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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2021: New Mexico Exotics

Main writer: Jordan Christensen of The Draw


Jump to: NEW FOR 2021 State Information Draw System Ibex Breakdown Oryx Breakdown Barbary Sheep Breakdown

We live in a day and age where there is a strong agenda to put things back the way they were. The world wants things to look and feel like it was 100 or, even, 200 years ago when it comes to wild places. We are reintroducing apex predators back into areas that were previously eradicated by the federal government. While some may consider the exotics of New Mexico an encroachment on the native species, I couldn’t be farther from this train of thought and believe that the exotics of New Mexico should be celebrated as one of the biggest success stories of conservation ever — similar to that of the wild pheasant. 

Public land/public access exotic hunting is not available in nearly any other state and definitely nowhere near the amount of opportunities. Historically, these areas of the state were all but void of any hunting opportunities and, while the governor of New Mexico back in the 1960s saw the success that states like Texas were having with the introduction of the different species, he saw a chance to create the same opportunity for the average citizen on public land. This resulted in a fantastic plan that has left us even today with an incredible free-ranging herd of oryx (gemsbok), Persian ibex, and Barbary sheep (aoudad). There are 645 once-in-a-lifetime hunts up for grabs this year, which includes 15 ibex permits. This is a staggering amount of once-in-a-lifetime hunts for one state to have and is really just the tip of the iceberg on the number of hunts issued for these three species each year. If you are looking for something outside the box or a way of extending your season, there are many options to consider when applying that will likely fit with most of your schedules and should be considered in everyone's annual application strategy.

Note: The online application deadline for New Mexico Barbary sheep, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, ibex, javelina, antelope and oryx is March 17 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 2021


The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) offices may be closed or have restricted access due to the Covid-19 public health crisis. Customers can purchase licenses by credit card online or by phone. Please check the agency’s website for updates.

Unit-wide ranch maps

Unit-wide elk hunting property maps are available online here. These maps allow you to see all of the different properties that have enrolled in the unit-wide program, allowing you access to their properties during a hunt in which you have a permit either through the draw or by purchasing the permit. 

Electronic tag (e-tag) option for all big game and turkey

Hunters may choose the e-tag option when purchasing or applying for any big game or turkey hunts. You will not receive a carcass tag if you choose this option. Hunters who choose to e-tag will be required to download the New Mexico e-tag app on their phone, upload their license and carry their phone in the field. A printed license and/or carcass tag are not required, but the animal or turkey must still be physically tagged.

No electronic check payments

Electronic check payments are not accepted. Payments may be made in person by cash or credit card and online or by telephone by credit card only.

Purchase 2021 game hunting license through draw application

Draw applicants purchasing 2021 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."

2021–2022 duplicate license fee

A $6 duplicate license fee will be charged for all duplicate tags/licenses in accordance with New

Mexico state law. This fee will be charged only when a duplicate tag is obtained requiring reprinting of the license with a new tag number. Big game and turkey hunters are advised not to purchase their licenses online if they plan to obtain the tag(s) at a license vendor.

Draw refunds

Draw license fee refunds for unsuccessful applicants will be processed shortly after draw results are released in April. 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.

Early purchase available for 2021–22 licenses

Licenses for the 2021–22 license year, which begins April 1, will be available online, by telephone and at license vendors and NMDGF offices beginning March 24.

Game hunting license options

Big game draw applicants will be required to purchase a habitat management and access validation (HMAV) with their game hunting or game hunting and fishing license. Applicants will have the option to add the habitat stamp, harvest information program (HIP) number and/or second rod validation, if applicable, to their purchase. Hunters must purchase the habitat stamp prior to May 17, 2021 to avoid having to print it separately.

Habitat stamp

The habitat stamp must be purchased prior to hunting, fishing or trapping on BLM and Forest Service lands. To be included in a combined license/tag, the habitat stamp must be purchased before May 17, 2021. Proof of habitat stamp purchase must be carried while in the field. The habitat stamp fee will be $5 if purchased prior to April 1, 2021. If purchased on or after April 1, 2021, the fee will be $10.

No more rounding up in the license quotas

The state now requires that an applicant in the unguided pool must apply for a hunt with a minimum of 13 permits in order to have a chance at drawing. The same is for the guided pool, except that the minimum number of permits required in order to have a chance of drawing in this pool of tags is 7.

Cost for license and permits for New Mexico

Hunting license$15$65
Habitat stamp$10$10
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)
Barbary sheep$110$373

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 goHUNT MAPS

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 17, 2021.
  • 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 28

The guided pool

Currently, in New Mexico, the permits are allocated by quota in three categories. These three categories are: residents (who receive 84% of the permits), nonresidents (who receive 6% of the permits) and the guided pool, which residents and nonresidents may both apply in and are allocated the remaining 10% of the permits. Because there are more permits available in the guided pool, the odds tend to be higher than they are in the normal nonresident pool on any given hunt code each year. In order to qualify to be included in the guided pool, an applicant must be under contract with a licensed outfitter in New Mexico. Once you are under contract with the outfitter, they will then give you their unique outfitter’s number to use during the application process online. Once you are under contract with an outfitter during the application process, this, in most occasions, ensures the outfitter that if you are successful in drawing a permit that you will use that business to conduct a hunt of some nature. This could be as extensive as an all-inclusive hunt that covers many days and includes all meals, lodging, etc. or as simple as a two-day guide only hunt where you will be escorted into the field for two days and then left to hunt the duration of the time on your own. Two days fully escorted by a licensed guide is the minimum requirement from the state of New Mexico to be considered a legally guided hunt. This has changed in recent years, as previously, you simply had to check in with your outfitter twice during the hunt. This is no longer the case and hunters are required to be with their guide for a minimum of two days of hunting.

For more information on applying in the guide draw, check out this article here.

Working with an outfitter in regards to the guided pool

A normal situation in regards to the guided pool in New Mexico is that the applicant pays a fee of some level often $500 to $1000 to the outfitter in order to receive the outfitter’s code. These funds go towards the hunt if the hunter is lucky enough to draw the permit they have applied for. Because New Mexico has a random draw process, neither party knows when this may happen — if ever — depending on which hunts they are applying for. This also can be complicated as you may decide that the same outfitter you would like to hunt elk with is not the outfitter you would prefer to hunt ibex, oryx or bighorn sheep with if you were to get lucky. So, this begs the question: without tying up thousands of dollars with multiple outfitters across the state on applications that are inherently difficult to draw, is there a better way? We believe that at The Draw that our process is much better and allows for much more flexibility for the hunter. Essentially, when working with The Draw as a customer, we will get you under contract with an outfitter — the only outfitter that is legal in all corners of the state — and we apply you based on your goals. We are as involved as you would like us to be in unit and hunt selections. We submit your applications in the guided pool and, once the permit has been drawn, we then use a transfer document to place you with the outfitter that you prefer to hunt with on the permit that you have drawn. Again, we are as involved in this process as you would like us to be and in no way are you obligated to book a hunt with one of our outfitters. If you would like to get into the guided pool, but do not want to be married to one outfitter or the other until you have successfully drawn a permit, our method is the only way to keep all your options on the table throughout the process. Call The Draw today at 575-222-1234 to speak with us about this program and how they can help. 

Note: If you would like to apply in New Mexico, but do not like the idea of tying up over $3,000 during the application process to apply for these three species (and closer to $8,000 if you include all the other species available in New Mexico), call and talk to The Draw about their Float Service. You will be in the draw for a fraction of the upfront costs and only liable for the full cost of the permit if you are successfully drawn.

Drought in New Mexico


2021 New Mexico Drought Monitor

New Mexico drought status update as of February 9, 2021. Source: New Mexico Drought Monitor

Things couldn’t get much worse in New Mexico in regards to the drought we are living in currently. There is hope that even this week it will change as we have seen some moisture across much of the state with some more in the forecast. However, both bighorn sheep and antelope will likely fare much better this year compared to what we are expecting to see on deer and elk this coming year.


New Mexico 2020 Drought Monitor

New Mexico drought status update as of February 25, 2020. 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 fasttrack 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 see fit. 

New Mexico offers their applicants five choices when applying. Unlike many states, the first three selections are 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 essentially 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 is 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. \Often, there are valid reasons that these permits are leftover. Generally, these hunts would not line up with a nonresident hunter’s goals when looking to hunt in new areas. 

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 2021 oryx breakdown and what to expect

The oryx hunting in New Mexico is as good as it has been in quite some time. The once-in-a-lifetime hunts on White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) have incredibly high success rates and the overall quality of these hunts rival any in the country. It truly is a special opportunity for adventure seekers looking for a quick getaway. The hunts located on the McGregor Range are not quite the same caliber of hunt as found on WSMR, but are still very good and offer hunters another chance to hunt oryx in a controlled area — even if you have already drawn your once-in-a-lifetime hunt on WSMR. The last remaining option for most hunters on-range (where the herd numbers are very high) are the broken horn hunts that are offered at the same time as the once-in-a-lifetime hunts. These hunts are offered to any hunter regardless if they have drawn their once-in-a-lifetime hunt or not. The tag holders are allowed to harvest an oryx as long as it is missing at least 25% of one of their horns or more. The last available hunt through the draw process are the off-range hunts. These hunts are conducted on the BLM, private land and state land surrounding WSMR and McGregor Range. These hunts don’t tend to have as high a success rate as any of the hunts on-range; however, with a one month season, hunters who can commit to a few days of hunting can often find at least a few oryx and have a chance to be successful. Overall, there are as many oryx in the state as there have been in quite some time and no matter what hunt you choose you are in for quite an adventure. 

As it sits, there are scheduled to be nine once-in-a-lifetime hunts with 65 total tags per hunt. This means there will be six guided pool permits per hunt code and three for applicants in the nonresident pool. There are 25 permits for civilians and 25 permits for military only on the McGregor Range hunts. This means there are two guided pool permits per hunt code and one nonresident permit. There are ten off-range hunts scheduled with 80 permits per hunt for adults and another 20 permits for youth-specific hunts that mirror the normal off-range hunts. This means there are eight guided pool permits available per hunt code on the normal hunts and four nonresident permits. There are two guided pool permits for the youth-specific hunts and one nonresident permit. 

The few remaining opportunities to hunt oryx are reserved for smaller segments of the population. If you happen to be a veteran of the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, there are hunt codes specifically set aside for you, but with only five permits per hunt code, there are none for nonresident or guided pool hunters. There are also population management hunts, but require a special code during the application process that you would receive from someone who has been approved to escort guests on WSMR. The only recipients of these codes are folks who work on WSMR and have a work-related reason to need what is called “up-range access.” The last option is a private land only over-the-counter (OTC) permit. These permits are good for the calendar month they are purchased for and only on deeded private property. Buyer beware of these as some of the properties are quite small and the odds of success vary greatly depending on the property. 

Safari Club International's top New Mexico oryx records

1101 3/8"McGregor RangeEric Kelsh2019
299 0/8"WSMRBill Lauer2008
398 2/8"WSMRBenny James2001
498 0/8"WSMRRoxanne Rhea1988
598 0/8"WSMRArchie R. Gibson2011
697 7/8"Tularosa BasinRoy Huffmyer1988
797 7/8"WSMRCraig M. Lemke2008
897 4/8"WSMRBill Kirikos1997
896 7/8"WSMRChris Trew1995
996 5/8"Near WSMRBrian David White1997
1096 5/8"WSMRCurtis Ball2010
1196 2/8”Near WSMRJason Browning2007
1296"WSMRDavid Starkey2009

Find your resident oryx draw odds here

Find your nonresident oryx draw odds here

New Mexico's 2021 ibex breakdown and what to expect

The big news with ibex this year is that the nanny incentive program has been discontinued. What this program offered was a chance to draw a billy tag for hunters who were successful in harvesting a nanny. They will still be offering a total of 80 nanny permits this year, which is way down from the past few years where they were issuing 300 permits; however, there is no incentive to get hunters to take this hunt seriously. The truth is that, overall, this program never really took off and the number of nannies turned into the state was very low compared to the actual success rate that was published from the harvest reports. All things considered, this is the first step in the right direction in order to try to maintain their ibex population in many years. It was not long ago that you could expect to see as many as two and three hundred ibex on a good day of hunting. Mind you, it was still the Florida Mountains, so that didn’t mean you could have harvested any of them, but they were there for hunters to pursue. Currently, it is likely to not see a single ibex in a day of hunting.. Hopefully, with some time, we can see a recovery of not only the total number of animals on the mountain, but a return of some age class in the billies. The days of finding a 50” billy are currently behind us; however, hopefully, we can still keep finding mature billies in the future. 

There are currently five different billy hunts scheduled for this year and four different nanny/immature hunts. There are two archery hunts with 100 permits issued per hunt. This means there are 10 guided pool permits and six nonresident permits available for each of these hunts. This hunt is not for the meek. Success rates are historically less than 10% and, if you want to increase your odds of drawing, applying for these hunts in the guided pool will give you a better chance, but not a good chance per say. All things considered, this is one of the most intense archery specific hunts in the country, but if you can shoot your bow 150 yards on a 40% incline with a 30 mph crosswind, you should be just fine. 

If this does not sound fun and you would prefer to be up there with some sort of gun, then you will need to focus on the rifle hunt, which is considered a once-in-a-lifetime hunt, and the muzzleloader hunt, which is not. There are 25 permits available on each of these hunts, which means there are two guided pool hunters per hunt and one nonresident hunter per hunt. Even as dire a situation as we are in considering the overall health of the herd, these are still very good hunts and hunters who come prepared to take on “The Rock” will be rewarded with one of the most incredible experiences offered on public land for free-range hunting. 

The last hunt available for ibex are OTC for anywhere in the state that is off of the Florida Mountains and its immediate surrounding areas. These permits are good for a calendar year starting on April 1 each year and ending on March 31. The success rate on these hunts has gone to almost 0% in the last few years due to the severe decrease in population on the mountain. Whatever permit you draw as a nonresident the cost of the permit is going to be $1610 plus license and stamps. I cannot imagine a situation where this or the nanny/immature hunts would make much sense to a nonresident hunter. 

Note: There is a youth-specific hunt as well. This hunt is scheduled to start two days after Christmas and runs through the first week of the year plus a few days. There are 15 total tags in this hunt code which means there is one guided pool permit up for grabs and no nonresident permits available.

Safari Club International's top New Mexico ibex records

1135 7/8"Florida MountainsAnthony Trennel1981
2121 6/8"Florida MountainsJohn F. Lang1983
3120 4/8"Florida MountainsJustin Garcia2007
4118 3/8"Florida MountainsMissy Holmes2004
5116 5/8"Florida MountainsJ.D. Woods Jr.2010
6115 7/8"Florida MountainsJoe Truby2010
7114 4/8"Florida MountainsRandy J. Martinez2005
8114 4/8"Florida MountainsMichael J. Borel2006
9114 2/8"Florida MountainsRyan York2006
10113 3/8"Florida MountainsJames A. Blake2006

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 rifle69%2.7%NA0.70%

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 2021 barbary sheep/aoudad breakdown

This is arguably one of the most underrated hunts for public land, free-range hunting in the country right now. Considering that there has not been a proper count or anything that resembles a real management plan from the state regarding their herd of Barbary sheep/aoudad and because these hunts are as good as they are is really quite miraculous. The changes in 2019 have made for quite a change in how these hunts play out for the lucky hunters who draw these permits. Previously, the season was one month long and there were approximately 600 tag holders in the field all at the same time. Starting in 2019, there are more permits being issued overall in both of the core areas, but the hunter experience is much better as there are only 100 hunters in Units 29 and 30 and 75 hunters for the multi-unit hunt scheduled to run during the rut hunt in October. There are up to 250 hunters per hunt in the later hunts in Units 29 and 30 while only 225 hunters per hunt in December, January and February. This is an increase by 350 total permits from just a couple of years ago, but does not seem to have had an impact on the quality of rams coming from New Mexico at this time. There are also 75 permits in each hunt area up for grabs for hunters brave enough to grab their bows and give it a whirl with a stick and string. As you can imagine, the success rates are low, but to be honest, they are higher than ever expected for most of us who have been around these amazing animals for years, so this is not quite as brutal as what archers are finding when they come to hunt ibex. 

Not including the archery hunts, there are a total of 160 public land permits up for grabs in the guided pool this year and 96 permits for nonresidents. Although the rut hunt is exciting, often, it can be conflicting with other hunts in the fall and the offseason hunts later in the year are an appealing way to break up the long winter. All of these hunts are fantastic for hunters ready to grind it out on the mountain and spend some serious time behind the glass and on your boots, so apply for what makes sense for your schedule and keep your fingers crossed. If you enjoy mountain hunting or are looking for a less expensive way to try it out, this is a must apply for application. Give us a call at The Draw as it is one of our favorite hunts of the year and we can further break down a plan around your goals. 

Note: There are also 20 permits available on the McGregor Range for civilians as well as 20 permits for military only. Two permits in each hunt code will go to the guided pool and there will be one nonresident permit. These are two-day hunts on-range and, for many years, would have been considered the best hunt in the state. This may not be the case any longer, but it is a great in and out hunt with decent success rates, especially if you are inclined to go with an outfitter or friend who knows the area well.

Barbary Sheep draw information

UnitSuccess rate
Draw odds
Draw odds
draw odds
Unit 28 (Non-Military)72%1.7%0.31%1.2%
Unit 29, 30 - archery17%67%14%53%
Unit 29, 30 - rifle
October / December
January / February
65% / 52%
50% / 48%
7.1% / 15%
18% / 21%
3.2% / 5.1%
4.6% / 4.0%
13% / 20%
19% / 18%
Unit 32, 34, 36, 37 - archery9%91%19%100%
Unit 32, 34, 36, 37 - rifle
October / December January / February
57% / 36%
40% / 38%
9.6% / 24%
27% / 29%
6.3% / 10%
8.1% / 7.3%
24% / 46%
54% / 67%


Safari Club International's top New Mexico barbary sheep records

1154 2/8"Canadian River CanyonUnknown1988
2150 4/8"Quay CountyGerald E. Floeck III1987
3150 1/8"Otero CountyMark Wiatt2005
4148 6/8"Guadalupe CountyWilliam W. Murrill2007
5148 5/8"Otero CountyJoshua G. Offutt2011
6147 7/8"Otero CountyJohn Falcon2011
7147 6/8"Otero CountyFoye D. Wells1995
8147 2/8"San Miguel CountyMichael Justus1988
9147 1/8"Near Logan, NMJose Gonzalez1987
10146 7/8"Quay CountyGerald E. Floeck III1987

Find your resident barbary sheep draw odds here

Find your nonresident barbary sheep draw odds here


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