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New Mexico Bighorn Sheep Hunting


New Mexico Bighorn Sheep Hunting 2024

Available New Mexico Bighorn Hunts --- Search HF Aventures

Anyone who wants their name in the hat for as many Rocky Mountain or Desert bighorn sheep draws as possible each year should be applying in New Mexico. With world-class animals of both species available in most units across the state, the lucky applicants who can beat the odds of drawing one of these coveted licenses will be in line for a great chance at harvesting a giant ram. Stable populations of older class rams exist in all of the sheep herds across the state, and current population estimates have the Desert sheep population at 1,200 animals and the Rocky Mountain population at around 1,800.

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New Mexico Bighorn Sheep Draw

To apply for sheep in New Mexico, nonresidents must front the expensive $3,173 sheep license fee. If unsuccessful in the draw, New Mexico will refund all of the license fee minus a $13 application fee. In 2024-2025, there will be 27 Rocky Mountain ram tags issued in the draw and 24 Desert ram tags. Of these, there will be two licenses awarded in the outfitter draw for each species and one license for each species awarded in the non-resident draw. An additional Rocky ram tag will also be available in the outfitter or non-resident draw, whichever of the two draws it goes to first.

The draw process allows applicants to apply for both Desert and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep with up to three choices each. You can list three hunt codes on your sheep application, but two of the codes available are for ewe licenses, which cost the same as the ram licenses. As such, applicants must be careful and not apply for a ewe tag unless you are willing to spend $3,173 to harvest a ewe. There will again be 30 ewe tags issued on the Pecos between the rifle, archery, and youth hunts. You can find more information on the ewe hunts on pages 103 and 104 of the regulations.

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New Mexico’s 2023-2024 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep hunters had another great season with the average size of ram checking in around 174" for the second year in a row. A handful of these rams stretched the tape out to 180"+, including a giant 192 6/8" ram taken on the San Francisco River/Turkey Creek unit. The Wheeler Peak hunts didn’t produce the class of rams typical of this herd, but this is more likely a product of some of the better rams being left on the mountain than an indicator of any downward trend in the quality of rams or disease event. Even so, the Wheeler sheep are still being monitored for a possible pneumonia strain suspected of affecting some of the sheep in the area.

In the latest example of New Mexico’s successful bighorn sheep management program, a new Rocky Mountain bighorn hunt is being offered in the north-central part of the state for the 2024 season. Reintroduction efforts for the Jemez herd, located in historical bighorn habitat of the Jemez Mountains, began in 2014 with the release of 45 animals. In 2017, the herd was augmented with another 34 sheep that had broken off from the Wheeler Peak herd. The Jemez population continued its increase until stabilizing over the last few years and now offers a self-sustaining and huntable population of 150-200 animals. At least 10 sheep in this herd are class III (6-8 years old) or class IV (9+ years old) rams, most of them breaking the 170" mark. This will be an awesome experience for the two lucky applicants who draw the tags being offered for this hunt in its inaugural season.

Desert sheep hunters across the state checked in some great rams last season, and at the time of print, every hunter who had reported was successful on their hunt. Roughly 1 in 3 Desert sheep checked in cleared the 168" mark, with the statewide average score a few inches better than last year’s at around 163". The best ram of the season came from the first Caballo hunt, a giant that went 177 6/8".

Getting into as many sheep draws as you can is the game if you hope to find yourself on a true hunt-of-a-lifetime experience that New Mexico’s sheep hunting offers. If you are already buying a hunting license to apply for any other species in New Mexico and can afford the up-front fee for a sheep application, you are only out $13 if you aren’t drawn. With no bonus point system in New Mexico, your odds are just as good as anyone’s!

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New Mexico has terrible odds of drawing a sheep tag, but someone has to draw. With Boone and Crockett rams in almost every unit, you can believe that all of us at Huntin' Fool are applying for sheep in New Mexico. With no bonus points, everyone has the same odds.

New Mexico Bighorn Sheep Season Dates

General Season

  • August 6 - January 31**

**Season dates vary by zone and take method. For more information, visit the New Mexico Department Game & Fish’s website.

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Private Land, Semi-Guided, and Guided Bighorn Sheep Hunts in New Mexico

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Application Dates for Bighorn Sheep in New Mexico

The New Mexico Big Game Application deadline is March 20, 2024 at 5:00 PM MDT.

Our online/print magazine has everything in one location: Application info, draw details and odds, fees, hunter requirements, point structure, age restrictions, youth information, weapon restrictions, other tag opportunities, hunt planning and much more. If you would like access to all of our research join today!

New Mexico Non-Resident Bighorn Sheep Hunting Fees

Licenses & Permits Fee
Adult Game Hunting License (non-refundable) $65
Junior Game Hunting License (non-refundable) $15
Bighorn Sheep License $3,173
Habitat Management and Access Validation (required) $4
Habitat Stamp (if purchased on or after April 1st) (required by all who hunt BLM or USFS land) $10
License fees include a non-refundable application fee for each species. $13


New Mexico Bighorn Sheep Hunting Articles from Huntin' Fool Magazine