APPLICATION STRATEGY 2018: New Mexico Antelope and Exotics
New Mexico's antelope and exotics application overview
If you want to go after some of the biggest antelope on the continent, New Mexico is the place to be! New Mexico antelope make up a quarter of the B&C entries from North America. Every unit in the state has the potential to produce a record book pronghorn – Needless to say: you need to be applying here. Plus, there are a handful of unique opportunities to pursue exotic species like ibex, oryx, and barbary sheep making New Mexico truly a Land of Enchantment.
Note: The application deadline for all species in New Mexico is March 21, 2018 at 5 pm MST. Follow this link to apply online.
Why New Mexico for antelope and exotics in 2018?
- No point system means that every year you have the same chances as everyone else to draw that tag of a lifetime.
- It is the only destination for free-ranging ibex and oryx.
- You can hunt barbary sheep during the off-season months in winter and spring.
- Hunting ibex with archery equipment in the Florida Mountains is one of the most challenging hunts anywhere.
New for 2018
License and big game tag required while in the field
- This year, New Mexico is implementing a new tag system, utilizing a notched tag to be placed on the harvested animal in addition to the printed license. All hunters must be in possession of a hunting license and the proper big game tag while in the field.
- Tags will be mailed to all successful draw hunt applicants and are available at all license vendors and NMDGF offices for over-the-counter (OTC) licenses. A tag will be provided at the time an over-the-counter license is purchased.
- Telephone or online purchases for javelina and private-land deer, elk, antelope, Barbary sheep and oryx licenses must be made at least 14 days prior to the start of the hunt to allow time to mail the tag(s). Tag(s) will be mailed to the address provided by the customer. Customers may obtain a duplicate tag in person at any license vendor or NMDGF office. If a duplicate tag is obtained, the original tag number will be invalidated, and the license must be reprinted. It is illegal to use an invalidated tag.
Early purchase available for 2018–19 Licenses
Licenses for the 2018–19 license year that begins April 1, will be available online, by telephone and at license vendors and NMDGF offices beginning March 22.
Donate an unused license
A license may be donated to NMDGF for transfer to a youth (17 years of age or younger), a resident veteran or a resident first responder who has been qualified through a nonprofit organization that promotes hunting.
New criminal penalty for felony waste of game
Upon conviction, a person may be sentenced to $5,000 and 18 months in prison. Convicted felons cannot possess a firearm, may not vote and are ineligible to become outfitters or guides.
Private-land Elk and Antelope Licenses at Vendors
Private-land elk and pronghorn antelope licenses and tags are now available at license vendors in addition to NMDGF offices.
Outfitters and guides: New rule effective January 1, 2018
Outfitters and guides can review the new rule here.
Free mobile app available
A free mobile app is available from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. Powered by Pocket Ranger, the mobile app offers easy access to maps, fishing reports, license purchases, rules and regulations, Operation Game Thief and "New Mexico Wildlife" magazine.
View important information and an overview of the New Mexico’s rules/regulations, the draw system, tag and license fees and an interactive boundary line map on our State Profile. You can also view the New Mexico species profiles to access historical and statistical data to help you locate trophy units.
Important dates and information
- Draw applications are due on March 21, 2018 by 5:00 p.m. MST.
- For those who had New Mexico tags in 2017, late harvest reports must be submitted by March 21, 2018 for you to be eligible for the draw.
- Apply online here.
- There are no bonus points or preference points in New Mexico.
- Application and full license fees are charged at the time that the application is submitted.
Drought in New Mexico
As of February 27, 2018, 99.92% of the state is experiencing some sort of drought conditions. This means that winter kill will be minimal, however, mortality will become an issue as things warm up if the weather patterns do not change. 2018 has the potential to bring above average rainfall which would mean above average antler growth. Keep an eye on precipitation levels as the months go by.
The draw system
Understanding the draw
New Mexico requires that all applicants pay the full amount at the time of application. For the species covered in this article, a nonresident tag fee is a hefty sum to front ahead of time. Sending off that amount at the time of application discourages a lot of hunters and many choose not to apply. This can be viewed as a benefit to those that do apply because it simply raises their odds of drawing a tag.
All draw applications are entered into an automated system that randomly assigns each application a sequence number. Based upon this number, the system matches the first, second, and third choices on the application with available tags. If all choices have already been awarded, the system advances to the next application. For more information about the draw hunt system, click here.
If you want to improve your chances at drawing a tag and you are willing to hire an outfitter if you draw, then use our Outfitter Directory to find a New Mexico outfitter to contract with prior to the draw. The outfitter will then assist you in applying for the draw. The outfitter draw is truly your best chance to pick up a tag as a nonresident. You can also find guided draw results on our standalone draw odds page here.
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.
Without a point system to gain preference over the years, it is important to have a complete understanding of how the draw works and understand draw odds for each of the seasons available for the species that you are applying for. Choice placement is important. Obviously, you should consider the most desired and probably most difficult to draw choice first. Your second choice should be the next most desirable selection and your third choice should be the one with the best odds.
New Mexico's 2018 antelope breakdown
If you want to go after some of the biggest antelope on the continent, New Mexico is the place to be! New Mexico antelope make up a quarter of the B&C entries from North America. Every unit in the state has the potential to produce a record book pronghorn – Needless to say: you need to be applying here.
Current antelope herd condition
A dry mild winter has ensured that antelope numbers are doing just fine. Water is seldom an issue for antelope in New Mexico since most of them are found on private land with abundant water sources. If the summer produces that above average rainfall as expected, then horn growth should also be above average.
How the antelope draw works
The antelope draw is slightly different from other species in New Mexico. When you draw a rifle or muzzleloader tag for antelope in New Mexico, you will be assigned a ranch to hunt. You do not get to select the ranch you want; one will be assigned to you after you draw a unit tag. Archery antelope hunters are allowed to hunt the public lands within the unit. As with the other species in New Mexico, you have three choices and can mix and match weapon choices within your application.
How to uncover hidden gem antelope units
Utilizing Draw Odds and Filtering 2.0 is the best way to uncover sleeper units that would otherwise go unnoticed. Given the low number of tags in the state, less popular unit groups will still have many applicants, though not nearly as many as the more popular unit groups. Even so, Unit Group 18, 36, 37, 38 and Unit Group 41, 42, 43, 46, 47, 48, 54, 55 (A, B), 56, 57, 58, 59 offer the best combination of draw odds, wide open country, plenty of access, and plenty of antelope. Remember: Archery hunters can hunt public land, opening up the opportunity for a great buck without being confined to a specific location!
Hidden gem units: Resident archery antelope units
Hidden gem units: Nonresident archery antelope units
Because of the tag allocation in New Mexico, you can have better draw odds if you contract with a guide prior to the draw. This can be especially helpful to nonresidents. In some units, the guided draw odds are higher than the resident draw odds!
Guided draw: draw odds examples
(A, C, D, E)
New for goHUNT
For 2018, we have added Draw Odds for all female species. In New Mexico, there are some great opportunities for antelope in the way of antlerless licenses. You can find your draw odds below.
Doe antelope draw odds
B&C entry trends for New Mexico antelope
New Mexico's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for antelope
|Units found within county|
|Mora||31||42, 46, 47, 48|
|Socorro||29||13, 14, 16E, 17, 18, 20, 21B|
|Catron||26||12, 13, 15, 16A, 16B, 16C, 16D, 16E, 21A, 23|
|Quay||6||40, 41, 42|
|Guadalupe||5||38, 39, 40, 42, 43|
|Luna||5||21B, 23, 24, 25|
The 2018 hit list units for antelope in New Mexico
When it comes to choosing the best units, remember that rifle and muzzleloader hunts will be assigned to private ranches while archery hunts take place on public land. This means that you will need to be mindful of public land percentage when considering which weapon choice you will select.
Top units to consider for 80” or better bucks
|Unit 13||80"+||Archery: 23%|
|Unit 15||80"+||Archery: 28%|
(A, C, D, E)
|Unit 17||80"+||Archery: 28%|
|Unit 29||80"+||Muzzleloader: 78%||84%|
|Unit 36||80"+||Archery: 60%|
|Unit 38||80"+||Archery: 60%|
|Unit 41||80"+||Archery: 40%|
|Unit 42||80"+||Archery: 40%|
|Unit 43||80"+||Archery: 40%|
|Unit 47||80"+||Archery: 40%|
|Unit 48||80"+||Archery: 40%|
|Unit 55A||80"+||Archery: 40%|
|Unit 55B||80"+||Archery: 40%|
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.
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.
Similar to the resident strategy, our first selection should be one of the units from the Hit List. Putting in for a muzzleloader hunt can also offer great trophy opportunity, such as in Unit 29. 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.
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. Good luck!
When looking at units for an opportunity more than a record book antelope, look to units with higher draw odds as well archery seasons. Units such as 20, 26, 27, 32, and 33, all offer a chance at a 70"+ antelope as well as better than 20% draw odds. 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 >25% draw odds found within antelope hunts
If an opportunity is your biggest priority, look at archery hunts in units with plenty of public land. Units such as 15, 16 (A, C, and D), 21A, and 30 offer decent draw odds with over 75% public land in each unit. Also, consider landowner tags for an opportunity in our Hunt Marketplace. That is a guaranteed hunt on private land for far less than the cost of an outfitter!
Nonresident archery opportunities with >20% draw odds found within antelope hunts
New Mexico's 2018 ibex breakdown
Ibex, New Mexico’s unique hunt opportunity, is quickly gaining popularity among Western big game hunters. Persian ibex are found exclusively in Unit 25 in the Florida Mountains on the southern edge of the state and are sure to challenge even the most skilled of hunters. The terrain they live in is among the most unforgiving of any mountain hunt in the Lower 48. There are various seasons along with different weapon types to select from.
Current ibex herd condition
Ibex are by nature a resilient species, which allows them to thrive in the otherwise desolate terrain of the Florida Mountains. Ibex numbers have continued to rise in recent years despite state efforts to reduce them with the implementation of a population management hunt geared toward harvesting females and immature ibex. Predation is rarely an issue and the numbers are conservatively managed by the NMGFD, which means that the overall health of the herd is in great shape.
One unit, multiple options
New Mexico offers rifle, muzzleloader, and archery seasons for Ibex. The rifle hunt is a once-in-a-lifetime hunt, which is the most sought-after of all the ibex hunt choices. There are two archery choices with different season dates to select from, one in October and one in January. The muzzleloader option is becoming very popular among applicants due to New Mexico’s very liberal muzzleloader restrictions. Muzzleloaders in New Mexico can be very modern, with some being able to make lethal shots at long ranges. Refer to the unit profile for Unit 25 to see the various dates offered.
New for goHUNT
For 2018, we have added Draw Odds for all female species. In New Mexico, there is an option for nanny ibex. You can find your draw odds below.
Nanny ibex draw odds
Managing expectations for ibex
There is no way around it, the tags are hard to draw. Residents have a better chance than nonresidents and the guided option gives a slight edge for nonresidents, but the rifle and muzzleloader hunts both offers around 1% draw odds for anyone. Archery tags are easier to draw, but the harvest success is extremely low for those hunts. Our advice: Put in for the once-in-a-lifetime rifle tag as your first choice and then pick two of the remaining three options (two archery and one muzzleloader) for to finish out your application. If you draw the archery tag, then it is time to get in shape and practice!
Remember that the fifth choice will indicate that you are willing to participate in a population management hunt should one become available. The population management hunts are female/immature hunts so the only legal option is a male with horns of 15" or less or a female.
New Mexico Ibex Draw Odds
New Mexico's 2018 oryx breakdown
New Mexico’s oryx are extremely unique and resemble something out of Africa. Known as gemsbok in their native country, oryx are among the largest of the plain’s game. Native to the arid regions of southern Africa, the habitat found in southern New Mexico is nearly identical. A mature oryx bull is incredibly majestic with its long horns and is considered by many to be among the very best table fare of all big game species. The large majority of oryx are hunted on the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) Unit 19 near Alamogordo and are under strict management. In addition to the oryx found on the WSMR, there are also hunts available on the McGregor Range at Fort Bliss (Unit 28). There are fewer oryx found on Unit 28 than Unit 19, but there is still plenty for a quality hunt.
There are also several “off range” oryx hunts offered that have season dates throughout the year, but these are seasons with extremely low success—if any— because the state is trying to keep the oryx numbers exclusively on the WSMR and McGregor ranges. Take caution prior to applying for any “off range” hunt choice.
There are special regulations specific to oryx hunting in New Mexico. You can view those regulations here.
Current oryx herd condition
Thanks to an extremely controlled environment and strict management, oryx numbers are increasing. With little to no predation, oryx live in relative peace. The bulls grow impressive horns that can reach 30” to 40” in length. With ideal habitat in southern New Mexico, the oryx in the state are doing well.
The most desired of all the tags is the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in Unit 19. The Stallion Range and the Rhodes Canyon area within the WSMR offers the very best opportunity to harvest an amazing trophy. There are several choices with various season dates, but every season is a quality opportunity and all hunts are “any legal sporting arms” hunts, which means that rifles are legal for these hunts.
Draw odds for oryx
As with other species, a specific amount of tags are allotted for residents, nonresidents, and guided hunters. If you are most concerned with getting drawn, you may want to consider the guided draw. Here is a comparison:
Draw odds for oryx
|Unit 19||Oct. 12-14, 2018||3%||2.1%||5.3%|
|Unit 19||Nov. 9-11, 2018||2.7%||1.2%||2.3%|
|Unit 19||Jan. 4-6, 2019||2.7%||1.5%||2.6%|
|Unit 19||Jan. 18-20, 2019||2.9%||1.1%||2.0%|
|Unit 19||Feb. 15-17, 2019||3.5%||1.9%||3.2%|
|Unit 28||Dec. 1-2, 2018||3.1%||3.2%||7.3%|
|Unit 28||Jan. 12-13, 2019||3.8%||2.5%||4.6%|
How to uncover hidden gem oryx units
Limited choices make it difficult to really uncover any hidden gems. The best strategy would be to apply for the premier once-in-a-lifetime choices as your first and second choices, followed by a broken horn choice listed as your third choice (some people may not want to hunt a broken horned oryx, so keep that in mind).
Other options for oryx
Limited choices limit the options. The best strategy would be to apply for the premier once-in-a-lifetime choices as your first and second choices, followed by a broken horn choice listed as your third choice (some people may not want to hunt a broken horned oryx, so keep that in mind). Also, if you know of someone who is familiar with the area and familiar with oryx locations, an off range hunt may be a good option for you.
The 2018 hit list units for oryx in New Mexico
The premier choice would be to apply for the seasons offered in Unit 19 in either the Stallion Range or the Rhodes Canyon area. There are five of these hunt choices to select from and they range from October through February. Additionally, you can utilize Draw Odds to narrow down some other possible options.
Top units to consider for 30” or better oryx
|Unit 19||Oct. 12-14||30-40"+||75%|
|Unit 19||Nov. 9-11||30-40"+||93%|
|Unit 19||Jan. 4-6, 2019||30-40"+||95%|
|Unit 19||Jan. 18-20, 2019||30-40"+||95%|
|Unit 19||Feb. 15-17, 2019||30-40"+||89%|
|Unit 28||Dec. 1-2||30-40"+||67%|
|Unit 28||Jan. 12-13||30-40"+||27%|
Managing expectations for oryx
The odds of drawing a tag for oryx are low for nonresidents because the same quota applies as the other species. Be prepared to wait several years if you are applying for the premier once-in-a-lifetime choices. When the opportunity does arise and you are drawn, you will be in for a great hunt.
If your goal is purely to get drawn so that you can hunt oryx, then complete all of your hunt choices—this will ensure that you have the greatest chance of drawing a tag. Remember that the fifth choice will indicate that you are willing to participate in a population management hunt should one become available. The population management hunts are usually antlerless since the intention is to control the herd numbers.
New Mexico's 2018 Barbary sheep breakdown
The most nomadic species of the New Mexico exotics is the Barbary sheep. Considered by many to be the “poor man’s bighorn,” these sheep offer a challenging hunt. In their native lands of northern Africa, they were called aoudad. The best success is found on private ranches offered through outfitters, but there are also opportunities on public lands to hunt as a do-it-yourself (DIY) experience. An outfitter is your best bet at success; however, if DIY on public land is your game, then scouting is an absolute must.
Current Barbary sheep herd condition
The Barbary sheep are doing well in New Mexico with the numbers stable to increasing. These are the most difficult of species in New Mexico to gain an accurate count because of the vast area that they cover and the difficulty in locating them. The billies grow impressive horns and make for a very fulfilling hunt.
The majority of hunters that pursue Barbary sheep in New Mexico book a hunt with an outfitter on a large ranch. There is no real season associated with hunting them this way and units available are 2, 4-7, 9, 10, 12, 15, 17, 18, 19, 21, 25, 31, 33, 34, 38-59 except for the February season offered in Units 31, 34, 36, and 37 and the private land only February hunts in Units 29 and 30. Over-the-counter private land only hunts are in Units 32, 34, 36, 37 and Units 29, 30.
The 2018 hit list units for Barbary sheep in New Mexico
There are two main hunt choices that you should select from: Unit 29 and Unit 30 before selecting Units 32, 34, 36, and 37. Remember that to be successful, it is best to hire an outfitter. You can look up New Mexico outfitters here. If you plan to hunt on your own, plan to spend some time afield in search of these roaming sheep. Doing research with an outfitter is the key to finding success for Barbary sheep. These hunts are generally inexpensive and can be completed during the winter and spring when there are no other conflicts.
Managing expectations for Barbary sheep
As with all species, there are no points associated with Barbary sheep in New Mexico.
Contracting with an outfitter will increase your chances of drawing if you are a nonresident as well as give you a greater opportunity of finding a quality sheep.