Elk Hunting Overview

New Mexico offers world class elk hunting opportunities throughout the state and is considered a premier hunting destination, known for productive elk herds across diverse landscapes and hunting opportunities. To learn more about the elk population in New Mexico click the link below to access the latest report from our elk biologist:

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish offers many hunting opportunities on both public and private properties through rifle, muzzleloader, or archery hunting options. Between 2017 and 2021, approximately 37,000 licenses were sold to hunters; resulting in an average harvest of ~8,400 bulls and ~6,400 cows. Average hunt success across all weapons and license types was 41.1%. Visit our Harvest Report Information page for detailed annual reports.

The Department provides elk hunting opportunities on public lands through public draw licenses, and opportunity on privately owned properties through the Elk Private Land Use System (EPLUS). The EPLUS program was created in recognition of the important benefits that private lands make to the elk populations and hunting opportunities in New Mexico.

Management Zones

Elk are managed across the state in three zones, each having different management goals. The three management zones are Primary, Secondary, and Special (see map below). Within Primary Management Zones, the department actively monitors herd productivity and recommends license adjustments to manage elk herds within a range of sustainable population metrics and harvest strategies. The total number of elk licenses issued in each Game Management Unit (GMU) are divided between the public draw and the EPLUS system based on the percent of public vs private land in the Primary Management Zone of each GMU. Licenses issued through the public draw are subject to quota set by the legislature to ensure the majority of hunt opportunities are allotted to New Mexico residents (see below for more information). Public draw licenses are valid on legally accessible public land, and private land (with written permission) in GMUs for which the license is issued.

Secondary Management Zones are areas within the state where elk are present, but are adjacent to, or outside of, core habitat and thus no specific elk management goals are set by the department. Elk licenses for enrolled private lands in Secondary Management Zones are issued over-the-counter, and are available for purchase with an appropriate ranch code. Special Management Zones are regions outside both Primary and Secondary Management Zones and elk authorizations are issued to private landowners by the department on a ranch by ranch basis. Private property owners who are qualified participants in the EPLUS program are issued authorizations for elk hunts to be distributed by the landowner. These private property authorizations can then be converted to licenses by the hunter who has acquired the authorization. Depending on how the landowner enrolled their property in the EPLUS program, and where that property is located, licenses may be valid for the entire GMU, like public draw licenses, or they may be limited to the ranch boundaries where issued. For more information on EPLUS licenses, visit the EPLUS webpage.