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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2019: New Mexico Sheep & Antelope

2019 New Mexico sheep and antelope application strategy article

New Mexico's 2019 sheep and antelope application overview


Main writer: Jordan Christensen of The Draw

Jump to: New for 2019 State Information Draw System Rocky Bighorn Breakdown Desert Bighorn Breakdown Antelope Breakdown

The application process in New Mexico lends itself to being one of the best opportunities for a nonresident hunter to fast track themselves into a top-shelf experience. Whether you are looking to hunt one of the North American wild bighorn sheep or some of the top producing units in the country for trophy antelope, New Mexico gives each applicant an equal opportunity to be the lucky recipient. This state uses a random draw system and no bonus or preference points are allotted if you are unsuccessful. The slate is wiped clean each year and every applicant has the same odds as the next hunter. Especially when it comes to bighorn sheep hunting, equal odds along with the fact that there are up to eight potential nonresident permits (three desert, five Rocky Mountain) between the guided and nonresident pools makes New Mexico one of the top picks when looking to invest in a chance to draw for one of these incredible species.

Below, we will cover why, on average, there are not many nonresidents involved in this draw each year. As for antelope, New Mexico has been busy this past year rewriting its entire management strategy for this species, which resulted in them now issuing unlimited over-the-counter (OTC) permits for private land. Also new for 2019, adult applicants will no longer be assigned a ranch to hunt when drawn in New Mexico and will only be allowed to hunt on any of the federal and state land that exist inside that unit as long as it can be accessed without crossing private property. This will inevitably throw a wrench into all of the normal application trends for adult rifle antelope hunters this year, but should not have too much effect on the archery, youth or mobility-impaired hunters as it has been this way for them for a number of years now.

Starting this year, New Mexico is now requiring the applicant to purchase a 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, there will be no refunds issued for the hunting license and stamps. Once you have purchased the hunting license and stamps, the application fee for nonresidents is $13 per species. You are required to front the permit fee at the time of the application. Once all of these fees have been paid you are now eligible and in the running. The upfront costs along with the fact that applicants can come and go from this application year over year without losing any ground is a major factor in the low number of applicants applying compared to 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 having to pay everything 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 sheep and antelope in 2019?

Trophy quality

Whether we are discussing bighorn sheep or antelope, New Mexico has many above average opportunities for both of these species.

Excellent opportunities for youth

New Mexico is one of the few states that offers a youth only application and especially the only state for a hunt choice for both the desert bighorn sheep as well as the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. This, along with many units in the state having hunt codes set aside specifically for youth hunters, makes it some of the best odds in the country to get your youth hunter on an elite experience. There is no age limit to apply in New Mexico; as long as your child has completed his/her hunter’s education course, then they qualify to apply.

Fantastic drawing odds

Bighorn sheep odds are what they are and, unfortunately, they are always tough to swallow once we start putting the actual number to it. However, equal odds are good odds when it comes to bighorn sheep and New Mexico is one of the applications in the country that offers that. Hunters can also opt into participating in the guided pool, which allows applicants who are under contract with a state-approved outfitter to be in a pool of applicants that is typically smaller and has 10% of the permits set aside versus the 6% that is set aside for nonresidents who want to decided whether or not to use an outfitter until after they have drawn.

Apply for multiple bighorn sheep species

New Mexico is also one of the few states that allows its applicants to apply for both bighorn sheep species on one application. You are allowed to select three hunt choices per species, giving you six total options to choose from if there is a permit still available in any of the six selections you will have drawn. Considering the upfront cost to participate in this drawing, there is quite a lot of value they are adding to the application.

High success on mature antelope bucks

As you will see below there are a number of units in New Mexico that historically have 80”+ trophy potential, but, truthfully, a giant buck can and does come from anywhere in the state. There have been a number of governor’s tag bucks taken in obscure units over the past several years in areas that do not have a history of that caliber of buck. The truth is an above average buck can and does come from just about anywhere in the state.

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. If you do not purchase the habitat stamp through the draw or prior to May 15, 2019, then a printed copy may be required. This option is not available for license purchases and/or duplicate tags at 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 muzzleloading 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 an arrow 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.

Private-land only antelope license

Most private land only antelope licenses are now available OTC. A public land hunt code must be selected when purchasing this license. These licenses are not valid on any public land.

Antelope draw licenses

Successful draw applicants will no longer be assigned to a private ranch. All draw licenses are valid on public lands and private land with written permission within the Game Management Unit (GMU).

Hunt codes are now listed by Game Management Unit

Hunts for all species are no longer listed by sporting arm type. Please review listings thoroughly before applying.

Duplicate License Fee

A $6 duplicate license fee will be charged for all duplicate tags/licenses in accordance with New Mexico state law. This fee will only be charged when a duplicate tag is obtained requiring reprinting of the license with a new tag number. Big game and turkey hunters are advised not to purchase their licenses online if they plan to obtain the tag(s) at a license vendor.


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 desert bighorn sheep, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and antelope species profiles to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy areas.

New Mexico State Profile Rocky Bighorn Profile Desert Bighorn Profile Antelope 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 New Mexico Department of Fish and Game (NMDFG) office on April 24, 2019.
  • New Mexico hunting license, stamps and application fees are not refundable starting in 2019.
  • Over the counter licenses for some species available July 1
    • OTC licenses for javelina, fall turkey, private-land deer, private-land pronghorn, and private land Barbary sheep, will be available beginning July 1.

Drought in New Mexico

2019

New Mexico drought status as of February 2019

2019 New Mexico drought status update as of February 26. Source: New Mexico Drought Monitor

While much of the state has currently experienced some fantastic winter weather, 61% of the state is still suffering from some level of drought. The heaviest hit areas of the state are in the north and northwest portions of the state. Most of the Gila as well as the Sacramento Mountains are still considered to be in 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.

2018

New Mexico drought status as of early March 2018
2018 New Mexico drought status update. Source: New Mexico Drought Monitor

Compare that to March 6, 2018, when 99.92% of the state was experiencing some sort of drought conditions.

2017

2017 New Mexico drought monitor status March
Comparison map from March 7, 2017. 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. See more information on the guided draw here.

New Mexico offers its applicants five choices when applying and they are different than many 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 applications. The fourth choice is often when you select a quadrant of the state 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 was 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 and often do not line up with a nonresident hunters goals when looking to hunt in new areas. There is a reason that there are leftover permits.

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.

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

New Mexico raffle hunts

Two authorizations 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 bought 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 limit for these hunts is one fork-antlered deer.

One bull-elk authorization will be raffled with the assistance of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation 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 system

Given that 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 apply for them—can have a major impact on if and how you draw. Given that this article is focused on bighorn sheep and antelope we will stay on task and talk about these as they are quite different from one another.

Bighorn sheep

This application, when processed in New Mexico, is slightly different than any of the other species offered by New Mexico. When you select your first choice, most applicants will either choose the desert bighorn sheep or the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep as their first and or second choice. When you make your selection of species you will then be given three options to apply for in that species or choice. The selections that you make can have a major impact on the likelihood of drawing a permit. This same process will happen for your second and third choice if you choose to apply for a ewe permit. The reason the selections that you make will have such a dramatic impact on your odds of drawing is directly related to the number of permits available in any given selection. Essentially, if you choose to apply for three units/hunts that only have one or two permits available per selection, then there is a higher probability that all of the permits will be gone sooner rather than later; therefore, giving you less of a chance at drawing. If simply drawing a bighorn sheep permit is the ultimate goal, then not stacking your selections with the most number of permits is a mistake. If one of your selections has only one permit available and the first applicant drawn also has this as their first choice, then you are immediately down to your remaining four selections. Now if your goal is to hunt the biggest bighorn sheep or you have an area that has some sentimental value over another area then so be it, but if we are simply talking odds, then by not stacking your selections with the most number of permits available you are not trying as hard as you could to draw.

Note: In order for there to be enough permits to suffice the guided pool as well as a nonresident, all of the bighorn sheep permits were included into one drawing and the successful applicants in these categories can come from any unit in the state to include having two of them draw the same unit on the same hunt. Essentially, you are never out of it as long as the quota has not been met for the category that you have applied in as well as a permit still being available in that particular unit.

Note: There is not a fourth choice available when applying for bighorn sheep in New Mexico but there is a fifth choice for population reduction opportunities. Remember, as a nonresident, your ewe permit fee is the same as a ram at $3,160 so be cautious when saying yes to a phone call about a population reduction hunt for bighorn sheep.

Antelope

This application is much similar to all of the others in New Mexico. You are given five choices and your first three will be considered prior to moving onto the next applicant. You can select a fourth choice and be considered for any permits that go undersubscribed; however, remember, this could mean you are selected for an archery permit or any others that are available. This could also mean, starting this year, you are awarded a permit to a unit that is almost entirely private property making access very difficult. Applying for a fifth choice could give you an opportunity at a unique experience and, given that you will have the option to say yes to whatever the opportunity may be, it is always a good decision to select yes on your fifth choice as it’s anyone’s guess as to what the hunt may entail. If you decide it is not what you are looking for you will have the option to decline.

Remember when selecting your choices that some areas of the state with a higher amount of private property are going to be much easier to draw than in the past. Study your maps prior to making a selection as you could end up with a permit and nowhere to hunt.


New Mexico's 2019 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep breakdown

The last survey published by the NMDGF indicates an estimated total number of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep to be somewhere between 1,100 to 1,300 strong in the state of New Mexico. The largest herds are located in the Pecos Wilderness, the Wheeler Peak area and the Rio Grande Gorge which, in 2014, each had established herds of over 200 animals. These herds are segregated into 10 different populations and offered up during 10 different opportunities to draw. Some of the herds are put into the same hunt code and other areas with higher populations have early and late hunts. If you are prone to altitude sickness or would like something to consider in lower elevations, you should be looking towards the San Juan River/Turkey Creek hunt located in the southwest corner of the state as well as the Dry Cimarron in the far northeast corner. Overall, the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep population has been on a steady increase in New Mexico since it hit a low point in 2010 at approximately 700 total sheep. Most units are producing Class IV rams for hunters who are physically ready and patient.

NEW MEXICO ROCKY MOUNTAIN BIGHORN SHEEP POPULATION ESTIMATES (2002-2014) - 2018


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

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

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Taos 25 45, 49, 50, 53, 55A
Mora 2 45, 49
Catron 1 16B, 22, 23

Map of New Mexico's Rocky bighorn sheep B&C all time entries 2019

TOP B&C ROCKY SHEEP LOCATION ENTRIES SINCE 2010 - 2019 New Mexico


The 2019 hit list units for rocky bighorn sheep in New Mexico

Top units to consider for 165” or better rocky bighorns
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
Potential
Avg. harvest
%
Public land
%
Unit 45 180"+ 100% 74.7%
Unit 16B 170"+ 100% 99.5%
Unit 22 170"+ 100% 69.3%
Unit 23 170"+ 100% 63.2%
Unit 24 170"+ 100% 62%
Unit 50 170"+ 100% 67.9%
Unit 53 170"+ 100% 47.4%
Unit 55A 170"+ 100% 13%
Unit 58* 170"+ 100% 20.8%
Unit 49 165"+ 100% 78.2%

Note*: When considering Unit 58, it is worth mentioning that the rams in this unit are very nomadic and often not present with the resident herd of ewes. The two permit holders should be prepared to hunt on call when the rams are present in the herd. As a result, the season dates for this hunt are six months long. For the most part, you will need to access private land in order to be successful on this hunt and access is not guaranteed. For more information, you should call NMDGF at 1-888-248-6866 prior to applying.

Average score and age for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in New Mexico - 2019


New Mexico's 2019 desert bighorn sheep breakdown

The desert bighorn sheep in New Mexico continues to a conservation success story with a long track record of recovery. The biggest news this year is the relocation of 39 sheep into the Sacramento Mountains above Alamogordo, New Mexico. This is a project that has been in the makings for many years and finally came to fruition in late October this past year. This makes eight established populations of desert bighorn sheep in the state, not including Red Rock. With any luck, there will be hunting opportunities for the older age class rams with this new herd in upcoming years. Overall, there is estimated to be just shy of 1,000 desert bighorn sheep in New Mexico as of 2014, which is when the last survey was released. However, there have been different surveys during the release of the sheep into the Sacramento Mountains that indicate the herd size in the San Andreas Mountains has doubled the number published in the 2014 report. The current population seems to be stable—if not on the rise—in New Mexico and many of the units are offering a chance at a world class animal.

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


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

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

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Hidalgo 11 26, 27
Socorro 5 13, 17, 19, 20
Sierra 5 17, 19, 20
Dona Ana 2 19, 20
Grant 1 26
Otero 1 19

Map of New Mexico's Desert bighorn sheep B&C all time entries 2019

TOP B&C DESERT BIGHORN SHEEP LOCATIONS SINCE 2010 - New Mexico 2019


The 2019 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
Avg. harvest
%
Public land
%
Unit 27 175"+ 100% 67.6%
Unit 19 175"+ 100% 97.5%
Unit 13 170"+ 100% 43.7%
Unit 17 170"+ 100% 73.7%
Unit 26 165"+ 100% 53.9%
Unit 20 165"+ 100% 65.1%

Note: Unit 20 Fra Cristobal hunts are conducted on the Armendaris Ranch. This is 100% private property; however, successful applicants will be allowed access. This is a very low impact bighorn sheep hunt if you are looking for something less physical with a very high success rate.

Note: Unit 19 hunt is conducted entirely in conjunction with the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR). Hunters will be allowed to bring with them no more than three guests and each attendee, including the hunter, will be required to pass a background check conducted by the Department of Defense prior to the hunt. Additionally, successful applicants will be charged an extra $150 access fee to WSMR.

New Mexico AVERAGE B&C SCORE AND AGE FOR DESERT BIGHORN SHEEP 2019


Managing expectations for sheep in New Mexico

Equal odds are good odds no matter what the number is. If you are serious about hunting a North American wild sheep at some point in your life, then you need to be pursuing any opportunities where you have an equal chance at drawing. With many point systems so mature in the West, to get started with zero points and be behind a 20+ year old point curve isn’t doing you much good, which is where New Mexico comes into play. It may be less expensive but it is not as productive as an opportunity that has an equal chance starting in year one. This along with the fact that New Mexico requires the money up front is a perfect recipe for dreams to come true. Your odds—like most other bighorn sheep selections—will be less than 1%, but so will every other applicant. Unfortunately, that is as good as we can hope for in this day and age when looking to draw a bighorn sheep permit in the lower 48. Apply for as many permits as you can with the six choices you are allotted. Rub your lucky rabbit's foot or kill a chicken—whatever you think might help—because if there ever was a chance to draw on any given year—even your first—it is in this state.

Rocky bighorn draw odds links

Ewe bighorn opportunities

Residents

Find your resident ewe Rocky bighorn draw odds here

Nonresidents

Find your nonresident ewe Rocky bighorn draw odds here

Guided draw

Find your guided draw ewe Rocky bighorn draw odds here

Rocky Mountain bighorn ram opportunities

Residents

Find your resident Rocky bighorn draw odds here

Nonresidents

Find your nonresident Rocky bighorn draw odds here

Guided draw

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 0.31%—not as good as the resident odds—but almost 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. For more information on the guided draw, check out this article here.

Find your guided draw Rocky bighorn draw odds here

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.

Residents

For residents, the draw odds are 0.87%. This is slightly better than the Rocky Mountain counterpart, but still very slim odds.

Find your resident Desert bighorn draw odds here

Nonresidents

For nonresidents, the odds are 0.09%. Again, definitely not great odds, but there is always a chance in a state with no point system.

Find your nonresident Desert bighorn draw odds here

Guided draw

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 resident odds.

Find your guided draw Desert bighorn draw odds here


New Mexico's 2019 antelope breakdown

New Mexico’s antelope population from many accounts has been struggling across most of the state for many years and numbers are falling. Poor fawn recruitment caused by drought conditions and heavy predation due to coyotes means that something is going to have to change before we see this downward trend stop and get headed in the right condition. New Mexico does not consistently post population surveys and the numbers that are given when you can find them seem to be slightly inconsistent. One source that was used in presenting and, ultimately changing, how hunters secure permits states that the overall population is sitting just shy of 50,000 animals with the bulk (60%) of these animals residing in the northeast quadrant of the state. The only other notable population being the southeast quadrant with 14,000 animals reported (28%), meaning that just shy of 90% of the antelope resides in the eastern half of the state. However, when we look at the Boone & Crockett (B&C) record books, there are not as many antelope in the western half of the state; however, it still holds its own when looking for a chance at a giant. The long and short of it is that, although New Mexico is struggling to maintain their population of antelope, it is still considered a premier destination when looking for a chance at an above average antelope. If you still have not locked into a hunt for this fall, consider rolling the dice in New Mexico for antelope and get a little more value out of the now required hunting license you may be purchasing because you are already committed to applying for some other species.

New Mexico statewide antelope harvest - updated 2019

What to expect when I apply for antelope in New Mexico

With so many changes to the way permits are now distributed (antelope permits on private land are now OTC; draw permits are going unit-wide; no ranch selection will be made), it is going to throw a wrench into any past data or trending that has been fairly consistent in prior years. Given that the youth, mobility-impaired and archery hunts have been unit-wide for a number of years without ranch assignments, the biggest changes expected will be to the adult rifle hunts. Prior to this year, the successful applicant was assigned a ranch that included any private property as well as state and BLM lease land that was under contract with the ranch owner. Starting in 2019, these adult rifle permits will only be for hunting the public land that exists inside any particular unit that can be accessed without crossing any private property. This will create quite a bottleneck of hunters, particularly in the eastern portion of the state where public land can be rather scarce.

When considering these portions of the state, it is likely that the draw odds will begin to look very appealing to many hunters, but be aware to consult the Filtering 2.0 feature prior to applying as many of these areas will have extremely limited public access. You will also be competing with deeded property with different types of agriculture growing on them, which could make for a very difficult hunt to even have an opportunity in. When looking to where to apply—if you are going to apply with another hunter—there are numbers of selections that do not have enough permits to suffice there even being a chance to have two available permits in both the guided and nonresident pools. Also, it should be noted that the guided pool drawing happens prior to the nonresident pool. What this means is that if there are 100 nonresident applicants and one guided pool applicant and only one permit available on hunt codes with only five permits available, then the guided pool applicant will always draw the permit, leaving nonresidents with no chance at drawing.

If your goal is to hunt New Mexico antelope in a do-it-yourself hunt, then you will need to be focused on units with at least 10 permits. If you are applying as a pair, then you will need to apply for a hunt code that has at least 30 permits available. This, unfortunately, means you will need to stick to the eastern portion of the state for the most part where, again, access is going to be very limited. If there ever was a time to spend some extra time on the Filtering 2.0 it would be with this application as there are many things to consider.


B&C entry trends for New Mexico antelope

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 antelope

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Mora 38 42464748
Socorro 32 131416E17182021B
Catron 28 12131516A16B16C16D16E21A23
Quay 7 40, 41, 42

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


The 2019 hit list units for antelope in New Mexico

Top units to consider for 80” or better bucks
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
potential
Public land
%
Unit 13 80"+ 43.7%
Unit 15 80"+ 77.5%
Unit 16
(A, C, D, E)
80"+ 82.8%
Unit 17 80"+ 73.7%
Unit 29 80"+ 84%
Unit 36 80"+ 53%
Unit 38 80"+ 31.9%
Unit 41 80"+ 20.4%
Unit 42 80"+ 9.5%
Unit 43 80"+ 26.4%
Unit 47 80"+ 23.6%

Note: Just because a unit shows “X%” of public land does not mean all of that land is accessible without crossing private property, meaning it could be landlocked. Take a close look at the maps prior to applying.

Note: If you are selecting to purchase an OTC permit for antelope in New Mexico you will need to reference the regulations book in order to obtain the hunt code for the particular unit you are going to be hunting. This will need to be completed 14 days prior to arriving in New Mexico as the state will need time to mail these carcass tags to you.


Managing expectations

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

If your biggest goal is a record book antelope, then you need to swing for the fences on your application. Whether you are a resident or a nonresident, make sure to put your most desired hunt first as there is only one pass and your application has three choices that will be evaluated.

Resident:

Your first selection should be one of the units from the Hit List, focusing specifically on Unit 13, 15, 16 (A, C, D, E) and 17. Depending on your preferred weapon selection, be sure to evaluate which one offers the best opportunity (Example: do not choose archery in a unit with little public land). Select your desired hunts in order of preference so that your first choice truly is your first choice.

Find your resident antelope draw odds here

Nonresident:

Similar to the resident strategy, our first selection should be one of the units from the Hit List. Utilizing the Guided Draw could be a very good option for you as it can drastically increase your draw odds and outfitter fees for antelope hunts are pretty reasonable. Check out our list of recommended outfitters here.

Find your nonresident antelope draw odds here

Guided draw

Find your guided draw antelope draw odds here

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

No matter how you slice it, antelope tags are hard to come by in New Mexico. But there are some other options that are easier to draw than others. You should still pick your preferred hunt as your first choice, just in case you get lucky. Utilize the standalone Draw Odds page to find which unit groups to use as your second and third choices by adjusting the draw odds slider.

Resident:

When looking at units for an opportunity more than a record book antelope, look to units with higher draw odds as well as archery seasons. With the draw odds so low, there really isn't any opportunity to be found in the low draw odds of muzzleloader and rifle seasons.

Resident archery opportunities with decent draw odds found within antelope hunts

Unit Trophy
potential
Draw
odds
Harvest
success
Public land
%
Unit 20 75"+ 23% 13% 65.1%
Unit 25 70"+ 20% 17% 74.6%
Unit 26 70"+ 20% 17% 53.9%
Unit 27 70"+ 20% 17% 67.6%
Unit 41 80"+ 18% 31% 20.4%
Unit 42 80"+ 18% 31% 9.5%
Unit 43 80"+ 18% 31% 26.4%
Unit 47 80"+ 18% 31% 23.6%
Unit 56 75"+ 18% 31% 21.7%
Unit 57 75"+ 18% 31% 14.7%
Unit 58 75"+ 18% 31% 20.8%
Unit 59 75"+ 18% 31% 24.5%
Unit 31 70"+ 17% 50% 48.6%
Unit 32 75"+ 17% 41% 34%
Unit 33 75"+ 17% 41% 57.8%

Find your resident antelope draw odds here

Nonresident:

Nonresident archery opportunities with decent draw odds found within antelope hunts

Unit Trophy
potential
Draw
odds
Harvest
success
Public land
%
Unit 20 75"+ 50% 13% 65.1%
Unit 39 75"+ 17% 60% 18.2%
Unit 40 75"+ 17% 60% 10.4%

Find your nonresident antelope draw odds here

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