New Mexico Big Game Hunting Regulations

Key Resources

  • Guideline Document: 2022-23 NM Hunting Rules & Info
  • Page References: Specific rules on pages 28-32

Additional Information

  • General Hunting Rules: Also applicable to Big Game hunting.

Multilingual Access

  • Spanish Version: 'Reglas de caza mayor y pavo' available in the '2022-23 NM Cacería Reglas e Información'.

Learn more about New Mexico Big Game Rules or see General Hunting Rules.

Deciphering Hunt Codes

Components of a Hunt Code

  • Species: Specified by the first letters (e.g., "DER" for deer).
  • Legal Sporting Arms: Indicated by a number following the species (1 = any big-game arm, 2 = bow only, 3 = muzzleloader/crossbow/bow only).
  • Dates/Area/Bag Limit: The final set signifies a specific hunt's details.

Hunt Code Example

  • Code: DER-1-100
  • Meaning: A deer hunt using any big-game sporting arm.
  • Details: As per page 49, applies to GMU 2A, from October 30 to November 3, with a bag limit of one fork antlered deer.

Regulations for Legal Sporting Arms

Big-Game Sporting Arms (Deer, Elk, Pronghorn, Bighorn Sheep, Ibex, Oryx, Barbary Sheep, and Bear)

  • Centerfire firearms: Must be .22 caliber or larger.
  • Muzzle-loaders: At least .45 caliber.
  • Shotguns: .410 or larger firing a single slug, including muzzle-loaders.
  • Bows and Crossbows: Allowed with broadheads (fixed/mechanical).
  • Restrictions:
    • Firearms must be shoulder-fired (except handguns).
    • Only expanding or fragmenting bullets (no FMJ/tracer).
    • Fully automatic firearms are prohibited.
    • No light projection from bow/crossbow sights, drugs on arrows/bolts, or projectile propulsion by explosives.

Sports Arms for Cougar, Javelina, and Furbearers

  • Firearms: All types allowed, shoulder-fired required.
  • Compressed air guns: .22 caliber or larger for cougar and javelina.
  • Shotguns: Must fire a single slug or #4 buckshot or larger for cougar and javelina.
  • Bows and Crossbows: Permitted with cutting-edge broadheads.
  • Restrictions: Same as big-game with additional note on light projection from sights.

Bow Only

  • Types of Bows: Compound, long, or recurve.
  • Restrictions:
    • No draw locks.
    • No light projection from bow sights (except lighted pins).
    • No drugs on arrows, or propulsion by explosives.

Muzzleloader, Bow, or Crossbow Only

  • Muzzleloaders: Charge and projectiles loaded through the muzzle with black powder or substitute.
  • Sights: Only iron sights on muzzle-loaders during a hunt; no optics.
  • Bows and Crossbows: Allowed with cutting-edge broadheads and no light projection from sights.
  • Restrictions: No smokeless powder or drugs on projectiles.

Restricted Muzzleloader Deer Hunts

  • Legal Arms: Only muzzle-loading rifles with open sights using black powder or substitutes.
  • Prohibited: No in-line ignition, scopes, or smokeless powder during these hunts.
  • Bows and Crossbows: Permissible.

Turkey Hunting Arms

  • Allowed Arms: Shotguns firing shot, bows, and crossbows with cutting-edge broadheads.
  • Sights: Non-light projecting on bows and crossbows.
  • Restrictions: No drugs on projectiles or explosive propulsion.

Big-Game and Turkey Tagging Requirements

Immediate Tagging

  • Notch and Attach: Must be done immediately upon harvesting.
  • Carcass Tag Location Options: Big game to hock tendon, turkey above leg spur.
  • Antler/Horn Tag: Required for antlered/horned games alongside the carcass tag.
  • Bear and Cougar Special Requirement: Carcass and pelt tagging necessary.

E-Tag Instructions

  • Acquisition: Obtain E-Tag number via NM E-Tag app after the harvest.
  • Material: Write E-Tag number on durable material, attach as instructed.

Tagging Process and Regulations

  • Activation: Notch carcass tag with month and day of kill.
  • Attachment: Secure to the specified area without covering tag information.
  • Visibility: Keep the face of the tag visible and readable at all times.
  • Retention: Tags must stay attached up to a taxidermist, processor, storage point, or NM Game and Fish check.
  • Transport: When moving in parts, transport the tagged portion first.
  • Subsequent Tagging: Follows for antlered/horned game using antler/horn tags.

Tag Authorization Period

  • Big-Game Animal/Turkey: Carcass tag valid for one year from the date of kill.
  • Bear/Cougar: Authorizes possession for five days or until pelt tagged.

Boned-Out Game Requirement

  • Carcass Tag: Fold and adhere to itself with face visible; must accompany the animal parts.

Tagging Instructions for Antlered/Horned Game

  • Attachment: Fix antler/horn tag to main beam near the base, ensuring tag face is visible and readable.
New Mexico Big Game Hunting Laws and RegulationsNew Mexico Big Game Hunting Laws and Regulations New Mexico Big Game Hunting Laws and Regulations

Reference: Carcass Tagging Instructions, Antler Tagging Instructions, and E-Tag Instructions from New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Big Game Rules.

NM E-Tag: Digital Field Tagging System

Usage Overview

  • Function: Enables hunters to tag game using a smartphone.
  • Process: Enter date and time of kill to receive a unique tag number.
  • Implementation: Hand-write the tag number on durable material and attach it to the game.

Installation and Operation

  • App Stores: Available on both App Store for iOS and Google Play for Android.
  • Tagging: Simplified with a button press.
  • Confirmation: Instantaneously receive harvest confirmation and instructions.
  • Instructions: Follow in-app, step-by-step instructions for tagging.

Mandatory Harvest Reporting for NM Hunters

Reporting Obligation

  • Species: Applies to Barbary sheep, deer, elk, ibex, javelina, oryx, pronghorn, turkey, and trapper license holders.
  • Requirement: Reporting required regardless of hunt or harvest outcome.

Consequences for Non-Compliance

  • Ineligibility: Failing to report excludes the individual from draw hunts, population management hunts, private-land licenses, and trapper licenses for the next year.

Submission Methods

  • Online: Harvest reports can be submitted through an online system.
  • By Phone: An alternative option for reporting harvests.


  • Record Keeping: Keep the confirmation number after submitting a report.

License Limitations

  • Regulation: Illegal to possess more than one license per big-game species within the same license year, with rule-based exceptions.

Deadline Reference: Specific deadlines outlined on page 6 of the NM Hunting Rules & Info document.

Requirements for Proof of Sex in Game Harvest

General Rule

  • Obligation: Proof of sex required until the game is processed for consumption or storage.
  • Exception: Javelina are not subject to this requirement.

Specifics for Male Game

  • Antlers/Horns: Must remain attached to the skull/skull plate for males of Barbary sheep, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, ibex, oryx, or pronghorn.
  • Immature Males: Must include scalp and both ears.

Specifics for Female Game

  • Identification: Scalp with both ears or external genitalia attached to one quarter.

Bear and Cougar

  • Genitalia Visibility: External genitalia must be attached to the hide and visible until inspected and pelt tagged by NM Game and Fish.


  • Bearded Turkey: Beard must remain with the carcass if the bag limit specifies a bearded bird.

Storage Guidelines for Harvested Game

Carcass Tag and E-Tag

  • Duration: Authorizes meat possession and storage for one year from the date of kill.
  • Bear/Cougar: Possession authorized for five days or until pelt tagged, whichever is sooner.

Post-Expiration Possession

  • Storage Permit: Required from NM Game and Fish for meat possession past the initial authorization period.

Requirements for Taxidermy or Processing

  • Accompanying Documentation:
    • A properly notched carcass tag.
    • Antler/horn tag, when relevant.
    • Handwritten E-Tag.
    • Alternatively, a possession (donation) certificate.

Reminder: Retain your tags throughout storage and processing.

Regulations on Hunting with Dogs

General Restrictions

  • Big Game: Dogs are not allowed for hunting big game, with specified exceptions.
  • Species Exceptions: Bear and cougar can be hunted using dogs.

Conditions for Bear and Cougar Hunting

  • Hunter Presence: Must be continuous after any dog is released.
  • Wounded Game: Leashed dogs permitted to track.

Locating Wounded or Dead Big Game

  • Leash Requirement: Dogs must be kept on a leash while tracking.
  • Number of Dogs: No more than two dogs can be used simultaneously.

*For detailed exceptions and rules, refer to specific species sections within the hunting regulations.

Blaze Orange Requirements for Hunters

Military Properties and Valles Caldera National Preserve

  • Minimum Requirement: 244 square inches of blaze orange.

Specific Locations

  • Ft. Bliss: A blaze orange vest is required.

NMDGF Recommendation

  • General Safety: Wearing blaze orange is highly recommended in all hunting areas, even where not legally mandated.

Horse Transportation Regulations in New Mexico

Inspection Requirement

  • Inspection: Mandatory by a local livestock inspector for all transported horses.

Nonresident Documentation

  • Proof of Ownership: Essential for nonresident horse transportation.
  • Health Papers: Required to accompany nonresident horses.

Contact for More Information

  • New Mexico Livestock Board: Reach out at (505) 841-6161 for detailed protocols and inquiries.

Nongame Species Hunting License Requirements

Resident Hunters

  • License Not Required: Residents can take nongame species without a license.

Nonresident Hunters

  • License Requirement:
    • Nonresident nongame license acquisition is mandatory.
    • Option to purchase any New Mexico nonresident hunting license.

Nongame Species List

  • Included: Prairie dogs, ground squirrels, Himalayan tahr, porcupine, rabbits, coyotes, and skunks.

Hunting Location Restrictions

  • Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs): Generally, nongame hunting is prohibited.
  • Exception: Water Canyon WMA permits nongame species hunting from January 1 to March 31, 2023.

Feral Hog Hunting Regulations

Legal Status

  • Unprotected Species: Feral hogs may be hunted without a license all year.

Hunting Compliance

  • Private Land: Permission required before hunting.
  • Artificial Light: Prohibited to use when hunting.
  • Firearms Usage: Illegal to discharge within 150 yards of an occupied dwelling.

Species Identification

  • Not Javelina: Do not confuse with protected game species, javelina.
    • Javelina distinctives:
      • Smaller size.
      • Absence of tail.
      • White shoulder/neck hair stripe ("collared peccary").

Further Assistance

  • USDA Contact: For feral hog hunting locations, call (505) 346-2640.

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The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.