New Mexico is a popular elk hunting destination.
Every fall during the elk season, hunters from around the world travel to New Mexico for their chance at harvesting a trophy elk. Elk hunters have the choice of completing a do-it-yourself hunt on public ground or booking through an outfitter. Hiring an outfitter has many advantages to the elk hunter.
Most outfitters and guides know their hunting land and how the elk travel through the habitat. They are aware of bedding and feeding areas and any travel corridors. Without scouting the area before the season, you may be forced to learn these patterns during the hunt. Once you harvest an elk, you must pack out the antlers and meat, which could potentially require multiple trips to the truck. Over rough terrain, this can be a daunting task. However, an outfitter will provide assistance to packing out the meat and antlers and may supply pack mules or horses.
New Mexico doesn’t offer preference points for unsuccessful applicants and each application process is a random computerized draw. If you book through an outfitter, your odds for drawing an elk tag are increased. The New Mexico Game and Fish Department (NMGF) reserves 12 percent of the tags for nonresidents who booked with an outfitter. During the application process, you must provide the outfitters identification number. Only 10 percent of the tags are reserved for nonresidents who aren’t hiring an outfitter.
To be a licensed outfitter in New Mexico, the outfitter must fill out an application and pay the NMGF every year. The outfitter qualifications include passing an exam with a 70 percent or better, no felony convictions, commercial liability insurance and a valid hunter education card. During the hunt, the outfitter is not required to accompany you.
Before booking with an outfitter, there are several factors to consider. Research the different hunt areas and the draw odds for each season. Obtain a list of references from potential outfitters and contact at least one successful and unsuccessful hunter. Consider the time of the hunt and the relationship with the rut–elk mating season. Also consider the extra amenities such as a ranch house, meals, pack-in wall tents and the duration of the hunt.
Many hunters will consider a guided New Mexico elk hunt as a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience. Most of these hunts will cost several thousand dollars, not including travel expenses and the tag fee. Cabela’s Outdoor Adventures–a popular elk hunting booking agent–has New Mexico elk hunts ranging from $3,950 to $10,000, as of 2010.