The NMDGF Draw for Public Land Elk Hunting Licenses

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Elk hunting licenses valid for hunting on public land in New Mexico are available in a competitive draw1.

Please see the official NMDGF website on the public draw for valuable information on how the draw works and success tips.

The NMDGF determines the number of available public land elk hunting licenses based on its wildlife biology assessments and herd management goals.  The demand for licenses, or the number of hunters, does not determine the number of available licenses.

New Mexico residents, nonresidents living outside New Mexico, and outfitters compete against each other in a draw for these public land licenses.  Quotas of 84% of public land elk licenses must go to New Mexico residents (R), 6% to nonresidents (NR), and 10% to residents or nonresidents who have contracted an outfitter (OF) are applied to the draw system2.

Supply of Public Land Elk Hunting Licenses

The available public land elk hunting licenses by bag limit in the draw are shown for each GMU in the different elk management zones.  Click on any sector to expand the view, click again to return to the previous view, and hover to see the data for that sector, including the number of licenses.  Bag limits include A = antlerless, MB = mature bull, and ES = either sex.

Demand for Public Land Elk Hunting Licenses

The number of applicants that chose their first pick (1st round) in the draw for public land elk hunting licenses by bag limit available and GMU in the different elk management zones.  Click on any sector to expand the view, click again to return to the previous view, and hover to see the data.  R = New Mexico residents, NR = non-residents, OF = outfitters. Anterless (cow elk) public land draw applications are only open to New Mexico residents3

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The “availability ratio,” defined as the number of public land elk hunting licenses available in the draw divided by the number of applicants for each GMU and bag limit, is shown here.  Your odds of winning a license are higher when the availability ratio exceeds one.4.  Highly competitive GMUs and bag limits have a small availability ratio.  Note the logarithmic scale!  Bag limits include: A = antlerless, MB = mature bull, ES = either sex, and APRE/6 = Antler Point Restricted Elk with 6 points.

Supply of Public Land Elk Hunting Licenses

The available public land elk hunting licenses by bag limit in the draw are shown for each GMU in the different elk management zones.  Click on any sector to expand the view, click again to return to the previous view, and hover to see the data for that sector, including the number of licenses.  Bag limits include A = antlerless, MB = mature bull, and ES = either sex.

Demand for Public Land Elk Hunting Licenses

The number of applicants that chose their first pick (1st round) in the draw for public land elk hunting licenses by bag limit available and GMU in the different elk management zones.  Click on any sector to expand the view, click again to return to the previous view, and hover to see the data.

The “availability ratio,” defined as the number of public land elk hunting licenses available in the draw divided by the number of applicants for each GMU and bag limit, is shown here.  Your odds of winning a license are higher when the availability ratio exceeds one.  Highly competitive GMUs and bag limits have a small availability ratio.  Note the logarithmic scale!  Bag limits include: A = antlerless, MB = mature bull, ES = either sex, and APRE/6 = Antler Point Restricted Elk with 6 points.

Supply of Public Land Elk Hunting Licenses

The available public land elk hunting licenses by bag limit in the draw are shown for each GMU in the different elk management zones.  Click on any sector to expand the view, click again to return to the previous view, and hover to see the data for that sector, including the number of licenses.  Bag limits include A = antlerless, MB = mature bull, and ES = either sex.

Demand for Public Land Elk Hunting Licenses

The number of applicants that chose their first pick (1st round) in the draw for public land elk hunting licenses by bag limit available and GMU in the different elk management zones.  Click on any sector to expand the view, click again to return to the previous view, and hover to see the data.

The “availability ratio,” defined as the number of public land elk hunting licenses available in the draw divided by the number of applicants for each GMU and bag limit, is shown here.  Your odds of winning a license are higher when the availability ratio exceeds one.  Highly competitive GMUs and bag limits have a small availability ratio.  Note the logarithmic scale!  Bag limits include: A = antlerless, MB = mature bull, ES = either sex, and APRE/6 = Antler Point Restricted Elk with 6 points.

Trophy Elk in High Demand Game Management Units

An example shows how the demand for trophy elk (mature bull licenses) in the highly competitive GMU 16A results in much lower odds than choosing antlerless or either sex bag limits, or another GMU, and yet (GMU 16A, MB) remained one of the top choices of applicants in the draw.

The availability ratios for {A, ES, and MB} are {0.24, 0.12, and 0.05} respectively.  This means the chances of winning an antlerless (A) license are 0.24 / 0.05 = 4.8 times higher than winning a mature bull license, and 0.12 / 0.05 = 2.4 times higher odds of winning an either sex (ES) license (bow) than a mature bull (MB) tag (any weapon).

NM residents 1st choices of GMU 16A in the draw for public land licenses ranked, relative to their choices for all GMUs with the same bag/weapon, as follows:

  • (GMU 16A, MB, any weapon)  was ranked 5th among all other GMUs for an MB (any weapon) choice.
  • (GMU 16A, ES, bow) was ranked 19th.
  • (GMU 16A, A, any weapon) was ranked 18th.

Nonresidents 1st choices of GMU 16A in the draw for public land licenses ranked, relative to their choices for all GMUs with the same bag/weapon, as follows:

  • (GMU 16A, MB, any weapon)  was ranked 3rd among all other GMUs for an MB (any weapon) choice.
  • (GMU 16A, ES, bow) was ranked 5th
  • (GMU 16A, A, any weapon) was not an option for non-residents in the draw.

Outfitters 1st choices of GMU 16A in the draw for public land licenses ranked, relative to their choices for all GMUs with the same bag/weapon, as follows:

  • (GMU 16A, MB, any weapon)  was ranked 4th among all other GMUs for an MB (any weapon) choice.
  • (GMU 16A, ES, bow) was ranked 7th.
  • (GMU 16A, A, any weapon) was ranked 43rd.

These data tell us that although the competition is high, MB licenses in the ultra-competitive GMU 16A were among the top choices for residents, nonresidents, and outfitters.  Nonresident and outfitter bow hunters favored GMU 16A more than resident bow hunters.

Elk were overhunted in New Mexico, leading to the extinction of Merriam’s Elk and Rocky Mountain Elk. Hunting licenses should not increase proportionally to meet demand. Instead, the focus should be on maintaining the health and sustainability of the elk herds, given the fragmentation of habitat and climate change effects on the carrying capacity of public and private lands in New Mexico.

The total number of available licenses for each bag limit (mature bull, antlerless, etc.) is assigned to each GMU.  This number of available licenses is then allocated to the draw for public land licenses in that GMU and the qualifying EPLUS ranches in the GMU.  The fraction of available licenses for each GMU is determined by the ratio of public land acres to private land acres in each GMU.

Elk on public land, GMU 6-B, Sandoval County, New Mexico

Footnotes and References

  1. The terms “draw” and “lottery” are often used interchangeably, but they can have different connotations and structures depending on the context.

    A lottery is a form of gambling that involves the drawing of numbers at random for a prize. Participants buy tickets, and winners are selected randomly. The primary purpose of a lottery is often to raise funds, either for the government or specific causes. Lotteries can offer large cash prizes and be a significant revenue source.

    A draw usually refers to randomly selecting items (often winners) from a pool of entries. It doesn’t necessarily involve participants buying tickets or the expectation of a large monetary prize. Draws are commonly used in situations like raffles, allocation of scarce resources (like hunting licenses), or selection processes in sports (like drafts). Draws may not have fundraising as their primary purpose. They are often used to ensure fairness in the distribution of opportunities or resources, like in wildlife management (hunting draws) or in determining the order of selection in sports drafts.

  2. “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). NMDGF website.”
  3. Only New Mexico residents are eligible to apply for Antlerless (A) Elk Draw Licenses and hunts held exclusively on State Game Commission owned Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs).

    Nonresidents are allowed to apply for Either Sex (ES) and Mature Bull (MB) Elk Draw Licenses and they are allowed to purchase a private-land elk license to hunt any legal elk. Nonresidents may also apply for hunts that occur concurrently on both WMAs and public lands. See NMDGF.

  4. You are not guaranteed a license if you apply for a GMU/bag with an availability ratio > 1.0 since you may not be lucky in the random selection from the sequence of all applicants. If, however, you did choose a GMU/bag with an availability ratio > 1.0 and were chosen in the random sequence, you would win that first choice.  Being randomly selected in the sequence of all applicants is the first key step in winning.  Please see the NMDGF Draw Info, Odds, and Success Tips pdf.