Finding opportunities to hunt in New Mexico this year

Why New Mexico should be on your radar

The New Mexico deadline is fast approaching and is on March 17 by 5 p.m. MST. This deadline is for all species, so barbary sheep, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, ibex, javelina, antelope and oryx. You can apply online here.

Recently I was talking with Brady and we were discussing the opportunities that are out there in New Mexico and how it’s a state that people really should be looking at. Below are several of the reasons why I think that way.

New Mexico hunting opportunities

I just did a quick look on INSIDER and pulled up the standalone draw odds for New Mexico mule deer. As a nonresident, there are 235 hunts you can apply for.

As I drag the minimum draw odds filter over to 25% for kicks, and I can see of the 235 hunts, there are 134 that have 25% or better odds of drawing a tag! There are plenty of early archery, late archery, muzzleloader and rifle options. The one I think is worth a little extra attention is the late archery hunt which would extend your season into January is a great opportunity. They have late archery hunts from January 1-15. A lot of people are looking for an opportunity to get out that time of the year. Plus, a lot of those hunts have odds that are 30% or better. It’s also worth mentioning that some of the muzzleloader hunts have good draw odds and really great harvest success too!

New Mexico hunting opportunities on INSIDER

You can use your INSIDER account, especially Filtering 2.0 to hone in on these opportunities, then look at the draw odds and finally you can even dive into the harvest success and public land percentage. Doing this you really can find some good opportunities to go hunting.

On top of all that, remember to check out the application strategy articles for New Mexico:

The draw system in New Mexico

Another unique part about New Mexico is how they allocate permits. They have a random draw system where you get three choices. They take into account all three choices. You have a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice. So when they pull your application they are going to look at each one of those and try to allocate you your choice and if all the tags are gone and filled after they have considered all three of your choices they will go to the next applicant. But essentially what this means is you stack your choices in your favor. Say for example if you apply for a hunt with 20% odds, 35% odds, and a hunt with 40% odds, your chances of drawing one of those permits are actually higher than you might think. It is higher than any single hunt odds.

Applying for a state you've never hunted before can be a little confusing. In the video below, I go over some of the most commonly asked questions when applying in New Mexico.

Opportunity to have a quality hunt

So if you are strategic and really want to look for an opportunity to hunt New Mexico, there is a lot of great options out there. I don’t think a lot of people think about opportunity and New Mexico in the same thought or sentence, but there really is if you dive into the research. When you look at harvest success, draw odds, and trophy potential, you can really find some chances to go hunting. Use the tools like Filtering 2.0 to find some gems!

Random draw and its advantages

I'm a fan of random draw states. That is primarily because the farther we have gone down the road with true preference points states or bonus points states, the odds of drawing the really good units are essentially nonexistent in those states if you’re talking about a preference point state like Colorado for some of the really good hunts or like Utah for their limited entry deer hunts and even Arizona for example on their really good deer hunts. Whereas the completely random, no-point systems like New Mexico or Idaho kind of leaves the door open. You can pick and choose and elect to swing for the fences and apply for the best of the best or if you just want to apply for opportunity hunts you can do that as well.

New Mexico is actually my favorite draw system because I love the fact that it is random and that you can stagger your three choices. You can swing for the fences on your first choice, then on your second and third choice, you can put in for a hunt that has much better odds (a decent hunt that you would go on if you drew it, but it might not be the best of the best, but if you draw that tag you can still go hunting sort of thing). So yeah, I’m a fan of New Mexico.

The older I get the more these point systems in other states start to grow and the further we go down the road of points, the more I’ve become a fan of a random draw. And some people will disagree and love a point system because they feel like they are getting something for their money, they are getting a point, and they are getting a slightly increased chance every year. For me, I just like the random side and knowing that I have a chance to draw every year. Whereas in a random draw state with no points, if you are just starting out you are not behind the curve.

Jared Pierce New Mexico oryx

goHUNT's Associate Buyer and Gear Expert Jared Pierce with his New Mexico oryx.

The other interesting part about New Mexico, where else will you get the chance to apply for and hunt ibex, oryx, or barbary sheep on public land? And while the odds are steep for oryx and ibex... you still have a chance. So I definitely think it is worth it.

See your draw odds

When it’s all said and done, what is applying in New Mexico doing to your wallet?

I definitely think New Mexico is worth applying in. If you're looking for a chance to go hunting with the minimum cost of a $65 nonresident hunting license and then the minimum application fee per species... it is not a state that will break the bank. So in addition to a hunting license, you have the habitat management and access validation at $4, plus an application fee of $13 per species that you apply for. So you are roughly out $82 for one species and then $13 more for other species you apply for.

And remember that you have to front the cost of the species license to apply. So you need some heavy room on your credit card if you wanted to apply for everything. I typically apply for elk, deer, antelope, barbary sheep, and oryx or ibex depending on what I’m feeling. 

You do get pretty much everything back minus the hunting license, application fee per species and the habitat stamp. They used to give that hunting license fee back a few years ago, so now you are a little more invested in New Mexico when you apply, but still, it is a lot less than some other states.

Cost for license and permits in New Mexico

Hunting license$15$65
Habitat stamp
(charged after you draw)
Habitat management
and access validation
Application fee
per species
Species cost
Barbary sheep$110$373
Desert bighorn/Rocky bighorn

Mule deer opportunities

Again, when it comes to deer hunting in New Mexico, I believe there are more opportunities than people think from archery, muzzleloader and all the way up to rifle hunts. Speaking about rifle hunts, some of the dates on these are November 6 to the 10 which can be a pretty awesome time to have a mule deer tag in your pocket! The poking around I’ve done while hunting elk and antelope in New Mexico I have seen some quality bucks. I’m not seeing 200” bucks everywhere, but have I seen some 180” bucks? Absolutely! And I even ran into a 190” deer while bowhunting elk one year. So those types of animals definitely exist in that country, they don’t exist in sheer numbers like they might in a state like Colorado, Utah or Wyoming but there are some opportunities down there to draw a permit and go hunting. 

People are killing deer in New Mexico as there are a bunch of hunts with great harvest success. If you want to go deer hunting, New Mexico is a great option.

Also, people love the late archery hunts in the nearby state of Arizona that are available over the counter and some of the units in my opinion and based on talking to a lot of people are starting to see some crowding. Then there is New Mexico next door with a January 1 through the 15 late archery hunt and many of the units have super high draw odds and the number of people in the field is more limited. So food for thought if you’re looking to extend your season there is a great opportunity for you with a late archery deer hunt in New Mexico.

I had an antelope tag in New Mexico before, and while traveling out in the morning through some rolling foothills, almost every day in the headlights I’d see a bachelor herd of four or five bucks. And in the group, maybe three out of the five bucks were 160 plus and one buck was pushing 170” and I remember thinking to myself these aren’t giants but there’s a lot of mule deer around here in that 140 to 170 class. You don’t hear a lot of people talking about deer of this class and while that’s not a giant buck and I think if you’re in search of a truly giant buck on an opportunity type hunt, then maybe New Mexico isn’t your spot. But if you just want to hunt and are fine in shooting a 130 to 170 class buck, there’s a lot of opportunities there. And while there’s not a plethora of deer in that country, they don’t have these robust populations but it’s decent for what it is.

Barbary sheep opportunities

Barbary sheep is what some people might call the poor man’s sheep hunt. You basically have those hunts that exist in the central/southern part of the state. Some of those have relatively good draw odds and some even are weapon-specific so if you’re an archery hunter and really want to spot and stalk some sheep...there is an option for you in Units 29 or 30 and 32, 34, 36, 37

And personally, this is becoming a hunt that is definitely more intriguing to me. Especially being a bowhunter one of the most ultimate challenge is a spot and stalk hunt in some of that nasty canyon country down there. They also have some over the counter barbary sheep opportunities in New Mexico. If you like to long range glass, a barbary sheep hunt is right up your alley.

Youth hunt opportunities

Another great part about New Mexico is there is no minimum age requirement to apply. So if you have a kid who has taken hunter safety, you can apply them in New Mexico.  New Mexico also has youth-specific hunts. They have set aside a number of permits that are just for youth. So you can explore those odds on your INSIDER account to see youth draw odds.

Typically better season dates are given to youth, so some of the elk hunts occur on really good season dates and they are youth-specific so there will only be youth out there hunting during that timeframe. 

Plus it’s cheap to apply your kid in New Mexico. If you're applying your kids, that hunting license for them is $15, plus $13 for each application. You still have to front the cost of those permits for youth. But overall it’s still a pretty cheap state if you want to get your kids out in the field hunting. And again, no minimum age requirement so it’s a pretty cool opportunity.

Find your resident Youth draw odds here

Find your nonresident Youth draw odds here

Elk opportunities

While most of the elk hunts in New Mexico have a slim chance of drawing, there are still some hunts that have fairly decent odds. For example, there are 10 units that have 20% or greater draw odds as a nonresident, and at the same time... they have fairly decent harvest success too.

All about perspective

With all this said, you have to keep these things in perspective, do you skip a hunt in Colorado and go to New Mexico to hunt deer? I probably would have to weigh my options. But you gotta plan out your schedule and if you have a year where you don’t have the points to draw a Colorado tag… then maybe New Mexico could be your option.

So like this year, everyone is trying to go to Colorado and hunt 2nd or 3rd season for mule deer, so next year might not be a good option for Colorado because you have cleared your points and you’re on the backside of probably what’s going to be one of the highest harvest in the history of Colorado mule deer. So maybe for 2022 you look toward New Mexico and go hunting on one of those November tags. 

Any more with the point creep in the other states like Colorado, Utah or Wyoming, it doesn’t hurt to increase your portfolio and add another state like a New Mexico mule deer hunt to your portfolio that you can essentially try to put another permit in your pocket on those off years.

Best of luck in the draws!



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