Public land elk tags are issued through a drawing. You must apply with an application through the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. This is done through their website www.wildlife.state.nm.us. If you are unfamiliar with this process the Game and Fish Dept. or the outfitter of your choice will assist you.
Hunters have many options when applying. These include hunting dates, units, weapon choices, alternate choices, and attaching hunting partners to the same application. You also have the option of using an outfitter’s number which in most cases will increase your chances of drawing a tag.
The deadline for applying is usually around the middle of March and the drawing takes place in mid April. The actual drawing process is fairly simple. The computer pulls up an application and exhausts all choices before it moves on to the next application. So in a nutshell, if your application is pulled up early in the drawing you’re going to draw your first choice. If your application is pulled up later in the drawing you may draw your second or third choice. And if your application is pulled up even later in the drawing you’re not going to draw anything, regardless of what you applied for.
New Mexico does not have a preference point system. Everyone’s application is in the hat equally every year. Drawings can be tough, but remember, you won’t draw anything if you don’t apply.
The first question you must ask yourself when considering applying for an elk tag is whether you want to do it yourself or have the help of an outfitter. There are many good units here in the Gila for self-guided hunts with good access and good elk numbers and quality. A good outfitter should be your first choice if considering the wilderness unit (16 B).
On our wilderness elk hunts this past season, 2 out of 3 archery hunters collected bulls. We had 100% shooting opportunities on our wilderness rifle elk hunts. We attribute our success to our 35 years of experience, our intensive preparation prior to your hunt, our awesome guides, our excellent livestock, and our boots on the ground scouting prior to the season.
Hopefully this has cleared up a few questions on the difference between buying a private landowner authorization and applying for a public land tag.