Draw Info, Odds & Tips
Click the headings below to learn more Draw Info, Odds & Tips, or return to the introduction: Applying for Big Game Hunts in New Mexico.
How New Mexico’s Draw Works
New Mexico’s big game drawing is subject to a quota system. In accordance with state law, the draw attempts to distribute a minimum of 84 percent of the licenses for each hunt to New Mexico residents, 10 percent to residents or nonresidents who’ve contracted with an outfitter and 6 percent to nonresidents who have not contracted with an outfitter (this does not prohibit nonresidents in the 6 percent pool from contracting with an outfitter if they are lucky in the draw).
All drawing applications are randomly assigned a sequence number. A computer program then examines each application in the sequence in its entirety, prior to moving on to the next application. When an application is examined, the computer attempts to fulfill the first hunt choice, subject to the quotas described above. If the first hunt choice is already filled, the computer will try to assign the second choice to that application, then the third choice.
If the quota for all applicant drawing pools has been filled for all three choices, the system will not issue a license(s) and will move on to the next application. Residents who apply with one or more nonresidents will be issued a license only if there are licenses available for both the resident and nonresident pools.
After all deer and elk applications have been examined, a second drawing distributes any remaining deer and elk licenses to those who designate a fourth choice on their application. Only those willing to accept ANY deer or elk license should indicate a fourth choice. An elk hunter drawing a fourth choice could receive a license for an antlerless bag limit (if eligible), even if their first three choices were for bull licenses. The fourth-choice assignment will always be for the same sporting arm type as the first choice on the application.
Because the order of an application in the sequence is the determining factor in drawing success, it is possible for an applicant to receive a license for his or her second or third choice before a first choice applicant for the same hunt is even considered. The earlier in the drawing sequence an application is, the better the chances that a first, second or third choice hunt will still be available.
Drawing Odds Reports
Previous years Hunting Rules & Information booklets (for cross-referencing odds reports information).
Using the Drawing Odds Reports
The New Mexico drawing process is complex and drawing odds reports can be confusing. Knowing how to use the reports and how the drawing works, however, are the keys to submitting an application with a reasonable chance of success.
The Department of Game and Fish produces two drawing odds reports for the big game draws. The reports do not include area descriptions, so be sure you have the hunt codes from the appropriate Hunting Rules and Information booklet.
For a description of how New Mexico’s big game drawings work, see previous tab (above).
As you examine the odds reports, you’ll notice that licenses or permits aren’t always distributed exactly according to the quota. This is because of variations in the number of applicants, particularly the guided pool.
The Drawing Odds Summary Report contains statistics for all big game species offered through the public draw. This report contains the number of first, second and third choice applicants and total applicants in each drawing pool for each hunt, as well as the number of successful applicants in each drawing pool. Comparing the number of applicants in your drawing pool with the number drawn in your pool will give you a rough idea of your odds.
Be aware that these numbers can be slightly misleading because a first choice applicant very likely applied for other hunts as second or third choices. Because each application can only be drawn for one hunt, the actual number of applicants competing for a particular hunt could be lower than the number indicated because some applicants would have been successful for one of their choices, and therefore their other choices would no longer be included in the draw.
The complete report contains pre-draw and post-draw statistics for all big game draw hunts. This report is a Microsoft Excel file, so you can save it to your computer and customize it by deleting rows and/or columns of data that you don’t want. Pre-draw statistics include the total applicants for each hunt, as well as total first, second and third choice applicants, plus the total first, second and third-choice applicants for each drawing pool. Post-draw statistics include the total number of successful applicants by choice, plus the total number of successful applicants by choice for each drawing pool and the percentages drawn for each pool.
Determining Your Odds
To determine your odds, first you’ll need to multiply the total number of licenses available for a particular hunt by the percentage allotted to your drawing pool (for residents-multiply by 0.84, non-residents multiply by 0.06 and guided residents and non-residents multiply by 0.10). This will tell you approximately how many licenses are available for your pool. Then you can compare the number drawn for your drawing pool with the number of licenses available for that pool in either the Drawing Odds Report or the complete report to get a rough idea of your odds.
If you want to get more detailed, you can use the complete report and compare the number drawn in your drawing pool for each choice with the number who applied for that choice. This will provide a more accurate picture of your odds for each particular choice.
It’s important to remember that success in the draw ultimately depends on your sequence number, so no matter how good the odds seem according to the report, it’s still possible to be unsuccessful. Luck still plays a big part in drawing success.
Because of the complexity of the drawing process and the number of variables involved, there is no foolproof way to determine the exact odds of drawing for any particular hunt, but the drawing odds reports can help you make more informed decisions about what hunts to apply for.
Some Tips on Drawing Success
Every year, New Mexico Game & Fish receives complaints from hunters who have gone another year without drawing a permit or license for their species of choice. The competition is fierce for a limited number of licenses/permits, especially in prime areas. Luck plays a big part in the drawing, but the following tips may help you increase your chances.
Always remember that there are no guarantees in the draw, even if you follow the advice given here. Likewise, there are no guarantees in hunting. Success in the draw doesn’t mean you’ll harvest a trophy or even see an animal—even if you draw a prime unit.
1) Know how the draw works
It’s important to understand that New Mexico’s big game drawings are subject to a quota system. In accordance with state law, the drawing attempts to distribute a minimum of 84% of the licenses/permits for each hunt to New Mexico residents, 10% to residents and nonresidents who have contracted with an outfitter and 6% to nonresidents who haven’t contracted with an outfitter. New Mexico does NOT grant preference to applicants who were unsuccessful in previous drawings.
A computer program randomly assigns each application a sequence number. The order your application lies in the sequence ultimately determines whether you’ll be successful or not.
The draw then goes through each application by sequence number and examines the application in its entirety before moving on to the next application. When an application is examined, the system attempts to distribute licenses/permits for the first hunt choice, subject to the quotas described above. If the drawing pool(s) for all applicants for the first hunt choice is already filled, the computer will try to assign the second hunt choice for that application and then the third choice. If the licenses/permits have been distributed, or there aren’t enough to fulfill the application (for example, if there are four unguided nonresident applicants, but only three licenses/permits remaining to fill the 6% quota), the system will not issue a license(s), and will move on to the next application.
2) Do your homework
Consult the drawing odds report on the New Mexico Game & Fish website. This report contains all the information regarding the previous year’s drawing you could ever want. Compare the number of applicants in your drawing pool with the number successfully drawn to come up with an approximation of your chances to draw a specific hunt.
Scout different areas and consult maps to find out how much public land is accessible within the unit(s) you want to hunt. Talk to other hunters. Call the local conservation officer well in advance of applying to check the current status of your preferred unit(s).
Consider how hard you’re willing to work to harvest an animal. Most conservation officers will tell you the further you get from your truck, the better your chances will be. Some areas contain extremely rough terrain that may deter others from applying. If you’re willing to put forth the extra effort, some units you might not have thought of can offer rewarding hunts.
3) Expand your horizons
We can’t all be lucky enough to draw for bull elk in the Valle Vidal or unit 16A or 16D, or for mule deer in unit 2B. Most of the units that contain prime habitat for any species are very difficult to draw because numerous hunters apply for those areas.
There is no harm in submitting a highly desirable unit as your first choice, but if all three of your choices are in prime units, your drawing chances overall won’t be very good. Consider entering a less competitive unit for your second, or at least your third choice.
It doesn’t hurt to be willing to travel for your hunt either. The words “too far away” shouldn’t be in your vocabulary if you really want to hunt big game in New Mexico.
4) Think about different sporting arms
The majority of hunters prefer to hunt with high-powered rifles. Obviously the range of a rifle can make for a much easier hunt than a bow hunt where you have to be much closer to an animal to have any hope of hitting your target. It also means that there will be many more applicants for any legal sporting arm (rifle) hunts, than for muzzleloader or bow-only hunts. Today’s muzzleloaders can shoot accurately to well over 100 yards, but you’ll generally only get one shot.
The bow seasons for elk generally are just prior to the peak of the rut, and the muzzleloader seasons are shortly thereafter, so there’s a possibility of calling elk into range that doesn’t exist during most of the rifle seasons. Some deer hunts for bows only also occur during January on the tail end of the rut.
It will be tougher to harvest an animal with a bow or muzzleloader, but the trade-off is that you’re more likely to get to go hunting if you apply.
5) Cow vs. Bull for elk
If you truly enjoy the experience of hunting, or you’re more concerned with putting food on your family’s table than a mount over your fireplace, think about applying for a cow hunt. The drawing odds are far better for antlerless elk hunts than for bull hunts. A lot of hunters are primarily interested in that elusive Boone & Crockett class bull, so antlerless hunts generally receive significantly fewer applications than bull hunts. If you really want to go elk hunting, think about using one or more of your choices for a cow hunt(s).
6) The Fourth Choice option
For deer and elk, you have the option of submitting a fourth choice. New Mexico Game & Fish has consistently emphasized that you must be willing to accept ANY hunt in the quadrant of the state you enter for these species. Keep in mind that these are the hunts that received fewer applications than others, and there’s probably a reason for that. You could end up hunting an area with scattered populations, or the unit might be very rugged terrain. Either way, you should be prepared for a tough hunt. If you really want to hunt and don’t care where or what the bag limit is (for elk), the fourth choice might be a good option.