Conversion Rates of EPLUS Authorizations

Half-rack bull elk in a field of sunflowers in GMU 46, New Mexico.

Half-rack bull elk in GMU 46, New Mexico

Resident versus Non-Resident Purchases of Private Land Elk Hunting Authorizations

Non-resident hunters purchase more private land elk hunting authorizations than residents.  EPLUS authorizations are sold on an open market.  The pool of buyers for private land elk hunting authorizations is large, and there are many more non-resident hunters than resident hunters seeking private land authorizations to hunt in New Mexico.  Since the authorizations are sold on an open market, coupled with the high demand for elk hunting licenses, buyers are willing to pay high prices to hunt private land in New Mexico. Note that New Mexico resident hunters do purchase private land elk hunting authorizations, but many more hunters live in other states — New Mexico has a lower population relative to many other states, ranking 36/50 in total population, with 1/50 being California and 2/50 Texas.

Why More Non-Residents Purchase Private Land Elk Licenses, in All States

Non-resident hunters purchase more private land elk hunting authorizations than residents. Here are some reasons why:

  • Non-resident hunters tend to spend more on hunting activities than resident hunters. This difference in spending can be attributed to several factors, including travel expenses, lodging, outfitter and guide services, and higher license fees for non-residents. Nonresident hunters’ budgets for elk hunting often include hiring an outfitter to hunt private land with expectations of a more favorable hunting experience and results.
  • Private-land elk hunting is available to both residents and non-residents of New Mexico. However, statistics show that a majority of private land hunters are non-residents. This can be explained by the “novelty premium” or “destination premium” effect, commonly observed in tourism and recreational activities. It refers to individuals’ added value or willingness to pay more for experiences in unique, exotic, or significantly different locations from their everyday environment. For instance, hunters from distant regions are attracted to New Mexico for the novelty of hunting elk in the Land of Enchantment. Similarly, some New Mexico hunters prefer to explore unique hunting opportunities in other states and countries.
  • The limited availability of public land elk hunting licenses for non-residents and the high number of applicants in the draw forces many non-residents to seek private land licenses.
  • Across the West, the majority of private land elk hunters are non-residents.  Residents have access to abundant public land hunting opportunities, which may reduce their need or desire to hunt on private land. On the other hand, non-residents may have fewer options for public land hunting in their home states.
  • Private land hunts often offer a more unique experience with less hunting pressure and a higher chance of harvesting a trophy bull. Non-resident hunters seeking these opportunities are willing to pay a premium for private land licenses. Many private landowners and outfitters in western states target their marketing efforts towards non-resident hunters, as they typically have a higher willingness to pay for guided hunts and premium hunting experiences.
  • Non-resident hunters may believe that hunting on private land in New Mexico offers better success rates than hunting on public land or hunting opportunities in their home states, making investing in a private land license more attractive.
  • Private land hunting authorizations are sold on an open market.  The pool of buyers for private land elk hunting authorizations is large. There are many more non-resident hunters than resident hunters who seek private land authorizations to hunt in New Mexico.

The conversion of private land elk hunting authorizations to licenses is shown here for the Primary Management Zone (PMZ), Secondary Management Zone (SMZ), and Special Management Zone (SPZ);  the data also shows the New Mexico resident (R) and non-resident (NR) hunter allocations of private land licenses.  RO = Ranch Only authorizations and UW = Unit Wide authorizations.  It is important to note that the SMZ authorizations are not allocated to ranches. Instead, they are sold over the counter (OTC) by the NMDGF with written permission from the landowner.  They are similar to a “trespass fee” system, where a licensed hunter pays the landowner to hunt on their private land (similar to Arizona’s system).  Note that there are almost twice as many non-resident hunters as resident hunters in the SMZ.  This demonstrates that the result of more non-resident hunters is not some “conspiracy” between NMDGF and the landowner but is instead due to the laws of supply and demand.

Ranch Conversion Rates of EPLUS Authorizations to Private Land Elk Hunting Licenses

Not all EPLUS authorizations a ranch receives from the NMDGF are converted to elk licenses.

The number of elk licenses converted from authorizations normalized by the number of authorizations allocated to a ranch, r, or the “conversion rate,” is given by,

\[C_{r} = \frac{ (\textrm{authorizations converted to licenses} )_{r} } { (\textrm{total authorizations})_{r} } \]

Reasons why a ranch may not utilize all its EPLUS authorizations each season include the following:

  1. Lack of demand to hunt on that ranch and landowner over-valuing the authorizations relative to demand,
  2. Landowner preferences for elk management on their land,
  3. Time constraints or other challenges with hunting access to the ranch (weather, road conditions, etc.).
  4. In the Special Management Zone (SPZ), some ranches are initially granted more authorizations, which are then down-adjusted by NMDGF based on herd management objectives, resulting in an apparent low conversion rate.

There are several reasons why a landowner might experience a lower conversion rate in any given season. One primary consideration is the ecological well-being of the elk herds. In certain years, landowners may reduce hunting pressure on their ranch, allowing the population to thrive and grow.

Weather and herd conditions can also influence hunters’ preferences, leading them to other regions and affecting the demand for authorizations on a particular ranch. In other scenarios, the number of hunters reaching out to landowners for authorization might be lower than usual. This could be due to a range of reasons, from changes in hunter behavior and preferences to broader trends in wildlife movement and habitat changes.

The fluctuating conversion rates of elk hunting authorizations in New Mexico reflect a complex interplay of ecological, environmental, and human factors. It underscores the need for adaptive management strategies that consider both the health of wildlife populations and the interests of the hunting community.

Below, we analyze the conversion rates for EPLUS base and small contributing ranches and for ranch-only and unit-wide authorizations in the Primary and Special Elk Management zones.

The conversion rate of EPLUS authorizations in the PMZ/SPZ is shown here for 2022 NMDGF data1.  The conversion rate is plotted versus the number of authorizations using a bubble chart on a log-log scale. Each data point represents a ranch that received authorizations and converted a fraction, or all, of those to private land elk licenses.  The size of each bubble is proportional to the ranch acreage. Small acre ranches are difficult to see in this plot. Please see below for SCR ranches and the smaller acreage ranches.  Hover over data points to see the details for each ranch.

From these data, we can see that many of the ranches utilized their EPLUS authorizations in 2022, with the exception of some outliers.  One must be careful when interpreting the data shown on log axes.  For example, a large ranch with 550 authorizations had a conversion rate of only 0.33.

The same data as in the above conversion rate plot, but this time not as a bubble chart in order to see the data from smaller acreage ranches.

Conversion Rates of Base-Allocation and Small Contributing Ranches

The average conversion rates for each GMU are shown here for “base” ranches that receive a set amount of EPLUS authorizations each year. The average conversion rate was calculated across all ranches in the GMU with BASE allocations of EPLUS authorizations in 2022. Notice how the conversion rates for UW authorizations are higher than RO authorizations across all GMUs since UW authorizations are more valued than RO authorizations.  Hover over the data to see more details.

The average conversion rates for each GMU are shown here for “small contributing ranches” (SCR). The average conversion rate was calculated across all ranches in the GMU with SCR allocations of EPLUS authorizations in 2022. Again, notice how the conversion rates for UW authorizations are generally higher than RO authorizations across all GMUs. This is no surprise due to the more hunting opportunities UW authorizations provide compared with RO authorizations. Hover over the data to see more details.

Unit-Wide Authorizations Maintain High Conversion Rates for Both BASE and SCR Ranches

The average conversion rates for each GMU are shown here for ranches with unit-wide (UW) authorizations.  The average conversion rate was calculated across all ranches in the GMU with UW authorizations in 2022.  Hover over the data to see more details.

Ranch-Only Authorizations Show More Variability in Conversion Rates across BASE and SCR Ranches

The average conversion rates for each GMU for ranches with ranch-only (RO) authorizations are shown here.  The average conversion rate was calculated across all ranches in the GMU with RO authorizations in 2022.  Hover over the data to see more details.

Footnotes and References

  1. We thank the NMDGF for providing these data through an IPRA data request