breakdown Whitetail Deer Breakdown

Equal odds are good odds no matter what the number is! New Mexico’s truly random draw coupled, with a good application and staggered with proper draw odds gives you the chance to go on a very good elk and/or deer hunt every year in the Land of Enchantment. You just have to have a little luck! New Mexico offers a vast array of hunting options ranging from do-it-yourself (DIY) hunts to fully guided elite private land hunts, desert mule deer hunts that rival comparable hunts in Sonora, Mexico, Coues deer units that hold their own against Arizona’s and high mountain bugling bulls in September. New Mexico is a draw you don’t want to miss.

There are many changes this year throughout the New Mexico draw. The archery hunts statewide have been separated into early and late seasons. Eastern whitetail only hunts that are right in the heart of the rut are available for the first time. If you’re applying for youth hunters, there are new youth-only opportunities in some of the best units in the state that are also occur during the rut. The state’s elk hunting has never been better. New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) biologists say that the population of the local elk herd is increasing and healthy statewide. This, coupled with a seemingly wet winter, should lend itself to a phenomenal year of elk hunting statewide.

Starting this year, New Mexico—like many states before it—are now requiring applicants to purchase their hunting license and stamps prior to being allowed to participate in the draw. Essentially, this is like walking up to a craps table and handing the pit boss $74 before he hands you the dice. Previously, these funds have been required up front, but were refunded if you were unsuccessful. Starting in 2019, these fees will no longer be refunded. Along with the hunting license and stamps, nonresidents are charged an application fee of $13 per species and all permit fees are required up front at the time of the application. Once all of these fees have been paid you are now eligible and in the running. The upfront expense along with the fact that applicants can come and go from this application year after year without losing any ground are major factors in the resulting number of applicants being relatively lower than other states. Now, more than ever, New Mexico may fall in line with other states where the normal thought process is to apply for all species of interest in order to get the most value out of the hunting license you are required to purchase. Without a point system in place and the money being required up front, it may not be as important as other states, but it should be considered. If you have only been applying for one species in New Mexico over the years, this may be the year to spread out a little and give yourself a better chance at actually using the hunting license that you will inevitably own. 

Also, when applying in New Mexico, don't forget about the opportunity to apply in the Guided Draw. See more information here.

Note: The application deadline for all species in New Mexico is March 20, 2019, at 5 p.m. MST. Follow this link to apply online.



Why New Mexico for elk and deer in 2019?

Trophy quality

The trophy potential for elk in New Mexico on a statewide level will rival any state in the nation. There is potential for trophy bulls across most units in the state, and there is always the chance for a trophy of a lifetime when hunting elk in New Mexico. While the state may not be known for a huge number of trophy bucks, hunters that are selective in their draw choices will find it possible to harvest mature trophy mule deer and Coues deer here.

Excellent opportunities for youth

New Mexico offers some of the best youth hunting opportunities in the country. To qualify for a youth hunt, you must be 17 years old or younger on the first day of the hunt. There is no minimum age to apply in New Mexico as long as you have a valid hunter’s safety card. There are 10 youth-only elk hunts available for nonresidents and 37 youth-only hunts for deer. These hunts not only cover most of the trophy units in the state for both deer and elk, but they also often fall during prime dates within the rut for both species.

Fantastic drawing odds

Elk and deer draw odds in New Mexico are all over the board, ranging from very difficult to almost guaranteed. The top units in the state for both species are obviously going to be the hardest to attain, but, with New Mexico’s three-tiered application, hunters can often stagger hunt choices, which enables them to draw a quality hunt—even if it is not their top choice for the year. Applicants that are under contract with a state-approved outfitter also have the option of participating in the guided pool. The guided pool is typically smaller and has 10% of the permits set aside versus the 6% that are set aside for nonresidents who would like to retain their option of using an outfitter until after they have drawn. Learn more about the guided draw here.

High success on mature bulls and bucks

Elk management in New Mexico is conducted using two strategies: primary, which was formerly known as the Core Occupied Elk Range (or COER), is based upon what NMDGF deems as the best elk habitat areas in the state. Secondary and special, formally known as outside the COER, is focused on the fringe elk range and private lands in the state. The primary is managed to provide older age class bulls and will typically produce the best trophies while the fringe typically offers better opportunities. However, an overlap between the systems does exist and a discerning hunter who does his research will soon discover that trophy animals are killed each year throughout the state. Deer hunting in New Mexico typically flies under the radar due to the limited number of giant bucks killed each year as compared with other states in the country. Limited hunting in the Northwest (mule deer), Southwest (Coues), and Northeast (whitetail) parts of the state have created solid populations of deer, with older trophy age class animals available. It is also worth mentioning that the large private ranches scattered across the state are allowed to manage their own deer populations. Their management for trophy animals has directly benefited the public land adjacent to these ranches in almost every case. If trophy potential and overall success are your goals, New Mexico should definitely be considered when applying for elk and deer.

Cost to apply

Cost for license and permits for New Mexico
(required prior to applying with no refunds starting in 2019)

License Resident Nonresident
Hunting license $15 $65
Habitat stamp $5 $5
Habitat management
and access validation
$4 $4
Application fee
per species
$7 $13
Auxiliary fees for permits and licenses
(required up front in order to apply and refunded if the application is unsuccessful)
Deer $34
$22
Standard: $270
High demand/quality: $355
Elk $83
$51
Standard: $535
High demand/quality: $760
Antelope $53 $270
Oryx $153 $1,610
Ibex $103 $1,610
Barbary sheep $103 $360
Desert bighorn/Rocky Mountain
bighorn sheep
$153
$85 ewe
$3,160

 

New for 2019

Game hunting licenses are nonrefundable through the draw application process

Game hunting license and stamp purchases made through the big game draw application are no longer refundable

Purchase 2019 game hunting license through draw application

Draw applicants purchasing 2019 game hunting licenses to apply for draw hunts must click "Draw Hunt Applications" in the main menu and purchase the license as part of the application process. Do not click "License Sales."

New game hunting license options

Big game draw applicants will be required to purchase a Habitat Management and Access Validation (HMAV) with their game hunting or game hunting and fishing license. Applicants will have the option to add the habitat stamp, Harvest Information Program (HIP) number and/or second rod validation, if applicable, to their purchase. Hunters must purchase the habitat stamp prior to May 15, 2019 to avoid having to print it separately.

License and tag combined if purchased online or by phone

This year, hunters who choose to receive a physical carcass tag may not need to carry a separate license. If purchased online or by telephone, the top section of the carcass tag will display all annual license and stamp purchases and will serve as a valid license. Hunters must carry the license/carcass tag with them in the field while hunting (details, page 8). If you do not purchase the habitat stamp through the draw—or prior to May 15, 2019—a printed copy may be required. This option is not available for license purchases and/or duplicate tags at over-the-counter (OTC) license vendors.

New definitions for legal sporting arm types

Legal sporting arms for deer, elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, ibex, oryx, barbary sheep and bear (big game sporting arms): Any centerfire firearm at least .22 caliber or larger, any muzzle-loading firearm at least .45 caliber or larger, any shotgun .410 caliber or larger firing a single slug (including muzzleloading shotguns), any bow or any crossbow. All firearms, except handguns, must be designed to be fired from the shoulder. Hunters must use only bullets designed to expand or fragment upon impact. Full metal jacket (FMJ) and tracer bullets are illegal. No fully automatic firearms may be used. Arrows and bolts must have broadheads (fixed or mechanical) with cutting edges. Sights on bows and crossbows may not project light (lighted pins are acceptable). No drugs may be used on arrows or bolts and they cannot be driven by explosives, gunpowder or compressed air.

Bow only: Any bow. Arrows must have broadheads (fixed or mechanical) with cutting edges. Sights on bows may not project light (lighted pins are acceptable). No drugs may be used on arrows and arrows cannot be driven by explosives, gunpowder or compressed air. Crossbow use is legal by certified mobility-impaired hunters during bow seasons. Draw locks are illegal.

Muzzleloader, bow or crossbow only: Any sporting arms in which the charge and projectile(s) are loaded through the muzzle. Only black powder, Pyrodex or equivalent black powder substitute may be used. Use of smokeless powder is prohibited. Scopes, sabots and in-line ignition may be used with muzzleloaders except during restricted muzzleloader deer hunts. Hunters may also use any bow or crossbow. Arrows and bolts must have broadheads (fixed or mechanical) with cutting edges. Sights on bows and crossbows may not project light. No drugs may be used on arrows or bolts and they cannot be driven by explosives, gunpowder or compressed air.

Restricted muzzleloader deer: Only a muzzleloading rifle using open sights, black powder or equivalent propellant and firing a full bore diameter bullet or patched round ball is legal. The use of in-line ignition, scopes, and smokeless powder are prohibited. Bows and crossbows are legal during restricted muzzleloader deer hunts.

State information

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

New Mexico State Profile Elk Profile Mule Deer Profile Coues Deer Profile Coues Deer Profile Whitetail Deer Profile Draw Odds Filtering 2.0

Important dates and information

  • Applications for desert bighorn sheep, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, antelope, deer, elk, ibex, oryx, Barbary sheep and javelina must be submitted by 5 p.m. MST on March 20, 2019.
  • Applications can be submitted by phone, or online here.
  • Up to four hunters can apply together on a group application for deer, elk, Barbary sheep and javelina. Up to two applicants can apply together on antelope, oryx and ibex applications. Group applications are not allowed for bighorn sheep applications.
  • Successful applicants will be notified by email, online, telephone or at any NMDFG office on April 24.
  • New Mexico hunting license, stamps and application fees are not refundable starting in 2019.

Drought in New Mexico

While the state has been having some fantastic winter weather, 61.33% of the state is still suffering from some level of drought conditions with the heaviest hit areas being in the north and northwest portions of the state. Most of the Gila as well as the Sacramento Mountains are still considered to be experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions. However, this report is most likely not accounting for some great storms that have recently happened in both of these areas. As far as antler growth is concerned, New Mexico, like Arizona, looks to be shaping up for an incredible year.

2019

New Mexico drought status as of March 2019

New Mexico drought status update as of March 5, 2019. Source: New Mexico Drought Monitor

2018

New Mexico late February 2018 drought monitor status
2018 New Mexico drought status update. Source: New Mexico Drought Monitor

2017

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


The New Mexico draw system

Understanding the draw

New Mexico’s draw system is random. What this means is that each applicant has an equal chance at drawing regardless of how many times they have applied. This obviously lends itself to applicants who are just getting started as you could fast track your way into a top-shelf hunt sooner rather than later. When it comes to elite opportunities in the western states, units commonly referred to as “the best” have equal odds, which are good odds. Applicants can apply with confidence that they are not behind or suffering from a point curve. When applying, the permits are segregated into three categories: the resident pool (84%), the guided pool (10%) and the nonresident pool (6%). It is important to note that the guided pool is not exclusively for nonresidents and, although it would often be a mistake for residents to apply in this category, they are allowed to if they see fit.

New Mexico offers its applicants five choices when applying. Unlike other states, the first three selections are going to be considered prior to moving to the next applicant. This means that you need to, at a minimum, apply for three choices you would be interested in hunting as you are essentially as likely to draw your third choice as you are your first on any given application. The fourth choice should be a quadrant of the state that you want to be considered for, meaning prior to the leftover list being published. If you select a fourth choice you will be awarded a permit in an area that had leftover permits once the draw process is complete. The fifth choice is typically reserved for some sort of population reduction opportunity.

Apply with caution on the fourth choice as these opportunities are often selected by the state depending on the species. Often, there are valid reasons that these permits are leftover. Generally, these hunts would not line up with a nonresident hunter’s goals when looking to hunt in new areas.

Applying for a fifth choice is recommended as you will receive your refund for an unsuccessful application and have the option to accept or decline the opportunity when it comes—and you never know what it may be.

Remember that New Mexico distributes their 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.

New Mexico raffle hunts

Two hunts will be raffled by NMDGF with the assistance of the New Mexico Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation (NMWSF)—one for desert bighorn sheep and one for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep.

Raffle tickets can be ordered by contacting NMWSF President Bryan Bartlett: (575) 635-3499 or bartlebc@yahoo.com. Tickets cannot be purchased by telephone or email. Tickets are $20 each and there are no volume discounts. Hunt dates are Aug. 1 to Dec. 31, 2019, except in GMU 53 (Wheeler Peak) where the dates are Aug. 1 to 15, 2019 and Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, 2019.

One deer authorization will also be raffled with the assistance of the Mule Deer Foundation. Tickets must be purchased by June 13, 2019 to be considered for the June 14, 2019 drawing. The bag limit for these hunts is one fork-antlered deer.

One bull elk tag will be raffled with the assistance of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) at the NMDGF Santa Fe office in June 2019. If an enhancement license holder chooses to hunt on Valles Caldera, he/she must arrange access with the National Park Service: (575) 829-4100 at least two weeks prior to hunting. For more information, please visit the RMEF website: www.rmef.org.

Unlocking the New Mexico draw system

In New Mexico, you are allowed to select three choices that are considered prior to the state moving to the next applicant. The selections you choose—and the order that you list them—can have a major impact on if and how you draw. When applying for deer and elk, use Filtering 2.0 to make these selections based on the odds for a given hunt or unit. In almost all cases, you will want the worst odds to be your first choice because this will almost always be, inversely, the highest quality hunt choice.

When you select your first choice, you should choose the hunt that is the hardest to draw and, then, follow with the same strategy for your second and third choice. The selections that you make can have a major impact on the likelihood of drawing a permit. The reason for this is that your odds of drawing is directly related to the number of permits available in any given selection. Essentially, if you choose to apply for a hunt that only has 50 permits available versus a hunt with 100 permits available, then there is a high probability that all of the permits will be gone sooner rather than later, giving you a lower chance of drawing. If drawing the highest quality permit is the ultimate goal, don’t stack your selections with the lowest odds. If your goal is to hunt in a given unit with a buddy or you have an area that has some sentimental value over another area, then so be it. You might want to apply for only one hunt choice in this case. But, if we are simply talking odds, then not stacking your selections with the lowest to highest mentality negatively impacts your opportunity to draw.

Note: There is a fourth and fifth choice available when applying for deer and elk in New Mexico. The fourth choice will give you a tag in a certain quadrant of the state that wasn’t given out during the regular draw. This will likely be a cow elk or archery deer tag. Be careful if you decide to make this selection. There is also a fifth choice for population reduction opportunities. Upon drawing your fifth choice you have the option to accept or decline whatever the opportunity may be. It is anyone’s guess as to what the hunt may entail, but if you decide it is not what you are looking for, you have the option to decline. For this reason, it is always a good decision to select “yes” on your fifth choice. Remember when selecting your choices that areas of the state that have a higher amount of private property are going to be much easier to draw than in the past so be sure to study your maps prior to making a selection. You could end up with a permit and nowhere to hunt.



New Mexico's 2019 elk breakdown

New Mexico elk licenses are in high demand. The good news is that the population is increasing each year and so are the licenses. In fact, there has been an overall increase in licenses every year since 2008. The elk population, as a whole, is considered stable to slightly increasing although it depends on what part of New Mexico you’re talking about. NMDGF biologists say some herds are growing slightly while others are slightly declining; however, most elk herds have calf/cow ratios that reflect healthy populations. NMDGF has recently changed the management strategy statewide to include three types of elk ranges with different management goals. There were previously two zones: the COER and outside the COER. These are now divided into three zones: primary, secondary and special. The primary management zone is the part of the state with the best elk populations and, therefore, the part of the state where management goals are based. Specifically, these areas are the west-central, north-central and Sacramento Mountain ranges. When considering elk hunting in New Mexico, this should be the center of your strategy.

What to expect when you apply for elk in New Mexico

Equal odds are good odds no matter what the number is. If you are serious about hunting elk in North American at some point in your life, then you need to be pursuing any opportunities where you have an equal chance at drawing. New Mexico elk applications can fall anywhere between less than 1% drawing odds to hunts that are undersubscribed or 100%. This makes New Mexico a state where, with some research and the help of Filtering 2.0, you can strategically apply for a hunt rather than just arbitrarily throw a dart at a dartboard. Structuring your application using the lowest odds first, followed by selections with increasing draw odds will give you the best chance of drawing. Remember, New Mexico looks at all three of your choices in order before awarding you a tag or kicking your application out as unlucky. Using the lowest to highest application strategy should always be your choice. That is unless you are trying to draw a specific unit or hunt selection in which case you may want to make that your only selection.

Archery

With the trend in elk hunting moving toward hunting rutting elk with a bow, New Mexico has become a popular choice for hunters because it’s a random drawing state. Many of the units have very high trophy potential with 360” + bulls killed each year. While drawing odds are typically low for these units, if you are lucky enough to get a tag, the units are almost entirely public land, which makes for a great hunt with endless land to explore.

Early Sept. 1 to 14 archery draw elk hunts in New Mexico with 360"+ trophy potential
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
potential
Public
land %
Harvest
success
Draw odds
resident
Draw odds
nonresident
6B 370"+ 99.9% 41% 6.6% 0.83%
16A 370"+ 96.9% 29% 27% 2.9%
16C 360"+ 83.1% 19% 47% 7%
16D 370"+ 88.4% 41% 20% 1.8%
17 360"+ 73.7% 32% 40% 5.7%
36 360"+ 53.3% 37% 26% 5.5%

 

Late Sept. 15 to 24 archery draw elk hunts in New Mexico with 360"+ trophy potential
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
potential
Public
land %
Harvest
success
Draw odds
resident
Draw odds
nonresident
6B 370"+ 99.9% 41% 4.2% 0.44%
16A 370"+ 96.9% 29% 14% 1.1%
16C 360"+ 83.1% 19% 25% 4%
16D 370"+ 88.4% 41% 9.9% 0.58%
17 360"+ 73.7% 32% 20% 2.6%
36 360"+ 53.3% 37% 20% 3.4%

 

Muzzleloader

With season dates adjacent to the rut and basically no restrictions on muzzleloading equipment, New Mexico has some of the best options available. The state also has what NMDFG characterizes as a primitive weapon only units for elk. These units have traditionally held better trophy animals since they haven’t been rifle hunted in years. It’s worth a quick note to acknowledge that these top units also often have a late hunt out of the rut that can be awesome and, usually, has much better drawing odds.

Early muzzleloader draw elk hunts in New Mexico with 350"+ trophy potential
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
potential
Public
land %
Harvest
success
Draw odds
resident
Draw odds
nonresident
6B 370"+ 99.99% 87% 2.3% 0.35%
13 360"+ 43.7% 40% 15% 3.6%
15 350"+ 77.5% 36% 9.7% 2.5%
16E 350"+ 62.9% 20% 27% 6.3%
17 360"+ 73.7% 29% 18% 3.8%
34 350"+ 67.8% 33% 13% 4%
36 360"+ 53.3% 43% 18% 2.9%

Rifle

If you want to take the best advantage of the time you’ll be hunting in New Mexico, rifle hunting may be your preferred weapon of choice. With high success rates and a low number of hunters per square mile of public land, New Mexico offers some of the best rifle elk hunts in the West. Season dates throughout the month of October usually allow hunters to also get in on some of the last parts of the rut.

Rifle hunts in New Mexico with 50% success rates
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
potential
Public
land %
Harvest
success
Draw odds
resident
Draw odds
nonresident
6B 370"+ 99.9% 100% 1.4% 0.30%
16A 370"+ 96.9% 54% 3.4% 0.66%
16D 370"+ 88.4% 61% 4% 0.47%
34 350"+ 67.8% 50% 4.6% 2.2%

Note: Nonresident draw odds are extremely low in the units with the highest success rates. Using Filtering 2.0, adjust success rates to find units with higher draw odds.


How to uncover hidden gem elk units

While much of the discussion up to this point has centered around success and trophy potential, New Mexico also offers world-class elk hunting outside these very limited entry units. There will undoubtedly be 370” type bulls taken each year in at least 30 of the 47 elk units in New Mexico. Using Filtering 2.0, you can search out these great elk units and put together an application strategy that is stacked with the proper drawing odds to get you in the field hunting in New Mexico. Another gem in New Mexico is the guided pool. If you are planning on using an outfitter, you definitely want to check the odds on the guided pool versus the unguided pool. The draw odds are almost always higher due to a 10% tag allocation versus a 6% allocation in the unguided pool.

New Mexico statewide elk harvest - updated 2019

Remember, we have Draw Odds for all female species. In New Mexico, there are some great opportunities for elk in the way of antlerless licenses. You can find your draw odds below.

Antlerless elk draw odds

Find your resident antlerless elk draw odds here

Find your nonresident antlerless elk draw odds here

How contracting with a guide can change your draw odds

Contracting with a guide can increase your draw odds enough to give you the edge you are looking for. While it does not guarantee that you will draw, it does give you slightly better odds of drawing a tag, not to mention a better chance at filling that coveted tag. Use the Guided Draw filter in Filtering 2.0 to see the Draw Odds for a given hunt.

Archery elk hunt draw odds comparison

Unit Trophy
potential
Resident
draw odds
Nonresident
draw odds
Guided
draw odds
Harvest
success
Unit 10 340"+ 52%
42%
15%
9.6%
69%
36%
13%
19%
Unit 18 340"+ 69%
41%
23%
30%
47%
37%
32%
9%
Unit 2C 330"+ 46%
36%
23%
13%
82%
44%
19%
19%
Unit 30 330"+ 17%
12%
11%
8%
50%
40%
43%
70%
Unit 45 330"+ 43%
37%
8.3%
7.9%
59%
48%
27%
23%
Unit 2A 320"+ 46%
36%
23%
13%
82%
44%
19%
19%

 

B&C entry trends for New Mexico elk

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 elk

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Catron 7 12131516A16B16C16D16E21A2223
Lincoln 6 18363738
Colfax 2 48495455A55B5657
Cibola 1 910111213
Los Alamos 1 6C
Sandoval 1 6A, 6B, 6C, 7, 9

Map of New Mexico's typical elk B&C all time entries 2019

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

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Catron 3 12131516A16B16C16D16E21A2223
Colfax 2 48495455A55B5657
Sierra 2 16B16C21A21B24
McKinley 1 7, 9, 10, 12
Otero 1 28, 30, 34, 36
Sandoval 1 6A6B6C79

Map of New Mexico's nontypical elk B&C all time entries 2019


Managing expectations for elk

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

Remember that you get three choices and all three choices are considered when your application is drawn and if all three of your choices are full, then you are out of luck. Always 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 your biggest concern is maximizing draw odds and harvest opportunity, consider contracting with a guide to increase your chances.

Find your resident elk draw odds here

Find your nonresident elk draw odds here

Researching for hunts in New Mexico

A good way to go about researching potential trophy elk units in New Mexico would be to use Filtering 2.0, select elk, adjust the trophy potential slider to the desired size 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.

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

Since everyone has the same chance of drawing, you will want to focus on the hunts that offer the best balance of draw odds and harvest success. Applying for only the best trophy units doesn't make much sense when you really just want to go hunting. At the same time, drawing a tag in a unit with little elk doesn't give you much incentive to make a trip from out of state. Utilize Draw Odds and Filtering 2.0 to zero in on the hunts that will offer a higher than 25% success rate and 20% to 30% draw odds (for nonresidents and residents, respectively).

Resident opportunities with >70% draw odds found within archery hunts

Unit Trophy
potential
Draw
odds*
Harvest
success
Public land
%
Unit 16E 350"+ 72% 14% 62.9%
Unit 23 330"+ 72% 15% 63.2%
Unit 21B 320"+ 84% 22% 62.1%
Unit 55A 320"+ 79%
71%
75%
17%
50%
14%
13%
Unit 50 310"+ 100%
87%
22%
24%
67.9%
Unit 54 310"+ 81% 17% 10.6%
Unit 9 300"+ 100%
100%
15%
3%
25%
Unit 48 300"+ 80%
77%
24%
19%
29.1%

* Check out the Unit Profiles to see which archery season.

Find your resident archery elk draw odds here

Nonresident opportunities with >25% draw odds found within archery hunts

Unit Trophy
potential
Draw
odds
Harvest
success
Public land
%
Unit 18 340"+ 30% 9% 66.6%
Unit 7 330"+ 27% 14% 39.5%
Unit 50 310"+ 99% 22% 67.9%
Unit 9 300"+ 100%
100%
15%
3%
25%
Unit 48 300"+ 27% 24% 29.1%

Find your nonresident archery elk draw odds here

Resident opportunities with >50% draw odds found within muzzleloader hunts

Unit Trophy
potential
Draw
odds
Harvest
success
Public land
%
Unit 13 360"+ 50% 22% 43.7%
Unit 23 330"+ 50% 17% 63.2%
Unit 24 330"+ 55% 8% 62%
Unit 55A 320"+ 89% 7% 13%
Unit 54 310"+ 70% 38% 10.6%
Unit 9 300"+ 69%
100%
56%
100%
16%
6%
25%
19%
25%
Unit 48 300"+ 62% 17% 29.1%

Find your resident muzzleloader elk draw odds here

Nonresident opportunities with >15% draw odds found within muzzleloader hunts

Unit Trophy
potential
Draw
odds
Harvest
success
Public land
%
Unit 7 330"+ 21% 18% 39.5%
Unit 24 330"+ 21% 8% 62%
Unit 51A 310"+ 17% 29% 86.2%
Unit 51B 310"+ 17% 29% 66.3%
Unit 9 300"+ 30%
100%
100%
16%
6%
19%
25%
Unit 48 300"+ 27% 17% 29.1%

Find your nonresident muzzleloader elk draw odds here

Resident opportunities with >50% draw odds found within rifle hunts

Unit Trophy
potential
Draw
odds
Harvest
success
Public land
%
Unit 21B 320"+ 69% 35% 62.1%
Unit 55A 320"+ 85% 14% 13%
Unit 50 310"+ 51%
86%
15%
16%
67.9%
Unit 53 310"+ 77% 13% 47.4%
Unit 54 310"+ 86% 19% 10.6%

Find your resident rifle elk draw odds here

Nonresident opportunities with >25% draw odds found within rifle hunts

Unit Trophy
potential
Draw
odds
Harvest
success
Public land
%
Unit 45 330"+ 27% 15% 74.7%
Unit 5A 320"+ 34% 40% 16.2%
Unit 21B 320"+ 32% 35% 62.1%
Unit 50 310"+ 38% 16% 67.9%
Unit 53 310"+ 44% 13% 47.4%

Find your nonresident rifle elk draw odds here


New Mexico's deer breakdown

New Mexico is one of only four states in the country that offers the opportunity to hunt three species of deer. Mule deer cover the state in every unit. There are also eastern whitetail deer in the northeastern corner of the state and Coues deer in the southwest corner. For the purpose of this article, we will address each separately in strategy, but the species can be combined on one application. While similar to elk in which the same units will undoubtedly be a top choice for trophy potential, it is important to mention that any unit in New Mexico is capable of producing some huge deer any given year.

New Mexico's 2019 mule deer breakdown

Mule deer hunting in New Mexico is as diverse as the state itself. Some units are managed as opportunity units; others are managed for maximum trophy potential—and some are a combination of both. The state holds what are considered by some to be two subspecies: the northern population of Rocky Mountain mule deer and the southern population of desert mule deer. With a large distribution and huge popularity among residents and nonresidents alike, mule deer are undoubtedly one of the most economically and socially significant animals in New Mexico. Mule deer can be found from the desert floor at around 4,000’ in elevation to the highest peaks in New Mexico that are at almost 10,000’. This diversity allows hunters to create hunting opportunities that can be tailored to their interests and goals for a particular year.

What to expect when you apply for mule deer in New Mexico

Once again, equal odds are good odds no matter what the number is. With no bonus points, New Mexico is a state that, if lady luck is on your side, can be hunted every year. There is no sitting out and building points to get a good tag. Structuring your application with choices from Filtering 2.0 will help you select in ascending order of draw odds. This is the best way to end up in New Mexico with a deer tag in your pocket. New Mexico’s mule deer are managed on a unit-by-unit basis. With that in mind, your application should follow some plan around your own personal goals for a New Mexico mule deer hunt. There are mule deer opportunities for archery, muzzleloader, and rifle hunters. There are special hunts for mobility-impaired and youth only hunters. Basically, your expectations when applying for New Mexico mule deer hunts are what you make them. Do your research and choose units that are specific to your goals.

How to uncover the hidden gems in the New Mexico deer draw

There’s no gem in the typical trophy areas such as 2C and 5B other than equal odds are good odds no matter what the number is! You just have to have lady luck on your side. There are, however, a few gems hidden throughout the state if you look outside of the typical box. Youth hunting may be the biggest one hiding in New Mexico. If you are looking to get a youth hunter on a truly high-end deer hunt without waiting years and building points, New Mexico is the spot. High draw odds, lots of public land, and hunts that are right in the heart of the rut make New Mexico the best place to take a kid hunting. With NMDGF separating the archery hunts into early and late seasons, I believe there will be some great undersubscribed early archery hunts in units that had low drawing odds in prior years. If you’re an archer looking for either a guided or DIY hunt, I would look seriously at these new hunts. I believe they will have great odds for the first couple of years until everybody catches on. Remember equal odds are good odds no matter the number!

Archery

New Mexico took a giant step this year in an attempt to better manage their archery deer hunts by separating them into early and late seasons. In the past, if you drew a typical archery hunt, you were allowed to hunt both a September and a January season. The new rules have split these options and you must apply for either the early or late season. NMDGF also added either a late or early season in the units that previously only had one season in an effort to make hunting opportunities equal statewide. This not only allows better management throughout the state, but will also allow for more hunting opportunities for hunters going forward.

Top archery mule deer units in New Mexico for trophy potential
with harvest success over 40% on the late season only
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
potential
Public
land %
Harvest
success
Draw odds
resident
Draw odds
nonresident
2B 180"+ 84.6% 47% 11% 2.3%
2C 180"+ 89.7% 59% 6.8% 0.64%
24 170"+ 62% 42% -- --
57 170"+ 14.7% 44% 11% 5.4%

Find your resident late archery mule deer draw odds here

Find your nonresident archery mule deer draw odds here

Muzzleloader

There are no restrictions on muzzleloading equipment in New Mexico. With the range capabilities of most modern muzzleloaders, hunters are finding it easier to obtain their goals when it comes to mule deer hunting. New Mexico has some very good hunts available. For the most part, the muzzleloader seasons don’t fall during the rut; however, often fall early enough in the year to catch mule deer in the summer transition zones. This means they are still in velvet and are more patternable and huntable. The combination of very high draw odds and trophy potential should make muzzleloader hunting in New Mexico something you should consider when planning your application strategy.

Top muzzleloader units in New Mexico for trophy potential
with nonresident draw odds over 55%
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
potential
Public
land %
Harvest
success
Draw odds
resident
Draw odds
nonresident
2A 170"+ 65.7% 39% 42% 69%
18 170"+ 66.6% 21% 94% 100%
24 170"+ 62% 27% 100% 100%
57 170"+ 14.7% 55% 56% 55%

Find your resident muzzleloader mule deer draw odds here

Find your nonresident muzzleloader mule deer draw odds here

Rifle

With rifle hunting in New Mexico, the inverse relationship between trophy potential and draw odds that is so common throughout western hunting is more pronounced than in any other draw in the state. When truly seeking a big mule deer with your rifle, such as one over the 180” mark, you are going to need to have a little luck on your side in the draw. Remember that when applying in this state. If a true giant mule deer is what you are looking for, apply for the top units that have that potential. While the top rifle hunts in the state have very low odds, New Mexico does offer some of the best rut mule deer hunting in the U.S. for youth hunters. Units that are not open to adults hunting with a rifle are often open to youth. These should not be overlooked if you are planning on applying youth hunters in New Mexico. 5B, 24, 17 and Units 57-59 are such units.

Top rifle mule deer hunts in New Mexico for trophy potential
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
potential
Public
land %
Harvest
success
Draw odds
resident
Draw odds
nonresident
2B early 180"+ 84.6% 46% 16% 17%
2B mid 180"+ 84.6% 50% 16% 11%
2B late 180"+ 84.6% 61% 8% 3.5%
2C 180"+ 89.7% 95% 0.76% 0.09%
5B 180"+ 81.8% 87% 1.1% 0.21%

Find your resident rifle mule deer draw odds here

Find your nonresident rifle mule 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 16 2B2C45A5B6A6C7455051A51B52
San Juan 5 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 2019

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 2019


New Mexico Coues deer breakdown

Coues deer hunting in New Mexico is limited to the southwest corner of the state. The core Coues deer herd is found in three units: 23, 24 and 27. There are bucks killed every year in New Mexico that will meet the Boone & Crockett (B&C) minimum score as well as some once-in-a-lifetime type trophies, which can gross in excess of 130”. The archery hunts are typically very difficult. Famed archer Chuck Adams said that the Coues deer with a bow was the hardest when he was trying to accomplish his first Super Slam. Like the mule deer seasons in New Mexico, muzzleloader seasons don’t fall in the rut, but are often early enough in the year to catch Coues deer in the summer transition zones where they are often easier to locate and hunt. Rifle hunts are the preferred choice for most Coues deer hunters and, no matter the unit, this is where drawing a tag becomes the most difficult. It is worth mentioning that there are also pockets of Coues deer found in Units 16B, 16C, 16A, 17, 21 and 26. These units often have tags that are good for mule deer as well as Coues deer.

Top Coues deer hunts in New Mexico for trophy potential with harvest success over 29%
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
potential
Public
land %
Harvest
success
Draw odds
resident
Draw odds
nonresident
24
muzzleloader
100"+ 62% 38% 100% 13%
24
late rifle
100"+ 62% 53% 39% 9.4%
27
muzzleloader
100"+ 67.6% 36% 100% 59%
27
early rifle
100"+ 67.6% 41% 35% 5.3%
27
late rifle
100"+ 67.6% 29% 20% 2.3%

Find your resident Coues deer draw odds here

Find your nonresident Coues deer draw odds here


 

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 5 2327
Catron 2 23
Sierra 1 24

Map of New Mexico's typical Coues deer B&C all time entries 2019

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

Map of New Mexico's nontypical Coues deer B&C all time entries 2019


New Mexico whitetail deer breakdown

New Mexico is probably not on your application shortlist for whitetail deer! Actually, New Mexico is probably not even mentioned in any discussions about trophy whitetail deer in the U.S. This may be a mistake. For the first time, NMDGF has separated hunts in these units into mule deer and whitetail specific seasons and moved the whitetail hunts into the rut. Using Filtering 2.0, you’ll see that there are several hunts in New Mexico with great drawing odds, trophy potential over 160”, and very high hunter success rates. Granted, some of these hunts are taking place on private land, but these units do have about 20% public land, giving a hunter a fair amount of ground to cover. These hunts also have low tag numbers per unit. These whitetail only hunts—more than any deer hunt in New Mexico—will require quite a bit of pre-season research. But if a hunter is diligent in that research, New Mexico can offer very good whitetail hunting.

Top rifle whitetail hunts in New Mexico for trophy potential
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
potential
Public
land %
Harvest
success
Draw odds
resident
Draw odds
nonresident
57
early
160"+ 14.7% 58% 44% 72%
57
late
160"+ 14.7% 56% 63% 36%
58
early
160"+ 20.8% 20% 66% --
58
late
160"+ 20.8% 33% 69% 36%

Note: none of the previous hunts were rut hunts. These numbers should increase with the late rifle tags now being offered in the rut.

Find your resident whitetail deer draw odds here

Find your nonresident whitetail deer draw odds here

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