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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2020: New Mexico Exotics

2020 New Mexico Exotics application strategy

Main writer: Jordan Christensen of The Draw

New Mexico's exotics application overview

Jump to: NEW FOR 2020 State Information Draw System Ibex Breakdown Oryx Breakdown Barbary Sheep Breakdown

The exotic species found in New Mexico are truly one of the most underrated conservation success stories in North America. In the late 1960s, the state designed a revolutionary breeding program with four big game species from halfway around the world. Thanks to its success, offspring from the oryx (gemsbok), Barbary sheep (aoudad), Persian ibex and kudu that were brought from their native countries were released into strategic parts of New Mexico where it was identified as good habitat for that the species to thrive. Other than kudu, which could not withstand the colder winters in Tularosa Basin, the transplants could not have done better and the result is exactly what was intended. Now, there are well-established populations of these unique big game animals in large areas of the state that had previously struggled to maintain substantial big game hunting opportunities. Further, these are public land, free-range hunting opportunities available to all hunters, which contrasts with the opportunities that exist in the neighboring state of Texas. 

The biggest change in New Mexico’s draw system is not in the form of a new law as much as it is a change in the interpretation of existing law. For many years, the quotas for the draw system in New Mexico have been that 86% of the available permits will be issued to residents, 10% of the permits are allocated for hunters who apply with an outfitter (resident and nonresident allowed) and 6% of the permits are issued to hunters who would like to hunt do-it-yourself (DIY) or at least have the option to hunt DIY if they prefer. However, there were many times when the math was not exact and the state simply rounded up in these situations.

For example, if there were five permits available for any given hunt code, then the formula states that .5% of the permits need to be set aside for the guided pool. However, if the standard practice at that time was to round up, then there would potentially be six permits issued on that specific hunt code if there was at least one applicant in the guided pool. This same situation was also happening in the nonresident pool and could mean that in any given hunt code there were as many as two additional permits awarded each year when the formula did not land on a whole number. Fortunately, the days of rounding up are over and the number of permits that are potentially being issued to nonresidents as well as applicants who choose to apply with an outfitter is no longer going to be issued.

What you need to know is this: if you are applying with an outfitter, then you will need to apply for hunt codes with at least 10 permits available and, if you are applying in the normal nonresident pool, you will need to apply for hunt codes with at least 17 permits available in order for there to be a permit available for you in the draw. The most important changes based upon this new interpretation of the old law are that: there will not be a youth Ibex nonresident permit available this year, there will no longer be any guided pool permits issued in the Iraq/Afghanistan returning veteran oryx permits, and there will not be any nonresident permits issued on any of the broken horn oryx permits. You will need to be in the guided pool to have a chance at drawing these permits. 

Note: The online application deadline for New Mexico Barbary sheep, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, ibex, javelina, antelope and oryx is March 18 by 5 p.m. MST. You can apply online here.

A quick history of exotics in New Mexico


In 1970, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) imported 15 Persian (bezoar) ibex from Iran and released them in the Florida Mountains near Deming, New Mexico. Soon after, an additional 27 were released and a sustainable population was established. NMDGF currently manages them with a target population on the Floridas of 400 to 600 animals. They live in a basic boom and bust cycle that lasts 15 to 20 years. Ibex are rarely found off of the Florida Mountains, but, if located, there is a year-round over-the-counter (OTC) season for them.


Also known as gemsbok, the oryx is an African antelope that was introduced to White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) by NMDGF between 1969 and 1977. A very small number of oryx were brought to the NMDGF facility at Redrock, New Mexico, where they were bred in captivity. The department released 93 captively bred oryx in the Tularosa Basin, which has habitats similar to those they would occupy in African deserts—namely steppe and savanna. Due to the lack of predation and rapid reproduction, the population climbed to 5,000 to 6,000 animals by 2001. At that time, NMDGF and WSMR created a management plan with the goal of maintaining a population between 1,500 to 2,500 animals. Licenses were increased and maintained for years to meet management goals. As the population started to reach the 2,500 to 3,000 mark the number of hunts was reduced by 2014. Once again, by the next big game regulation cycle, the population had increased above 2009 levels within three to four years. As a result of this increase, for the 2019-2020 season, NMDGF and WSMR added four more hunts. This increase has more than doubled the number of once-in-a-lifetime licenses this year.

Barbary sheep

These sheep were exported to New Mexico from Africa's Barbary Coast. In 1940, they were released into a game park in what is now Unit 34 of New Mexico. The first escapes were documented in 1943, resulting in the start of a free-range herd in the state. NMDGF then released Barbary sheep in Mills Canyon in Unit 47 and Largo Canyon in Unit 7 in 1950 and 1957, respectively. Current data suggest that about 800 Barbary sheep are harvested in New Mexico each year.

Note: Kudu were also imported into New Mexico; however, they did not survive much past their arrival.

Press release photo of exotic species import to New Mexico

Photo credit: This photo is the original press release photo from the private collection of Jason Browning.

New for 2020

Purchase 2020 game hunting license through draw application 

Draw applicants purchasing 2020 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 requirements for military 

Documentation of proof of service for all military only hunts and returning Iraq/Afghanistan veteran oryx hunts must be received by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) prior to application.

Draw carcass tags by mail 

Successful draw applicants who did not choose the e-tag option will receive the license/tag(s) via U.S. Postal Service in late May or early June.

No electronic check payments

Electronic check payments are no longer accepted. Payments may be made in person by cash, credit card online and by telephone by credit card only.

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

Hunting license$15$65
Habitat stamp$5$5
Habitat management
and access validation
Application fee
per species
Auxiliary fees for permits and licenses
(required up front in order to apply and refunded if the application is unsuccessful)
Standard: $270
High demand/quality: $355
Standard: $535
High demand/quality: $760
Barbary sheep$103$360
Desert bighorn/Rocky Mountain
bighorn sheep
$85 ewe

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 Oryx, Ibex, and Barbary Sheep species profiles to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy areas.

New Mexico State Profile Ibex Profile Oryx Profile Barbary Sheep 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 18, 2020.
  • 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 NMDGF office on April 29, 2020.
  • New Mexico hunting licenses, stamps, and application fees are not refundable.

Drought in New Mexico


New Mexico 2020 Drought Monitor

2020 New Mexico drought status update. Source: New Mexico Drought Monitor

Currently, 55.76% of the state is in some level of drought with 11.4% of the state considered to be in a severe drought. This is considerably better than last year and an incredible bounce back from the drought in 2018. The areas of the state affected are slightly different especially in the center of the state, but overall New Mexico is looking good for moisture and, if the winter weather continues like it is into the spring, New Mexico should have another excellent moisture year for the 2020 season. 


New Mexico drought monitor as of mid March 2019

2019 New Mexico drought status update. Source: New Mexico Drought Monitor


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

The draw system

Understanding the draw

New Mexico’s draw system is a random drawing system. 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. An applicant 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 want to. 

New Mexico offers their applicants five choices when applying. This is different compared to many other states. In New Mexico, the first three selections are all 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 as likely to draw your third choice as you are your first on any given application. 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 hunter’s goals when looking to hunt in new areas. There is a reason the permits are going to be leftover.

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's 2020 oryx breakdown and what to expect

New Mexico oryx is one of the most exciting draws in the country. With 58 guided pool permits and 35 nonresident permits up for grabs, there is no other once-in-a-lifetime hunt in the country that offers as much opportunity to nonresident hunters than this. Along with the fact that there are an additional 21 broken horn permits, eight Mcgregor Range permits, 128 adult off-range and 32 youth off-range permits between the two different quotas — which are not considered once-in-a-lifetime — it’s truly incredible that a hunt of this nature has this much opportunity for residents and nonresidents alike. 

The oryx hunting in New Mexico has had its ups and downs throughout the last 50 years since the species was introduced in the late 60s; however, we are currently in one of the most prolific surges in population since the early 2000s. As the state does not do any proper counts there is no real data on the actual current number, but based upon first-hand experience, I can tell you with certainty there are as many or more oryx in the state than there has been in a long time. While hunters on-range are seeing as many as 50 to 300+ oryx on any given day of hunting, an off-range hunter could have multiple days in a row seeing multiple oryx a day, which has not always been the case. You can also see this when comparing the number of hunts offered and permits awarded per hunt — both saw a substantial increase in 2019. 

Whether you are looking to apply for a once-in-a-lifetime permit or one of the other opportunities, if it’s the odds you are after, consider applying for hunts that fall during September, October or November. Other hunts see a much higher number of applicants since many hunters do not want to interfere with their normal fall hunting schedule and look to draw in times of the year when little or no other big game hunts occur. If you choose to apply off-Range, be prepared for a longer hunt — similar to what you would plan for a top-shelf deer or elk hunt. If you do that, you will be on the right track. The hunts are an entire month-long, so if you’re coming from out-of-state, consider a five to seven-day hunt. Because there is no break in the season aside from a few months in the spring, it may be best to consider planning around a dark moon or even in the later part of the month instead of opening weekend. This is because there will be many more hunters in the field, making it harder to drive up a road that no other hunter has traveled. If you are looking for a trophy hunting experience and you have already drawn your once-in-a-lifetime hunt, then consider applying for the Mcgregor Range. This on-range hunt is conducted by Fort Bliss instead of White Sands Missile Range. It is not considered a once-in-a-lifetime hunt; yet, it produces a number of exceptional oryx each year. 

Safari Club International top 10 New Mexico oryx

199 0/8"White Sands Missile RangeBill Lauer2008
298 2/8"White Sands Missile RangeBenny James2001
398 0/8"White Sands Missile RangeRoxanne Rhea1988
498 0/8"White Sands Missile RangeArchie R. Gibson2011
597 7/8"Tularosa BasinRoy Huffmyer1988
697 7/8"White Sands Missile RangeCraig M. Lemke2008
797 4/8"White Sands Missile RangeBill Kirikos1997
896 7/8"White Sands Missile RangeChris Trew1995
996 5/8"Near WSMRBrian David White1997
1096 5/8"White Sands Missile RangeCurtis Ball2010

New Mexico's 2020 ibex breakdown and what to expect

The ibex population is the complete opposite of oryx in New Mexico. There are very few billy permits issued each year even though the state seems to be waging a never ending war on the nanny population. With another 300 nanny/immature billy permits set to be issued again, it seems that the onslaught that began in 2013 with the infamous over-the-counter (OTC) nanny hunt is going to continue. Since that debut hunt, the state has issued hundreds of permits for nanny/immature billies every year, which has drastically reduced the overall number of ibex in the state. However, because of this, there has also been a decrease in the number of mature billies on the mountain and the days of being able to hunt hard and at least have a crack at a 50”+ billy are behind us. Even finding a legitimate 40” billy has become quite a chore. The up and coming age class of billies just simply doesn’t have the numbers that it previously did and, if a billy makes it to maturity and has decent horns at all, he is going to be in danger come hunting season as there simply aren’t many to choose from these days.

Overall, though, this is still an incredible hunt and you will still see many ibex per day when hunting. However, it’s just not what it used to be and the state doesn’t seem to be taking its foot off of the gas. All things considered, the uniqueness of this hunt is really quite amazing and, if you are up for an intense mountain hunt like no other in the lower 48, the ibex and the Florida Mountains will give you all that you want. 

There are five different billy hunts available each year, one rifle hunt (which is the only actual once-in-a-lifetime), one muzzleloader, two archery, and one youth only hunt conducted each year. The odds of drawing one of the gun hunts is less than 1% in the guided pool as well as the nonresident pool. Other than the odds for the guided pool, the youth only was 1.5% while the odds of drawing an archery permit were close to 10% give or take a percent on either hunt as well as guided or not. If you are an intense bowhunter who loves a challenge and you can shoot 150 yards with a 40 mph crosswind on a 40% incline comfortably you should be just fine!

When applying, remember that you get three choices in New Mexico and all three choices are considered prior to them moving onto the next applicant. If you are looking for a gun hunt, it would be in your best interest to apply for rifle as your first choice, muzzleloader as your second and possibly leave your third choice blank unless you really want to experience the mountain, which, in that case, you could choose to apply for one of the four different nanny/immature billy permits as a third choice. Be aware that the cost of the nanny permit is the same as the billy. If you are a bowhunter, then it is still in your best interest to consider the rifle and muzzleloader hunts as a first and second choice, but you can do what you like and, if you are looking for the best odds possible, a muzzleloader application followed by both archery permits in the guided pool will, in fact, give you the best possible odds of drawing a hunt in Unit 25

Find your resident ibex draw odds here

Find your nonresident ibex draw odds here


Ibex draw information and success by weapon type

Draw odds
Draw odds
draw odds
Youth rifle53%2.9%0.79%1.5%

Female draw odds

In New Mexico, there is an option for nanny ibex. You can find your draw odds below.

Find your resident nanny ibex draw odds here

Find your nonresident nanny ibex draw odds here

New Mexico's 2020 Barbary sheep/aoudad breakdown

2019 was a year for the books when it came to Barbary sheep hunting in New Mexico. With an increase in the number of permits as well as new season dates scattered across the late fall and winter, the overall experience was much better than in prior years with less congestion. This, along with the fact that it seemed as though there were more giant rams killed than any previous year, begs the questions as to how long the state can sustain the age class that is currently on the mountain? We are truly sitting in the most exciting time for Barbary sheep history in New Mexico. Although the state does not have a solid count on the exact population, hunter satisfaction on these hunts have been high enough for long enough to warrant the increase of hunts and permits. 

Starting in 2019, there are now four different seasons available in each of the most notable hunt areas. There is still only one hunt conducted in Unit 28 (Mcgregor Range), but each of the bigger hunt areas offers a rut hunt in late October. There are also December, January and February hunts as well as an archery only season for each of the major hunt areas. Between all of the available hunts, there is a total of 285 permits up for grabs between the guided pool and the nonresident pool. 

If this is a species you are looking to add to your hunting resume, hunting them in New Mexico is hard physically, but as productive as it's ever been. Whether you choose to hunt fully guided or DIY, there is no better value in the country for these amazing sheep or a more available mountain hunt in the country. 

Barbary Sheep draw information

UnitDraw odds residentDraw odds nonresidentGuided draw odds
Unit 28 (Non-Military)2.1%0.39%1.5%
Unit 29, 30 - archery90%18%100%
Unit 29, 30 - rifle
October / December
January / February
11% / 19%
21% / 23%

5.1% / 7.6%
4.7% / 4.6%

28% / 33%
25% / 18%
Unit 32, 34, 36, 37 - archery100%33%100%
Unit 32, 34, 36, 37 - rifle
October / December January / February
13% / 27%
29% / 31%
6.5% / 15%
9.4% / 8.4%
50% / 71%
46% / 63%

Find your resident barbary sheep draw odds here

Find your nonresident barbary sheep draw odds here


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