How does the New Mexico Big Game Draw Work?

Published November 26th, 2021 by Justin Basch

New Mexico offers some of the best big game hunting opportunities of any western state. To learn more about why you should be applying in the New Mexico big game draw, go see our previous article on that subject.

Here’s an overview of how the New Mexico big game draw works:

No Preference Points

The New Mexico big game draw works differently here than it does in many other western states. First off, there’s no preference point or bonus point system. Every year, applicants are on equal ground in terms of seniority. No need to have decades worth of points to draw a great tag. If this is your first year applying, you have the same shot as the next applicant.

License Allocations

In New Mexico, licenses are allocated to three different groups. 84% of licenses are reserved for residents of New Mexico. Six percent of the licenses go to nonresident applicants. And 10% of the licenses go to individuals who have contracted with an outfitter. By applying with an outfitter, you can greatly increase your odds of drawing – in some cases, you might double or triple your odds, versus applying as an unguided nonresident.

New Mexico Big Game Draw Process

Each application–whether it is an individual application or a party application–is assigned a random sequence number. The draw then fulfills the licenses for each hunt code by evaluating each application in order (sequence number 1 to about 175,000).

When the system arrives at your random sequence number, it will look at the first choice on your application. If there are licenses available, it will distribute them. If a resident applies with a nonresident, there must be at least one license remaining in both pools for the system to award them. If there are not available licenses for all applicants, the system will look at the second choice on your application. If there aren’t available licenses for your second choice, it will look at your third choice to attempt to distribute licenses.

New Mexico’s draw system is unique in that it evaluates all three of your choices before moving on to the next application. Therefore, all three of your choices matter. It’s possible for you to successfully draw a hunt code as your second or third choice, even if a different applicant applied for the same hunt code as their first choice.

Second, Third and Fourth Rounds of the Draw

There are multiple rounds in the New Mexico big game draw: The first round uses the quota distribution determined by the application of state law (84% to residents, 6% to nonresidents and 10% to guided hunters). The second round is open to New Mexico resident only. The third round will distribute remaining licenses by sequence number, regardless of residency or guided allocations.

We don’t suggest opting for a fourth choice in the draw. But for clarity’s sake, this is how it works. After the first three rounds of the draw are completed, all unsuccessful deer and elk applications that have selected a 4th choice quadrant are evaluated in round 4. The system goes through the hunt codes in each quadrant to see if any hunts have not been filled. If any hunts are available, they will be distributed to applicants who A) chose the applicable quadrant as a 4th choice and B) selected a hunt with the same weapon type as their first choice.

The Moral of the Story

If you’re going to remember anything about how the big game draw works in New Mexico, here are the highlights to keep in mind…

First, applying with an outfitter can significantly increase your chance of drawing a license. Not only that – but we have full-time, year round guides whose job it is to scout and know this country like the back of their hand. Therefore, we can both help you draw a tag and help you make the most out of your limited hunting time away from work and family.

Second, remember that all three choices on your application matter. The system will look at the availability of all three before moving on to the next applicant. Here at LOH, we’re experts at structuring application choices for the goals of our hunters. In addition to increasing your odds by applying with an outfitter, it helps to know which units to apply for that will give you the best chance of drawing – while meeting your specific goals.

When you apply with us, we’ll be there for you every step of the way. From planning the hunt codes on your application until the day you drive away from camp, we believe that we offer the best, personalized service of any New Mexico outfitter.

If you have questions, take a look at our previous blog posts about why you should hunt in New Mexico and about the cost of a guided hunt. Then, feel free to explore the rest of our website to learn more about our hunts and who we are.

If you’d like details or specific availability, please don’t hesitate to call or text us at 575-315-6674. You’ll also need to set up an account with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. We can’t wait to help you plan a successful big game application and a memorable New Mexico hunt!

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