Demand for Elk Licenses on Public Lands in New Mexico

The demand for elk licenses to hunt on public land in New Mexico can be measured from NMDGF draw statistics.

The “draw” is a lottery where hunters submit their first, second, and third choices to apply for a public land elk hunting license.

Applicants in the draw for public land elk licenses must choose a Game Management Unit (GMU) and an available bag limit for that GMU.

NMDGF bag limits can include:

  • MB = Mature Bull,
  • ES = Either Sex,
  • A = Antlerless,
  • APRE/6 = Antler-point-restricted elk (six or more points on at least one antler),
  • APRE/6/A = Antler-point-restricted elk (six or more points on at least one antler) or antlerless,
  • MB/A = Mature Bull or Antlerless

The Odds of Drawing a Public Land Elk License Depend on the GMU and the Bag Limit

The demand, and therefore the competition, for elk hunting licenses varies across GMUs in New Mexico.

As you will see from the draw statistics, some GMUs have thousands of applicants competing for less than a hundred available public land elk licenses.

The NMDGF website and the annual NMDGF elk hunting prospects and population summary report contains useful information and tips for success in the competitive draw for public land elk licenses.

The intense competition for public land elk licenses in high-demand GMUs results in many applicant hunters not winning in the draw.

The Number of Elk Licenses is Based on Wildlife Biology

The determination of the number of available licenses for each GMU is based on the elk population management goals of the NMDGF wildlife biologists for that GMU.

The number of available licenses is then assigned to public and private land in each primary management zone GMU based on the public/private land split in that GMU.

For example, if the NMDGF wildlife biologists recommend 100 elk licenses for a specific (primary management zone) GMU, and 70% of that GMU is public land, 30% of it is private, then 70 elk licenses will be entered in the public land draw for that GMU and 30 elk license EPLUS authorizations will be allocated to qualifying private lands in that GMU.

Elk are a Scarce Resource

Increasing numbers of applicants in the public land draw coupled with diminishing elk habitat results in elk becoming more and more of a scarce resource each year.

Scarce resources command high prices, as we see with private land EPLUS authorizations on the open market.  This is especially true for mature bull (MB) elk authorizations in high-demand GMUs.

Questions we aim to answer with the analysis of public land license draw data include:

  1. How does the demand for public land licenses in a GMU vary between resident and non-resident hunters?
  2. How has the demand for public land licenses in certain GMUs changed over time?
  3. How does the demand for public land licenses vary based on the bag limit (MB, ES, A)?
  4. How does the demand for public land license depend on the where the NM resident applicant lives in New Mexico?

Demand for public land elk licenses both resident and non-resident hunters

Below we analyze the demand for public land hunting licenses based on the GMU, the bag limit, resident versus non-resident hunters, and hunt year to look for trends in demand.

We use the NMDGF data on applicants for the public land elk license draw to measure this demand.

Histogram of public land elk license applicants by GMU in the 2021/2022 season public draw.

The combined choices (1st, 2nd, 3rd choices) of public draw applicants for the 2021/2022 season, both resident and non-resident, across all bag limits, are shown here.  Note the log scale of the y-axis (to see the dynamic range of the data best).  Source NMDGF.

Comparison of the Demand for Different Bag Limits in the Public Land Elk License Draw

The demand for mature bull elk licenses on public land varies from that for cow elk licenses.

The first choices of applicants in the 2021-2022 public land draw are shown here by GMU for resident and non-resident applicants are shown here. Source NMDGF.

Spatial Analysis of Public Land Elk Hunting License Applicants

In this section, we analyze where hunters prefer to hunt on public land in New Mexico.  Since hunters applying for the public land elk license draw (“public draw”) know that some GMUs have more competition than others, their choices in the public draw are also influenced by their expectation of winning in a given GMU and bag limit.  Therefore, applicants’ choices in the public draw balance preferences on where they want to hunt and their expected probability of winning in the draw.

The number of applicants who chose each GMU as their first choice in the public draw is shown here, aggregated across resident and non-resident applicants and all bag limits.  Below, we break down the demand by resident versus non-resident and bag limit (mature bull, cow, either sex, etc.).

Spatial Analysis of Public Land Elk Hunting License Applicants