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The game is afoot: There’s still time to sign up for hunts in New Mexico

From left, Aidric Dominguez, Eric Frey, Lauren Patten and Kirk Patten scout for prey southwest of San Antonio Mountains. Scouting is one of the keys to a successful hunt. (Courtesy of James Dominguez and New Mexico Department of Game Fish)

Although a couple of the big-game permit draws have already passed for 2021, there are still plenty of opportunities for prospective hunters to apply for hunts ranging from oryx to ibex, and ranging from the Colorado border to the Mexican border.

The lottery system not only fairly ensures that everybody gets a chance at a quality hunt, but it also helps maintain wildlife populations at optimum levels while also funding the state Department of Game & Fish, said spokeswoman Tristanna Bickford.

“There’s not enough wildlife on the landscape for everybody who wants to hunt,” she said. “If everybody wanted who wanted to go out did, we wouldn’t have healthy wildlife populations.”

Likewise, the draws help distribute hunters across the state.

“We allocate areas to help manage animal populations across the state so not all the hunting pressure is on one herd,” Bickford said. “And we divide out the areas so hunters are not so pressured. It’s good for hunters and the species being hunted.”

New Mexico boasts a variety of wildlife and landscape to hunt, said Bob King, an outfitter who owns Santa Fe Guiding Company.

“Do have I favorite place? I just call that New Mexico,” he said of the best spots in the state. “As a state, we’re so fortunate. New Mexico is the coolest place to be based as hunting outfitter. And as a hunter.”

What’s more, New Mexico’s wildlife is unparalleled, King said.

“All the wildlife out there is so different,” he said.

In addition to the standards such as elk, deer, bear and turkey (the latter two draw deadlines have already passed), game such as pronghorn, javalina, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, desert bighorn sheep and Barbary sheep, and the true outliers of ibex and oryx can be hunted in various seasons that essentially run from August to April, Bickford said.

And the best thing to do is to start the process right away, she said.

“The whole process is very intricate,” Bickford said, but it all can be done online at

Anyone interested must first buy a hunting license, which costs $15 a year, or $30 for a combined hunting/fishing license.

Individuals must also have a $4 Habitat Management & Access Validation stamp, as well as a $10 habitat stamp for hunting on U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management property.

And licenses must be purchased for each individual animal drawn — hunters may apply for up to three drawers. Prices range from $34 for a private-land deer license to $153 for a private-land oryx license.

The great thing about New Mexico’s hunting, King said, is that while not everybody in a particular group will come away with a successful draw, at least one will.

“We as hunters every year apply for our favorite hunts with our friends,” he said. “We don’t always draw every year but one of us will and all of hunting is a team sport. You need spotters, somebody to stay back in camp for safety. And we don’t drive our trucks to where the animal is. We pack it out in backpacks. It’s fun to go with friends.”