NMDGF Commission Meeting Recap
Tanner Anderson – Regional Director
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Bighorn Sheep in Cochiti Canyon Update:
We were given an update on the Jemez Bighorn Sheep status in Cochiti Canyon. Over the past 4 years the department has moved sheep from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness and Red River herd for this project. It was reported that the mortality of these sheep has been low, and the growth rate of the sheep population has been positive since they were brought to this area. The current estimated population is between 105 and 115 sheep, and while hunts could begin to occur soon, it is expected that hunting of these sheep will begin between 2023 and 2025 when the rams reach the age of 12. As mentioned, hunts could occur sooner depending on maturation rates of the rams, as some have the potential to reach trophy size by the age of 7.
Changes to Bighorn Sheep & Javelina Rule:
This issue was brought to the attention of counties and the state board earlier in the year. For Bighorn Sheep it was proposed and approved to increase hunts for the species, modifying hunt dates to adjust for calendar dates and to accommodate more hunters, shortening some hunts to allow for 2 hunts in certain populations, adding a Jemez and Manzano hunt with a bag limit to be determined, adding ewe hunts, maintaining youth hunts, adding a February hunt to spread out hunter density, and modifying the enhancement program.
With the Javelina Rule the changes include adjusting seasons for calendar dates, maintaining over the counter hunts, increase youth hunts, and continue allowing licensed deer and elk hunters to hunt javelina during the elk hunt. The changes to both bighorn sheep and javelina were approved by the commission.
Barbary Sheep, Ibex, and Oryx:
Next the department presented changes for Barbary Sheep, Oryx and Persian Ibex. This is an issue that will be brought before the commission again at a later date for a vote.
For Oryx, they are maintaining veteran hunts, once in a lifetime hunts, youth hunts and mobility impaired hunts. Some changes proposed are to increase the number of hunts for oryx by allowing for up to 10 additional licenses for veterans, increasing statewide off-range hunts by 33%, and increasing off-range youth hunts by 11%. The data gathered by the department suggests that Oryx numbers are increasing, therefore more opportunity to hunt can be offered.
With Ibex, the department is looking to maintain current hunts, maintain youth, archery, and muzzleloader hunts, and combine OIL hunt with the incentive hunts. They also suggested adding 4 new F/IM hunts with 75 licenses.
For Barbary Sheep it was proposed to increase draw licenses by 25% in response to an increasing population size, and to split hunts to distribute hunter density.
The changes proposed for the Barbary Sheep, Ibex and Oryx would increase overall hunts for these species, giving hunters more of an opportunity to obtain a tag and harvest one of these exotic animals.
The NMDGF Commission voted unanimously in favor of approving the revisions to the new pronghorn rule. These are changes that we have documented over the past year since it was introduced. The big changes with this new rule were the allocation of private licenses for pronghorn. Beginning with the 2019-2023 hunting season, private landowners will now be able to purchase tags for pronghorn over-the-counter during the hunting season. There is no limit on the number of tags that can be purchased by a landowner. Public licenses will still be allocated through the draw system as they have in the past. Both public hunters will also be able to hunt private deeded land if they have written permission from the landowner, this is also the case with private hunters.
In addition, landowners who have property that is “checkerboarded” with both private and public land can enter into Ranch-wide or Unitization agreements. Ranch-wide agreements allow landowners to enroll large areas of public and private land with tags being allocated to these properties case by case. With this agreement, landowners would need to provide access to all public hunters in that particular unit to both private and public land. The Unitization agreements would allow ranchers to essentially split their public and private land into acreage of “public” land where public hunters would have access, and acreage of “private” land where public hunters would not have access. Unitization agreements would be approved by the commission on a case by case basis, and would apply not just to pronghorn hunts but all hunts. These agreements may be beneficial to ranchers that have both public and private land scattered throughout the land they use.
There is also a Pronghorn Conservation Program that ranchers will be able to apply for to receive flexibility in hunt dates so long as they show they provide pronghorn benefit on their property.
Chief of Wildlife Stewart Liley stated that there are several reasons for the changes to the rule, including the current hunt being too conservative, ranches not being able to participate in the A-Plus system due to acerage requirements, and land in many different GMU’s not being hunted during the season. The rule was put to a vote and was approved unanimously by the commission.The rule can be viewed here: http://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/download/commission/rule-development/pronghorn/Pronghorn-Rule-Clean-Copy.pdf