In addition to having the standard fare of game species, there are also animals available to hunters in New Mexico that are not available elsewhere. This is largely due to the variety of landscapes that are there to challenge sportsmen, as well as the Land of Enchantment’s ability to retain its natural environment more than many other parts of the United States.
Featured in this document is some of the basic information you will need to hunt in New Mexico. It is meant to be used in conjunction with official material released by the New Mexico Department of Game (NMDGF). Accordingly, throughout this text, you will find links to many of their websites, where you can gather more information or actually get started with becoming a licensed hunter in New Mexico.
Obtaining a New Mexico Hunting License
In New Mexico, all hunters, both resident, and nonresident must be licensed. However, those under 18 years of age have the option of purchasing a junior license at a reduced cost.
A basic hunting license is relatively-inexpensive (compared to many other parts of the country) for residents and also reasonably-priced for nonresidents. As aforementioned, a junior hunting license costs even less than a standard one, but the price difference for residents is almost inconsequential. As for nonresidents, a junior license costs the same as an adult resident license.
There are four ways in which hunters wanting to hunt in New Mexico can purchase a hunting license from the NMDGF. First is through the use of their Online Licensing System, which should be accessible from any browser. Using the method requires that a user create an account. And accepted modes of payment include international payment cards such as Visa, Discover, MasterCard or American Express. Purchases can also be made over-the-counter by visiting a vendor (some of whom are located in Texas) or an NMDGF office. Third, a hunting license can also be obtained over the phone using the telephone number provided by the NMDGF on their Hunting License Requirements & Fees webpage. Lastly, the NMDGF has created a mobile app called the NM Fish & Wildlife Guide. More will be mentioned about this program later, but it is featured in this section due to its ability to facilitate online hunting license purchases.
Hunters under the age of 18 who use firearms and are not enrolled in the New Mexico Mentored Youth Hunting Program must pass hunter education provided by the NMDGF or another State. In fact, hunters under this age cannot even apply to buy a firearm unless they first complete hunter education.
Where to Hunt in New Mexico
New Mexico is known as one of the most-rugged States, considering it has terrains as diverse as mountains and deserts. Accordingly, there are different venues by which a hunter can take advantage of these opportunities.
New Mexico is one of the few states where there is almost just as much public as private land. As such, there are over 20 million acres of State and federal government lands, much of which hunters can utilize. For instance, New Mexico has its own Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). These are part of a wider category of properties dubbed State Game Commission (SCG) Lands which, as the name indicates, are owned by the New Mexico State Game Commission. Licensed hunters can gain access to many of these areas by requesting such.
In terms of hunting big game, the NMDGF has divided New Mexico into areas dubbed Game Management Units (GMUs). Maps of these areas are accessible through different means, such as their Big Game Units webpage. There is also a placemark file that will open a map of these areas in Google Earth. Additionally, users of the aforementioned NM Fish & Wildlife Guide app, which is available for both Android and Apple devices, are able to view their borders and statuses using that program.
There is also a vast amount of land owned by the federal government, such as 13 million acres by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), in New Mexico. And most of the BLM properties, such as the Rio Bonito Acquired Land, grant public admission to hunters. For those interested in utilizing these areas, more information can be attained by visiting the BLM’s website. The BLM has also made the CarryMap app available, which highlights big-game hunting areas in New Mexico.
If a hunter decides to use private land, he or she must first get written consent from the landowner. And in that regard, the NMDGF has designed Private Property Courtesy Cards that involved parties can download, print and fill out as proof of such an agreement. It should be noted that an additional “private-land license” often has to be obtained to hunt on private lands.
Moreover, government agencies like the NMDGF and BLM have entered agreements with some private landowners to provide hunters public access to their properties. This project is called Unitization, and maps of such areas can be viewed via the NMDGF’s State Lands & Unitization webpage.
New Mexico also has lands that are owned by Native American organizations. Sportsmen can hunt on these lands without a license from the NMDGF. However, official authorization from the tribe whose land is being utilized must be obtained. Furthermore, harvests taken from these properties must be accompanied by official documentation. For more information, interested parties should visit the New Mexico Department of Indian Affairs (IAD) website.
General Hunting Regulations in New Mexico
Below are some of the basic regulations which govern the sport of hunting in New Mexico, many of which were gathered from the NMDGF’s General Hunting Rules webpage. This is just to give hunters an idea of important dos and don’ts. For the entire list of regulations, including the complete New Mexico hunting guidebook, which is available in PDF format, interested parties are advised to visit the NMDGF’s Publications webpage.
- Animals for which hunting tags are required are legally protected and cannot be taken without such tags.
- Artificial lights cannot be used to hunt big game animals.
- Baits and scents cannot be used to take the game.
- Even after bait is removed, the area in which it was situated is still considered baited for 10 days.
- Live animals cannot be used as decoys to take the game.
- Firearms cannot be discharged within 150 feet of a dwelling or building unless such a structure is on public land and is abandoned or vacated.
- If an applicant who is a felon buys a firearm license over-the-counter, he or she can only use archery equipment to hunt instead of a firearm. Here, firearms are legally defined as handguns, muzzleloaders, rifles, and shotguns.
- Harassing or interfering with a fellow licensed hunter is a criminal offense. The associated penalties of this offense may include revocation of the offending hunter’s license.
- The poaching of trophy game carries a very-stiff fine and potential prison time.
- Legal hunting hours in New Mexico are generally 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset. That being said, there are some exceptions.
- Wolves are an endangered species in New Mexico, and they can only be killed under certain circumstances.
- Bear hunters who use a Bear Draw Permit are still required to possess an Over-the-Counter (OTC) Bear License.
- Only New Mexico residents are eligible for a Bear Draw Permit.
- Artificial lights can only be used to hunt raccoons in New Mexico.
- A written agreement must exist between hunters and the outfitters they employ.
- Hunters of migratory game birds must obtain a Harvest Information Program (HIP) number before venturing on a hunt within the New Mexico territory.
Hunting Seasons in New Mexico
Hunting areas in New Mexico are split into many subdivisions, and each of these places has their own respective hunting seasons. Therefore hunters are implored to view documentation associated with their quarry to know the exact dates and means of taking permissible in particular locations.
Big Game & Turkey Seasons
- Deer seasons generally occur in the Fall, but a few of them also extend into the Winter. Some seasons for elk occur during the early weeks of Winter. However, they’re generally held within Fall and in some areas extend to the end of the year.
- Bears generally have two distinct general seasons. The seasons for Over-the-Counter (OTC) bear hunts run throughout most of the Fall and in some cases also includes the latter weeks of Summer. However, those hunting bears on a draw permit have a few days to do so in mid-Spring as well as a month-long season near the conclusion of Summer.
- Pronghorn antelope hunts are mostly held in late Summer and early Fall. However, they don’t run throughout and in some instances only encompass a couple of days.
- All of New Mexico shares one common cougar season, which spans the entire year.
- Barbary sheep can also be hunted year-round in the GMUs that allow OTC hunts for them, but in other limited areas, their seasons all occur in the Winter.
- Ibex are another animal that can be hunted around New Mexico for the entire year, except in the Florida Mountains where their seasons are restricted primarily to Winter.
- There are three types of bighorn sheep available to hunters. The Rocky Mountain bighorn ram can be hunted from late Summer ’til mid-Winter. The Rocky Mountain bighorn ewe can only be pursued for a brief period around the beginning of Fall. And then the desert bighorn ram has its dates mostly throughout the Fall, with some exceptions in Winter and one in late Summer.
- Javelina can be hunted almost throughout the entire state, by youth, for three months at the beginning of the year. For everyone else their seasons, where available, are restricted to the Winter months.
- Oryx is a unique species, and their hunting seasons also have distinct regulations and are only available in a couple of areas. All of their hunting seasons, which only span a few days each, are in the middle parts of Fall and Winter. Spring OTC turkey hunts are in effect for about three weeks in mid-Spring, during the same time Draw Permit turkey hunts are occurring. Fall OTC turkey hunts occur at two different times, spanning a month each, one beginning in late Summer and the other mid-Fall. There is also a youth Spring turkey season, which lasts for a few days shortly before the start of the OTC and draws hunts.
- The seasons for furbearers are more liberal than those for the big game. For one, they are much longer on average. For another, they can be conducted statewide.
- Badgers, bobcats, foxes, ringtails, and weasels have their season from mid Fall and throughout all of Winter.
- Beavers, muskrats, and nutrias are legal for one month during that same time yet extend a month and a half into Spring.
- A raccoon can be hunted for almost the entire year, with the most notable exception being the Summer months.
Upland Game Seasons
- Quail season is from mid-Fall ’til mid-Winter.
- Grouse and squirrels are legal during the latter part of Summer and most of the Fall.
- Eurasian-collared doves can be hunted year-round and statewide.
- Pheasant seasons are only for a few days, shortly before Christmas.
- Band-tailed pigeons can only be had during early Fall.
Migratory Game Birds Seasons
- In the North Zone, doves can be taken for most of the Fall. In the South Zone, they have a briefer Fall Season but can also be taken in early Winter.
- Sandhill crane seasons span from mid-Fall ’til early Winter.
- The seasons for waterfowl (American coots, common snipes, ducks, geese, moorhen, rails (sora and Virginia) and teal) take up the Fall and early Winter and are dependent on the flyway, as well as zone, the hunter is gaming in.
Animals that fall under this category are ground squirrels, prairie dogs, porcupines, rabbits, and Himalayan tahr. Currently, residents of New Mexico do not need a license to take them.
Hunting Guides & Outfitters and New Mexico
In some cases (of nonresident draw hunts), the use of a hunter or outfitter in New Mexico is mandatory. However, virtually any hunter can benefit from utilizing these professionals. Below is a list of such servicemen that an outdoorsman may consider patronizing in New Mexico.
- Big Horn Outfitters
- Blue Mountain Outfitters
- Gary Webb, Guide & Outfitter
- H&A Outfitters
- High Mountain Outfitters
- Hunters Trailhead (directory)
- RB Outfitters & Guide Service
- Santa Fe Guiding Company
- Top-Notch Outfitters
- Triple C Outfitters
Hunting Lodges in New Mexico
Of course, a place which has as rich a history of outdooring as New Mexico is going to have hospitality institutions that cater specifically to hunters on the field. Below are some gamesmen can consider patronizing if they find themselves sporting in a nearby area.
Reporting Hunting Harvests in New Mexico
Hunters licensed to take Barbary sheep, deer, elk, ibex, javelina, oryx, pronghorn antelopes or turkey must file harvest reports, whether they actually use the licenses, take the game or not. These reports can be submitted over-the-internet via the NMDGF’s Online Licensing System or over-the-phone using the telephone numbers they provide.
Anyone, especially a newbie who has never gone through the procedure, who is interested in hunting in New Mexico, should get started with the process as early as possible. The NMDGF runs a wildlife management system that is more meticulous than many other States, and hunting in New Mexico is thoroughly regulated. But once a hunter finds him or herself in the position to pursue game in the Land of Enchantment, they will indeed be enthralled by the quality and variety of quarry, especially big game, which are available.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What is the New Mexico hunting draw based on?
A. The hunting seasons for some species, particularly big game and turkey, is limited to hunters possessing a draw license. Succinctly put, such licenses are distributed based on a quota where 84% are given to residents, 10% to residents who have a contract with an outfitter and the remaining 6% to nonresidents who have not hired an outfitter. For more information on how the New Mexico hunting draw works, please visit the NMDGF’s Draw Info, Odds & Success Tips webpage.
Q. What is a private-land hunting license?
A. In some instances, hunting on private land requires a special “Private-land” license. Moreover, hunting seasons on private land can have their own individual dates, differing from general times, depending on species, area, and means of taking. And in some areas, the applicant will need information from the landowner in order to apply for this license.
Q. What are New Mexico’s hunter orange requirements, if any?
A. At least 244 inches of blaze orange must be worn by hunters on military properties and those engaged in firearm hunts in the Valles Caldera National Preserve. It is not required, though encouraged, elsewhere.
Q. Can non-residents of New Mexico participate in all hunting seasons?
A. Some hunting seasons are restricted to only residents and others to only youth. Simply put, non-residents are restricted from hunting during certain hunting seasons.
Q. Do I need a fishing license to fish in New Mexico?
A. By law, an angler who is 12 years of age or above needs to be in possession of a New Mexico Fishing License/Game-hunting & Fishing License before he or she can legally fish in New Mexico. Nevertheless, it is important to take note of the fact that a New Mexico Fishing License isn’t needed to fish on private Class-A lakes or tribal reservations.