You’ve heard of deer and dove hunting, but did you know you could hunt Persian ibex, oryx or Barbary sheep? Well, in New Mexico, the hunting opportunities are as abundant and diverse as its unique terrain and habitat. In addition to the more exotic creatures, hunters can enjoy a variety of hunts, including elk, pronghorn and deer.
Some ranchers in New Mexico lead guided hunts on their land, opening up another form of revenue while preserving the ecosystems and managing the populations of the animals they hunt.
Then there are the big game hunts, which are available through the Mescalero Apache and Acoma Pueblo tribes.
“With the various cultures in the state of New Mexico, hunting is an important cultural industry which is continuously growing year after year,” says Herman Saenz, hunt director for Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino, which offers big game hunts for the Mescalero Apache Tribe. “Recently there has been a big push to include the youth in this hunting industry, which will result in a continued growth of the hunting industry into the future.”
Jack Diamond, wildlife and hunting manager for Beaverhead Outfitters, leads hunts of elk, deer, antelope, oryx, bighorn sheep, ibex, turkey and predators on more than 3 million acres of public and private land in southwest New Mexico.
“Hunting has been an important industry to New Mexico since the ’50s and has grown more and more,” he says. “It brings a lot of money into our state, and elk hunts are a reason a lot of people from out of state come here.”
The Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino offers a number of big game hunts to both tribal and non-tribal members of the Mescalero Apache Tribe, which are managed to provide for subsistence hunting and trophy hunting.
As a result, the tribe offers trophy bull elk hunts, cow elk hunts, turkey hunts and bear hunts during the fall and winter seasons. Additionally, mule/whitetail deer hunts are offered to tribal members.
“Here on the Mescalero Apache reservation is the opportunity to experience a hunt where the quality and quantity of available animals is high and the experience is rewarding,” Saenz says. “In addition, the professionalism displayed by the hunt staff and how the hunters are treated is a factor that keeps the hunters returning year after year.”
Rick Chancellor, hunt manager with Acoma Big Game Hunts, leads hunts for trophy bull elk on the Acoma Pueblo, which is located on nearly 500,000 acres of reservation lands in west-central New Mexico.
“We take 37 hunters a year, and we’re trying to shoot bulls that score 350 SCI or over, which is a gigantic bull,” he says. “We run it out of very nice tent camps in September and October, and have a winter hunt in December.”
Each year, he leads approximately 15 bow hunters, 10 muzzleloader hunters and a dozen rifle hunters on big game hunts.
The Mescalero Apache Tribe is a sovereign entity and has total control over the management of its natural resources, including all the big game species on the reservation. Saenz explains that management is based on the conservation of these big game species to meet the needs of the tribal members and the Inn of the Mountain Gods hunting program.
“In order to keep the big game population numbers in check, the hunting program provides the opportunity to control the population numbers through hunting,” he says. “The overall objective of the management program is to maintain the quality and quantity of these big game resources.”
Diamond notes that conservation and management is a big part of it.
“You have to manage wildlife just as you would anything in life. It’s a sport and it’s fun, but you need to take care of your home,” he says. “A lot of the dollars that are spent go back into the habitat. The whole state benefits from it and a lot of ranches are managing for game because they see a value.”
A Sound Future
From the standpoint of the Mescalero Apache Tribe, the hunting industry is vital to its operations, as it provides significant income to the tribe, supporting various programs within the tribal government. In addition, the hunting industry also provides employment to the tribal members throughout the hunting season.
“Culturally, hunting for the Mescalero people is also about teaching our youth how to harvest an animal for sustenance as well as preserving the culture of how we harvest and use an animal,” Saenz says. “We teach them to respect the land, animals, plants and water so that those things may be here for us in years to come.”