UPDATED: March 15, 2021 Big Game Draws - Montana and Colorado added It is an interesting observation that as hunter numbers decline, application numbers for most draw and raffle tags have increased for most of the hunts that I track. Arizona application this year went up another 10%. New Mexico applications are due March 17th. New Mexico requires a $65.00 license for starters. The good and the bad---on the good side, New Mexico has excellent hunts, a great variety of species, and good management. In addition to two species of deer, two species of bighorns, elk, and antelope; the offer Oryx, Ibex, and Barbary sheep. The story goes that way back when, New Mexico had rules forbidding any animals that were not indigenous to New Mexico could not be wild in New Mexico. Where there is a will, there is a way! There was a governor who penned up a variety of species. When a baby hit the ground, it was a native New Mexican! Not all of these were successful. I remember Siberian Ibex in the Rio Grande gorge and some others that went away. But, the Gemsbok, Persian Ibex, and Aoudad are plentiful, and applying for them is just like applying for any other species. And without a point system, everybody has a chance. On the bad side---Seasons are short, tags are expensive, and an applicant must submit the entire cost upfront. But the worst part is that New Mexico severely limits nonresident tags. You can draw, but your rabbit’s foot better be working. Deer—Can’t tell you much about the little Coues deer, but New Mexico has good Mule deer. The best units are up around the Jicarilla Reservation. The Jicarilla manage well. I heard that one said: “Just control the poachers and the predators” That county puts about as many mule deer in the record books as any other. Elk----Rifle and muzzleloader seasons are mostly 5 days. We did hunt in unit 16 and 5 days are plenty, unless--- you just cannot get the 380-inch bull we spotted to cooperate. Pronghorn---Trophy quality is good, and in many units, there is ample BLM land.
Bighorns—New Mexico has managed to bring Desert bighorns from endangered to some of the best hunting anywhere, Boone and Crocket record book animals are common. Years ago, here is Washington, we had a cougar problem at the feeding station. Washington quit feeding the bighorns. New Mexico had a problem with cougar predation. They killed the cougars. The result is that their bighorns are doing well. Most tags are filled in a 100% success rate. You can apply for either or both species, if the nearly $3200.00 upfront cost does not bother you. Don’t worry too much about that cost. Odds being what odds are; you will get it back. Oryx---These hunts are just fun, easy, short hunts on the White Sands missile range. Mostly 3-day deals. If you must have a 40 incher, you will probably go home empty, but somewhere in the mid 30-inch range is a doable goal. At $1623.00, it is a lot cheaper than going to Africa, and you get the meat. Ibex--- For a time, the longest Persian Ibex horn did not come from the Mid-East. It came from New Mexico. The Florida (pronounced “floreeeda”) Mountains has many Ibex. The range is not that big and there is a road all the way around the mountains. Ibex can be spotted from the road in some places. If you see them, they have already seen you. Gravity has no force on them. Level or vertical does not matter. They go up, down or across at the same ease and speed. The rams do not taste good. They do not smell good. They just look good to the nannies (or on your wall). Application is $1623.00 for either an archery, muzzleloader, or a rifle tag. There are archery hunters running around there with 100–125-yard pins on their sights. They kill very few. I did see one Ibex with an arrow hanging loosely from its shoulder. I guess the arrow ran out of gas at that range. Rifle hunters do well, although the size is not what it used to be. I think 40 inches would be a good one. Muzzle loaders hunt after the rifle season. Any well dressed New Mexican muzzle loader hunter has an Ultimate muzzle loader with a zillion power scope. You need all the range you can get. Barbary sheep---I have tried that twice, and failed both times, so it is probably best to get advice elsewhere. Maybe I should hire a guide, or pay a trespass fee, but maybe not. At $373.00, this is more affordable than other exotics in New Mexico. The McGregor range has my eye as it has better success and is harder to draw. That is a two-day hunt on an army base. My other choice might be 29/30 where I went before and did not find Aoudad until the last day. I quit looking for sheep and looked for water instead. That worked better. North Dakota lottery applications are due March 24th My only interest here is the Bighorn application. They charge $100.00. They don’t tell you when or where. If you draw, they will let you know. Montana applications for deer and elk are due April 1st Montana is not my favorite destination. Although I have shot a few dozen deer there, and I enjoyed the hunts. The cost, and the odds of drawing a trophy deer area are not the best. Opportunity to harvest with long seasons and plenty of places to hunt are a plus, but unless you have access to private property where hunting is restricted, you are unlikely to get a wall hanger. Elk opportunity is about the same, although there are more “trophy” draw areas. The Elkhorn Mountains and the Missouri river breaks produce some big animals as well as (again) private land. Montana has different point systems. The draw for a general combination license is a preference draw. Applicant with the most points draw. Then the area draw goes to bonus points. And bless their hearts, they square those. Works good for the first few years, but the pool of applicants for high demand units adds up like our national debt. You may draw, or you may never draw. A nonresident deer combo license application starts at $614.00, the elk at $888.00, a deer elk combo is $1052.00. Then the junk fees, the area application fees, the bonus point fees are added. If you don’t draw an area, and don’t want to hunt the general areas, you can get 80% of the combo cost back for any reason. Colorado applications are due April 6th Colorado requires at least a small game license to apply. That is about $85.00, and of course, there is a junk fee or two. The applications are $9.00, and you are only charged the tag cost if you draw. They mix up the point system, preference, bonus, and none depending on the species and the hunt. For moose, mountain goat and Rocky Mountain bighorn it takes 3 preference points to get into the draw, then it goes to bonus points each year thereafter. The desert bighorn does not have a point system. Deer, elk, and antelope are true preference points, well, almost. The hunts that take 10 or more points go to a “hybrid” draw. If you have only 5 points, they let 20% of the tags go to the random draw for the high demand hunts. You get a point when you apply for deer, elk, and antelope. Moose, goats, and rocky mountain sheep points are optional and cost $100.00. I think they play with their food! Colorado is a great destination. They split the deer and elk seasons up, and that makes for less crowds in the field at one time. A lot of Colorado hunts are high elevation, and areas there is a lot of terrain that not many hunters venture into. Sure, some areas are better areas than others, but trophies can come from anywhere. Antelope—Colorado is not the best state for antelope, but for the $9.00 application fee, I save points. Been there twice, once on the East plains, lot of private land there. I talked to a game warden. He believed the goats there were managed to keep the landowners happy. They were not very fond of the antelope, so the tags numbers were probably more than usual. The Northwest corner does have a few good animals, but it takes more points to draw. Deer--- for years, I saved points for unit 21. It is a lower elevation, big deer, with oil field roads everywhere. Now I have the points, but there are a few things that have me thinking. The game dept has increased the tags, and the feral horses are everywhere. Probably makes sense because habitat can only support so many animals. The deer on the East plains are huge, but you need permission to hunt on the private land. A big deer can come from anywhere, and the split seasons do thin out the crowds. Elk---I think Colorado has more elk than any other state. They manage it more for opportunity than quality, but with that many elk, some big ones are harvested. If you are willing to hold out for the great areas in the Northwest corner, you will need to get really lucky in the hybrid draw or simply apply for 30 years or so. Mountain goats --- I mentioned that Colorado has a lot of elk. They also have a lot of tall mountains. The goats don’t seem to mind the thin air, but most of us do. You can drive up close on Mt. Evans, but there are some restrictions. Moose – I think any area is great at this time. Remember that it takes three years of applications before you can draw. I say at this time, because here comes the wolves. As it has been in Idaho, Washington, and Montana, the wolves eat the babies, and then, after a few years, the biologists notice there are far fewer adults, and the tag numbers, and success rates go down. Rocky Mountain bighorns—Only Nevada issues more ram tags than Colorado. Most of the nonresident tags are not in the easiest units. You can glass the Georgetown unit from the interstate and hunt the rams if they are over ¼ mile from the road. I don’t think Buffalo peaks would be too bad. S1 has been my choice for the last several years. Why? Two reasons. First, it is harder to draw. Maybe that has to do with favorable writeups by various writers. Second, the Poudre River has a highway along it. Sheep go to water. I suspect applicants apply where people see sheep. Desert Bighorns. – There is only one nonresident tag. There is a sheep crossing sign on one of the highways. I think that would be a good place to start looking. Most of the area is BLM with decent access. Remember that there is no point system for the desert sheep, so even with horrible odds, the application is only $9.00, and your odds are as good as anybody.