Application Strategy 2023: New Mexico Elk
New Mexico's 2023 elk application overview
Note: The online application deadline for New Mexico Barbary sheep, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, ibex, javelina, antelope and oryx is March 22, 2023 by 5 p.m. MST. Apply online here.
Noteworthy for 2023
- Purchase 2023 game hunting license through draw application:
- Draw applicants purchasing 2023 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."
- Draw refunds:
- Draw license fee refunds for unsuccessful applicants will be processed shortly after draw results are released on or before April 26. Applications paid by credit card will be refunded directly to the credit card used for the transaction within 10 business days. Applications paid by cash will be refunded by check by the end of May. Game hunting license and stamp purchases will not be refunded.
- Party applications:
- If you are applying as a party, check the table “minimum number of licenses to apply” below to ensure that there will be enough licenses for the hunts you apply for to cover every applicant on the party application.
- Youth hunters:
- New Mexico offers some youth only hunts. You can explore the odds of those within your Insider account. The youth hunting license is only $15 and there is no minimum age to apply.
- Change in muzzleloader law:
- Only iron sights are allowed on muzzleloading rifles when used during a muzzleloader hunt. Scopes, red dots and all optical sights are prohibited. Learn more here.
- Elk hunt/permit changes for 2023:
- Unit 29/30 archery Sept. 15 to 24 will have one nonresident permit available in 2023.
- Unit 29/30 rifle Oct. 1 to 5 will have one nonresident permit available in 2023.
- Unit 37 rifle Oct. 1 to 5 is a new hunt for 2023.
- Unit 14 rifle Oct. 1 to 5 will not have a nonresident permit(s) in 2023.
- Unit 18 rifle Oct. 1 to 5 will not have a nonresident permit(s) in 2023.
- Unit 38 rifle Oct. 1 to 5 will not have a nonresident permit(s) in 2023.
New Insider Features
To aid in your research and planning efforts, we created a brand new tool for Insiders called Hunt Planner. This tool will help you be more efficient at planning for hunts and also keeps all your research data organized. No more notepads getting lost or headaches when trying to remember what units caught your eye during your research! Everything you need is always in one place at GOHUNT.
What can you do in Hunt Planner?
- Save unit seasons in Filtering 2.0
- Never lose track of units you want to further research
- Rank seasons
- Can help decide what unit to apply for or what order to place your units when applying on a state's website
- Compare seasons (up to three at a time)
- Save the filter settings you used in Filtering 2.0 to find a great hunt
- Add notes to your research folder under season level or hunt folder level
- And much more!
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 species profiles to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy areas.
Important dates and information
- The deadline to apply is March 22, 2023 at 5 p.m. MST. Apply online here.
- Applicants can also apply via telephone by calling (888) 248-6866.
- Results will be available online on or shortly before April 26, 2023.
- The draw is completely random. There is no bonus or preference points system.
- Applicants must purchase a hunting or combination hunting/fishing license to apply.
- An applicant cannot edit an application once submitted. They can withdraw it and reapply, but will have to pay the application fees once again.
- Applicants must front the entire cost of the license(s) they apply for.
- Unsuccessful applicants in the draw will have the license fees reimbursed minus the hunting license and application fees.
- Up to four applicants can apply in a party for elk and deer.
- Residents and nonresidents can apply together on a group application.
- There is no minimum age requirement to apply and hunt.
- Hunters under the age of 18 must have completed a hunter’s education course to purchase a hunting license and apply in the draw.
- Up to 6% of the licenses for each hunt can be allocated to nonresidents in the draw.
- Up to 10% of the licenses for each hunt can be allocated to applicants applying with an outfitter/guide.
- Both residents and nonresidents can apply in the guide draw, but they must have a signed guide/client agreement to do so.
- Residents are guaranteed a minimum of 84% of the licenses for each hunt.
- Applicants cannot return and obtain a refund for a permit that they drew.
- Harvest reporting is mandatory, even if you do not harvest.
Three years ago, New Mexico made a slight adjustment to their license allocation to guarantee that 84% of the licenses for each hunt goes to resident applicants. This change has continued to cause some confusion for applicants in knowing how many total permits must be available to offer one to a nonresident in the regular draw and the guide draw. Use the table below to cross reference with the total number of licenses to ensure the hunts you are applying for will have enough licenses. Every year, we see a good number of applicants who apply for hunts that have no nonresident licenses available. In essence, they are wasting that chance to draw a hunt. Nonresidents should not apply for hunts that they have no chance to draw!
Minimum number of permits to ensure they are available to draw for nonresidents
|Number of applicants||Minimum permit number if applying in nonresident draw||Minimum permit number if applying in guide draw|
1 (single applicant)
2 (party application)
3 (party application)
4 (party application)
New Mexico license and permit costs
Habitat management and access validation
Application fee per species
Elk (quality/high demand)
The current drought/moisture status in New Mexico
New Mexico is still a dry state and is still experiencing abnormal to moderate drought conditions in large portions of the state. The good news is that current range conditions are much better than they were in 2021 and 2022. New Mexico’s elk antler growth in most areas of the state is directly tied to the quality of the feed derived from winter, spring and early summer moisture. This is the case for southern elk states and moisture is much more critical in these areas than it is in states north of their borders. Antler growth has been decent the previous few years, but there is much more potential for better growth in 2023. In comparison to the two previous years, 2023 is lining up to be a great antler growth year.
THE NEW MEXICO DRAW SYSTEM
New Mexico has a random draw system for all species. There is no preference or bonus point system. This means that every applicant is on an equal playing field to draw — even if this is the first year they are applying in New Mexico.
There are three pools of permits: the resident pool, the nonresident pool and the guided pool. Residents are guaranteed 84% of the permits for each hunt. Nonresidents can draw up to 6% of the permits for each hunt. Up to 10% of the permits for each hunt are allocated to applicants through the draw who have a signed agreement with a guide/outfitter. Both residents and nonresidents can apply with a guide and be considered to draw from the guide pool of permits. Once you have an agreement with a guide, you will apply in the draw with their guide number. If you enter the draw with a guide/outfitter and draw a permit, you are required to hunt in the field with that guide for a minimum of two days. The draw odds are typically better for applicants applying with an outfitter. If you can afford a guided hunt in New Mexico, applying with a guide is a great way to improve your chances of drawing a permit.
The total number of permits for each hunt should be considered before applying. As indicated in the table above in this article, there are minimum numbers of permits required for nonresidents to have a chance to draw. Make sure that there are enough permits for the hunts you apply for to offer you a chance in the draw. Every year nonresident applicants apply for hunts that they have no chance to draw because there are not enough total permits. Do not be that applicant!
Up to four applicants can apply as a party for elk. Nonresidents and residents can apply together in a party. A party application is treated as a single application in the draw. If selected, all applicants on the application would receive a license provided there are enough licenses to offer one to each applicant. New Mexico will not over allocate the license quota to cover a group application. In the case that residents and nonresidents apply together, nonresident licenses are pulled from the nonresident quota. When applying as a party, one applicant will apply first and upon completing the process will receive a party application number. The rest of the party will then select “attach to an existing application” then enter the application code.
There is no odds advantage to applying as a party. In fact, there may be a slight disadvantage. For example, if an application with two people is drawn and there is only one license remaining, then that application will be rejected or if a nonresident and a resident apply together and there are not enough nonresident licenses, neither the resident or nonresident will be given a license.
New Mexico allows applicants to include up to five hunt choices when they apply. In the draw, they will consider your first three choices before moving to the next applicant.
To further explain: once your application is considered, they will attempt to allocate your first hunt choice. If there are no licenses remaining for that choice, then they will then consider your second choice. If there are no licenses remaining for your second choice, then they will then consider your third choice. If there are no licenses remaining for the third choice, they will then move to the next application. Fourth and fifth choices are only considered if there are leftover permits after every application has been considered in the draw.
If you include a fourth and fifth choice, applicants are agreeing to accept any leftover license, which means that they may allocate you a license that was not your fourth and fifth choice. We highly recommend that you do not include fourth and fifth choices unless you are willing to accept any leftover license.
HUNT CHOICE STRATEGY
Because of the way New Mexico conducts their draw there is some strategy in how you stagger your hunt choices. First, applicants should apply for a hunt for their first, second and third choice on their application. All of those choices matter and will be considered in the draw. Second, we recommend that you apply with the best hunt (worst odds) as your first choice and then select progressively better odds (average hunts) as your second and third choices. The reasoning behind this strategy is that, with a random draw, you never know what position your application will be in the draw. Your application could be one of the first selected in the draw and, as such, you want to receive the best permit/hunt possible. If your first hunt choice had better odds than your second and third choice, you are essentially wasting those choices.
STANDARD, HIGH QUALITY, HIGH DEMAND
New Mexico lists each hunt as either a standard, high demand, quality or, in some cases, quality/high demand. A quality hunt is one that the state manages for better trophy potential and typically less hunting pressure. A high demand hunt is a hunt where the total number of applicants for an elk hunt exceeds 22% of the total applicants based on the draw for the two years prior. The standard hunts are typically lower quality, opportunity type hunts, but the cost is lower for the license. The cost for the quality, high demand and quality/high demand hunts is higher than it is for the standard license.
New Mexico's 2023 elk breakdown
New Mexico is one of the best elk states in the West. The populations are generally very healthy, the trophy quality is good with the potential to be great in the fall of 2023 and there are a variety of hunts to choose from. In most units, applicants can choose from two early season archery seasons, rifle and muzzleloader hunts. There are even some late season archery, muzzleloader and rifle hunts if you want to test your skills on a late hunt. In addition, the New Mexico draw system has become one of our favorites due to the fact that there is no point system and the draw is completely random. Every applicant has an equal chance to draw regardless of if this is the first year they are applying or they have been applying for years. The ability to choose three hunts and have all of them considered in the draw is also a benefit, allowing applicants to apply for great hunts as their first choice and then taper choices two and three towards hunts that have better odds of drawing. If there is one downfall for applicants it’s that you must front the entire cost of the permit you apply for as well as purchasing a hunting license. The $65 cost of the hunting license is a bargain in comparison to states like Idaho, Arizona and Nevada, which makes New Mexico a must apply elk state in our opinion.
As stated, New Mexico does a good job in offering several types of hunts. They offer two archery seasons in most units and, in some cases, they also offer a late season archery hunt although those are only five days and can be very difficult with low harvest success rates in some units. I would suggest ample scouting time prior to your hunt starting for late season hunts. The early archery season runs from Sept. 1 to 14. The second archery season runs from Sept. 15 to 24. The first archery season occurs mostly prior to the prime rut dates; however, harvest success is typically within approximately 5% of the second archery hunt. During the early archery hunts, the bulls can be patternable and still be heavily dependent on their summer water source. Many of the trophy caliber bulls are harvested during the early archery season due to those facts. In addition, draw odds for the first archery hunt are typically better than the second because the bulls are typically not rutting heavily yet. The second archery season provides a good rut hunt as can some of the early October muzzleloader and rifle hunts. The second archery season definitely occurs during the best rut dates when bulls are bugling and more callable. In my opinion, the second archery season can offer the most fun, dynamic hunt.
The muzzleloader seasons occur in October with a few running into mid-November. The rule change that eliminates magnified scopes on muzzleloader will be an interesting one for 2023. The odds will not drastically change as a result, but my speculation is that more applicants will switch their choices from muzzleloader to rifle. Harvest success for muzzleloader hunters is also likely to decline slightly. If you are willing to hunt hard, get close and adapt to a more traditional muzzleloader hunt, the odds and the hunting could be great. Rifle seasons occur in October. The rifle hunts can be more difficult in regards to finding mature bulls. Bulls will have begun to pull away from cow/calf herds and transition toward refuge in tucking away winter range pockets. If you hunt the early October rifle seasons, the time to kill a bull is when you see them because they may be hard to find on subsequent days. The late rifle hunts and muzzleloader hunts can be very good if you find the bulls. This time of year regularly offers hunters the ability to look over several bulls. By this time, bulls will have found their winter range and are much more consistent day to day. The only downfalls to late hunts are that bulls can have broken antlers after the rut and the weather is cold and snowy, even in New Mexico.
Each applicant should determine what their objective is for their hunt and apply accordingly. If a chance at a true trophy is the highest priority, take a look at the top tier units. If you just want to hunt and have good access to public lands and a chance to harvest, research those units in the north central portion of the state. If you are looking for a high risk high reward type of hunt, explore the units that have remote, physically demanding terrain and hard to access areas due to wilderness areas or a mix of private/public/reservation lands. There are also units that have not traditionally been great elk units due to lower populations and contain less traditional elk habitat. Utilize the Draw Odds and the Unit Profiles to find the choices that make the most sense for you.
GOHUNT hit list for New Mexico elk
|2023 total number|
The units above represent the best options in terms of quality, but there are many more hunts to choose from — many of which have better odds.
The table below indicates some of the better mid-tier hunts with generally better odds that can still offer a good hunt.
Mid-tier units for New Mexico elk
|2023 total number|
New Mexico offers many more hunts than were covered in the tables above. Several of those can be tough hunts based on land ownership and low, scattered elk populations. Consider your objectives for your hunt and the time you have to put into research, scouting and hunting and apply accordingly. The Insider Filtering 2.0, standalone Draw Odds and Unit Profiles are key to finding the best opportunities for you. New Mexico is a phenomenal elk state and relatively cheap to apply if you can afford to front the cost of the license. If you have the means to apply with a guide, the odds are better and we highly recommend utilizing that option if you can afford to do so. We cover the guide pool draw odds within your Insider account. Do your research, pick and include three hunt choices and plan to apply in New Mexico in 2023.