EAGLE NEST, NM —The June 3 State Game Commission meeting dove into proposed big game rule changes on exotic species, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope and javelina.
Barbary Sheep Rules: No Single Draw
First up were exotics. The original proposed changes would lump draw hunt areas for barbary sheep into a single draw. However, significant pushback from the public led to an alternative proposal that would maintain two draw areas consisting of units 29/30 and units 32/36/37.
While the eastern portion of unit 34 was previously included in the unit 32/36/37 hunt area, it will now be combined with the western portion of 34 to be entirely over the counter, mitigating issues with hunter confusion over the Unit 34 east/west boundary line. The other change of note to the barbary sheep rule is moving from five two-week hunts to eight five-day hunts in each unit. But those will be on the agenda as action items for the Aug. 3 meeting.
More Bighorn Sheep Tags for Resident Hunters?
Commissioner Roberta Salazar-Henry was not in approval of the department’s recommendations to maintain the current big horn sheep tag allocation, but rather hopes to provide resident hunters a few more tags. To this end, she offered up multiple alternative proposals that were not accepted by the commission. She stated that if a compromise is not found, she will not vote to approve the final big horn rule at the August meeting.
Pronghorn Rules: Muzzleloaders Down Along With Private Land Licenses
The pronghorn rule was the next action item on the agenda. Before reviewing the main rule Commissioner Tirzio Lopez made a motion for an amendment to shift 40 muzzleloader-only licenses in units 50, 52 to be any legal weapon. While hunters still have the option to hunt with a muzzleloader during the any legal weapon season, hunting with rifles would also be permitted. Because of the higher harvest rate associated with rifle hunts, this led Wildlife Management Chief Stewart Liley to recommend that these public land draw tags be cut in half from 40 to just 20 tags, to maintain a healthy population. For one of the private land hunts this amendment also resulted in decreasing muzzleloader tags for pronghorn in those units from unlimited to 15. This proposal passed unanimously, although at least one commenter mentioned that this change was not the increase in opportunity that the commission stated it would be but, rather, decreased opportunity significantly.
Javelina: Expanded Licenses
The Javelina rule passed unanimously as presented by the department, which will increase draw licenses by 10% and increase the statewide OTC licenses available by 20%. The hunt dates for archery will remain Jan 1-31 and any legal weapon hunts will be from Feb 1-March 31.
Click here to see Proposals Under Consideration by the commission and please stay involved in the rule making process.