General Hunting Rules

General Rules2018-01-16T10:43:44+00:00

Be Aware of What’s Legal and What Isn’t

Click the tab headings below to learn more about New Mexico state laws including: illegal acts, fines, and shooting hours, as referenced by the 2018-19 NM Hunting Rules & Info. See also Big Game Rules.

New Mexico state laws make it illegal to leave a fire unattended or to improperly handle fire; to litter; to pollute streams, lakes and other water; damage property; to recklessly or carelessly handle a firearms; and to hunt while under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants.

It is unlawful to:
• Hunt protected species without a valid New Mexico Game-hunting License and all applicable licenses, permits, tags, stamps or validations; or fail to tag any big game or turkey.
• Hunt protected species using licenses, tags, permits, stamps or validations belonging to another individual or take or attempt to take a protected species for another person, except as permitted when assisting a licensed mobility-impaired or handicapped hunter (pages 11, 12).
• Kill more than one of the following: elk, pronghorn antelope, Barbary sheep, bighorn sheep, ibex, javelina, oryx, bear or deer during any license year, except as permitted by rule.
• Apply for, buy or use more than one license or tag for any species per license year.
• Shine spotlights or other artificial lights into areas where big-game species or livestock may be present, while in possession of any sporting arm, except as permitted by rule for raccoon (page 127).
• Take or attempt to take game species by the aid of baiting or scenting. Knowingly take or attempt to take game species in a baited or scented area, except quail on private land. Hunters should be aware a baited area is considered to be baited for 10 days after the removal of the bait. Individuals may use scent-masking agents on their person, but these agents may not be used to attract game species.
• Use live animals as blinds or decoys to take or attempt to take game species.
• Use electronically or mechanically recorded calling devices, except as permitted for protected furbearers, cougars and nongame species.
• Use tracer ammunition, full-metal jacketed bullets or fully automatic weapons.
• Park any motor vehicle or camp within 300 yards of any man-made water hole, water well or watering tank used by wildlife or domestic stock, without the prior consent of the private landowner, private-land lessee, public-land lessee or public-land management agency.
• Take or attempt to take game on, from or across any graded and maintained public road or within the fenced right-of-way of any paved road or highway or within 40 feet of the pavement or maintained surface if no right-of-way fence exists.
• Shoot at, pursue, harass, harry, drive or rally any protected species by use of or from a motor-driven vehicle, powerboat, sailboat, aircraft or drone.
• Use motor-driven vehicles on roads closed under the Habitat Protection Act or other federal regulation.
• Hunt from, signal locations of protected species to hunters from or harass game with aircraft; hunt protected species observed from aircraft within 48 hours of observation; or hunt protected species the same day of air travel, except by commercial airline or direct flight to a landing strip.
• Discharge a firearm within 150 yards of a dwelling or building (not including abandoned or vacated buildings on public land) without the permission of the owner or lessee.
• Take any animal that is protected by law but not listed as a game species and/or any animal that is listed as an endangered or threatened species.
• Drive or ride in a motor vehicle off established or two-track roads located in a hunting, trapping or angling area, if that vehicle is transporting a person licensed to hunt, fish or trap for species which are in season in that area. Established road means:

1. A road built and/or maintained by equipment and which shows no evidence of ever being closed to vehicular traffic by such means as berms, ripping, scarification, reseeding, fencing, gates, barricades or posted closures.

2. A road which shows use prior to the hunting season for purposes such as recreation, mining, logging and ranching and which shows no evidence of ever having been closed to vehicular traffic by such means as berms, ripping, scarification, reseeding, fencing, gates, barricades or posted closure.

For further information, complete hunting and fishing rules for the state of New Mexico
are available online at:

Firearm Eligibility

Any applicant that is a felon according to New Mexico Law, if successful in drawing an any legal sporting arm or muzzleloader type license, shall be restricted to the use of archery equipment only.

In addition, any person that is a felon according to New Mexico Law shall be restricted to the use of archery equipment only if purchasing an over-the-counter license that allows for the use of a firearm.

Per New Mexico statute 30-7-16 NMSA 1978, firearm includes any handgun, rifle, muzzleloader or shotgun.

Harassment of Legal Hunters Is Unlawful

New Mexico Law (Chapter 17-2-7.1, NMSA 1978) prohibits hunter harassment or interfering with another who is lawfully hunting, trapping or fishing in an area where those activities are permitted. The first offense is a petty misdemeanor, the second a misdemeanor.

If a person committing interference possesses a license, certificate or permit issued to him/her by the New Mexico State Game Commission, the license, certificate or permit will be subject to revocation.

Harassment of Game Animals

It is unlawful for a person to use an aircraft or other vehicle to pursue, push or harass any protected species such as elk, deer or antelope. It also is unlawful for anyone to use an aircraft or other vehicle to intentionally harass a lawful hunter, trapper or angler by creating a situation where human presence, noise, smell, or visual stimulus may affect game animal behavior or the feasibility of taking a game animal. If you witness anyone harassing wildlife or a lawful sportsman/sportswoman, please document the vehicle description, vehicle color, license plate number or aircraft tail number and contact Operation Game Thief: 1-800-432-4263.

Reference (2018-19 NM Hunting Rules & Info pg. 16-18)


License Privileges Can Be Revoked

Points are assessed against privileges based on the type of violation committed. This includes providing false information when harvest reporting. Any person accumulating 20 points or more within any consecutive three-year period shall be considered for revocation of the following: all hunting, fishing and trapping license privileges; any guiding and outfitting registration; landowner authorizations; and/or any permit or certificate issued under Chapter 17, NMSA 1978 and its implementing rules.

Defendants may request to be heard by an outside hearing officer. Recommendations for revocation are made to the New Mexico State Game Commission, which has final authority to revoke privileges.

New Mexico is a member of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact and will recognize the suspension or revocation of license privileges of any person listed as a wildlife violator by another participating state. Contact NMDGF Field Operations for specific information at: (505) 476-8065.


Sporting arms may be seized and forfeited if used to take, attempt to take, illegally possess or transport big game during a closed season; if used while exceeding the bag limit for big game during an open season; or if used to take or attempt to take big game with the use of a spotlight or artificial light. Vehicles used by anyone charged with spotlighting or hunting with the aid of artificial light may be confiscated at the scene and are subject to forfeiture and sale upon conviction.

Substantial Civil Assessments for Poaching

To recover the loss of the state’s wildlife, the New Mexico State Game Commission has adopted substantial civil assessments for the illegal taking of trophy game animals. The assessments are:

Elk $10,000
Deer $10,000
Bighorn sheep $10,000
Ibex $10,000
Oryx $10,000
Pronghorn antelope $8,000
Barbary sheep $6,000
Turkey $500
Trout $150


Criminal Fines for First Offenses

In addition to civil assessments, poachers may incur criminal penalties, including:

  • First offense: Up to $1,000 in fines and one year in jail.
  • Second offense: Up to $4,000 in fines and one year in jail.
  • Third offense: Up to $6,000 in fines, mandatory 90 days in jail and up to one year in jail.
  • Felony waste of game: Up to $5,000 in fines and 18 months in prison. Convicted felons cannot possess a firearm, may not vote and are ineligible to become outfitters or guides.

Federal Laws

Transporting illegally taken game across state lines is a violation of the federal Lacey Act, and may be classified as a felony.

Reference (2018-19 NM Hunting Rules & Info pg. 18-19)


Legal Shooting Hours for Big Game & Turkey

Legal shooting hours for big game, upland game, furbearers and turkey are from 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset, unless otherwise noted.

Legal Shooting Hours for Upland Game

Wildlife Management Areas
Shooting hours for upland game are 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset for the following areas, unless otherwise noted:

Colin Neblett, E.S. Barker, Humphries, Marquez, Rio Chama, Sargent, Socorro-Escondida, Water Canyon, Sandhills Prairie Conservation Area, Prairie Chicken Areas and Big Hatchet Special Management Area.

Shooting hours are 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1 p.m. for the following areas, unless otherwise noted (NM Hunting Rules & Info pages 134).

Bernardo (Youth Pheasant Only), Urraca and W.S. Huey.
Exception: Pheasant hunts on W.S. Huey are 1/2 hour before sunrise to 4 p.m.

Sunrise and Sunset (MST) at Albuquerque, NM

Add one minute for each 12 miles west of Albuquerque. Subtract one minute for each 12 miles east of Albuquerque. Mountain Standard Time (MST) changes to Mountain Daylight Time (MDT) beginning Sunday, March 12, 2018 at 2 a.m. and ending Sunday, Nov. 5, 2018 at 2 a.m.

See timetable in the 2018-19 NM Hunting Rules & Info pg. 28

Reference (2018-19 NM Hunting Rules & Info pg. 28-29)