As a resident of New Mexico I thought it would be appropriate to talk about my strategy for applying for hunts in New Mexico, seeing as the deadline of March 22 is right around the corner. The tags for NM are broken down into three pools: Resident, Non-resident, and registered outfitter tags. These pools are broken down even further to 84% of the tags going to residents, 6% of tags going to non-residents and 10% of the tags going to both non-residents and residents using a registered outfitter.
New Mexico is a straight lottery draw system and does not use a preference point or bonus point system. Therefore no one has an advantage on drawing and everyone is on a level playing field when it comes to drawing those trophy units so highly desired.
Now let’s talk about how the draw works. New Mexico uses an automated system that randomly assigns each application a sequence number. Based on this assigned number and the quotas listed for each hunt code, the system matches the first, second, then third choices on the application with available licenses. If there is a permit available for your first choice when your number comes up then you will be given the permit for that hunt, if there is no permit available the computer will move on to your second choice and go through the same process. If the computer goes through all three choices on your application without awarding a license then it will move on to the next individual.
I want to talk about group applications real quick also while we are on the topic of how the draw works. New Mexico does not operate like some other states when it comes to a group application. The quota for each hunt code is a hardened number and will not be exceeded. Therefore if you have 5 individuals on an application there must be 5 permits available for that hunt code in order to be awarded those licenses. If there is only 4 permits available then they will go to your next choice. Some states will go over their quota even if 1 permit is available and your application is drawn they will award you the licenses.
Knowing what we know about how the draw works and that there is no preference or bonus point system we can get into strategy on applying. First you need to figure out what you are trying to accomplish by drawing. So my biggest goal is to draw a tag for archery season in a unit that has decent trophy potential. So on my first choice I shoot for the stars, and then on my second choice I immediately go to a unit that has higher draw odds (40%+), with my 3rd choice going to a unit with even higher draw odds. I also look at seasons that are less desirable than others. For example looking at early season vs. the rut. I also look for units that have less than desirable access to them, since a lot of individuals tend to stay away from units like these. Knowing my goal of wanting to draw a tag in an archery season with high draw odds and decent trophy potential narrows my choices down to only a few units to choose from.
Coming up with an application strategy can be a bit stressful if you don’t know the state or units, and this is where companies like Gohunt or Cabela’s TAGS system can come in as another option for you. You can purchase a program like GoHunt which has done a lot of research of all the big west states, and you can see draw odds, trophy potential, bull to cow ratios with many more options and background on each individual unit. Cabela’s TAGS is a service where you actually have a conversation with a TAG specialist about what your goal is, which may be to just draw a tag or to wait for that trophy tag. There are various other services and programs that do the same thing as GoHunt and Cabelas.