FARMINGTON — Between March 19 and April 23, local and out-of-state big-game hunters all have one thing on their mind: whether their hunt will be drawn.
By 5 p.m. on March 19, those hoping to hunt deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, ibex, javelina, bighorn sheep, Barbary sheep and oryx in New Mexico this season must apply for their draw licenses. The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish uses the lottery system to cap the number of hunts each season and manage the populations of these animals.
For all hunts — except bighorn sheep, ibex and oryx — 84 percent of draw licenses are awarded to New Mexico residents, 10 percent go to out-of-state hunters applying through guide services and 6 percent go to those out-of-state applying individually, according to the state department's Hunting Rules and Info booklet.
Harvest reports are mandatory at the end of a season to maintain eligibility for the next season s hunts for every license issued, whether hunting actually took place or not.
By Feb. 15, 2014, hunters needed to submit free harvest reports for deer, elk, pronghorn antelope and turkey licenses, after which a late fee of $8 will apply.
By April 7, 2014, hunters can submit free harvest reports for Barbary sheep, ibex, oryx, javelina and trapper licenses, after which a late fee of $8 will apply.
The cost of draw licenses vary. Hunters pay the fee when they submit an application, and, if their hunt is not drawn, their money is refunded. A resident hunter pays $91 for a standard elk license, and a non-resident pays $555. Licenses go up to $161 for residents and $3,180 for non-residents hunting bighorn sheep rams. Before applying for big-game hunts, hunters must also purchase a game-hunting or game-hunting and fishing license, which costs $15 and $30, respectively. A habitat stamp, for $5, and habitat management and access validation, which costs $4, are required, too, for any hunting, trapping or fishing.
"We are lucky as New Mexicans to enjoy cheap hunting because of expensive out-of-state licences. ... A non-New Mexico hunter is paying a large amount of money that goes to conservation and habitat improvement ... and that keeps the resident fees down," said John Jaquez, owner of San Juan River Outfitters and Livery, a company that specializes in deer and elk hunt guiding.
Jaquez said about 90 percent of his clients are from out-of-state. Most hail from the Midwest but many are from Mexico, Canada and Alaska.
A primitive type of rifle in which the powder and bullet is loaded from the gun's muzzle, the front end of the barrel. The range is limited to about 100 to 200 yards, making shooting challenging and giving the hunter a longer season.
The shotgun is generally used for small-game hunting. It either shoots small pellets, which are called "shot," or one solid unit, which is referred to as a "slug." Shotguns give an accurate shot from about 50 yards.
Archery has the longest hunting season, with a crossbow's range being about 50 yards. This is a recurve bow, which is slower but quieter than a compound bow. In general, crossbows are quieter than their counterparts.
The more modern counterpart to the muzzleloader is the breech-loading rifle, which can be fired at a much higher rate. It is the most accurate shot of all the artillery options, which also gives it the shortest hunting season.
So where does the money hunters pay actually go?
Back into wildlife projects approved by the state Legislature, according to Rachel Shockley, a spokeswoman with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.
Through the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, which Franklin D. Roosevelt signed in 1937, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assists states in conservation and wildlife research projects.
According to the Fish and Wildlife Service's website, a 10 percent sales tax placed on ammunition and firearms used for sport hunting is collected and earmarked to be distributed among the states.
"Pittman-Robertson is a 75 percent reimbursable program for approved expenditures," Shockley said. "We spend one dollar and get 75 cents in return."
The Department of Game and Fish uses the money from hunting licenses and fees to initially invest in a project, and, when they are reimbursed, they continue that project and take on others.
The San Juan River Restoration Project, which is in its third phase of completion, is the most visible use of state Department of Game and Fish money and labor in this part of the state, Shockley said. So far, it has increased access to 1.5 miles of stream, created 45 acres of wetlands and improved one mile of trails.
The Department of Game and Fish is largely responsible for the land aspects of the project and has helped remove non-native plants such as Russian olives and salt-cedar.
"You can see it from the dam. It's really beautiful," Shockley said. "There is improved accessibility (to the river), better trails and restrooms, and other improvements."
She said issues dealing with fishing get special attention in this part of the state.
And hunting in San Juan and Rio Arriba counties are also managed differently than the rest of the state, said Jaquez, who has guided hunters in the area for 15 years. There are fewer available hunting licenses and strict law enforcement, which prevents poaching and allows animal populations to thrive, he said.
"The results are obvious — in the rest of the state, mule deer are in decline. (This area's) close management programs are an effective model for the nation," he said.
That attracts out-of-state hunters, who in addition to keeping fees lower for locals, also spend money when they visit.
"For example, I had a Canadian couple come to deer hunt in January," Jaquez said. "They stayed for two months visiting the Southwest. ... They spent money on artwork, crafts, New Mexico products."