State Game Commission

Game Commission Re-cap
November 16, 2017
Elephant Butte, NM

The NM State Game Commission hosted their final regularly scheduled meeting of 2017 this past Thursday in Elephant Butte. The agenda items approved by the Commission were perhaps the most important and impactful regulations the outfitting industry has seen in the last 5 years. The newly approved Guide and Outfitter Rule is likely on the top of everyone’s mind so let’s start there. 

Guide and Outfitter Rule
As many of you are aware, NMCOG has been working with the Dept. over the past 6-8 months to discuss our industry’s concerns and develop new language for the rule that regulates the outfitting industry. Collectively, we were careful that none of our changes to the rule would infringe on anything that is written in statute and were also mindful to match the language in the rule to the statute to increase clarity within the rule. Based on these meetings the Dept. developed a proposal which was approved by the Game Commission and adopted as the new rule that regulates the outfitting industry. 

As is common in politics, NMCOG was not successful in getting 100% of our industry requests. However, we feel that we did end the day on a high note having taken several steps forward as an industry. Below is a recap of the major aspects that will change under the newly approved Guide and Outfitter Rule. The final rule has not been officially posted by the Dept. as of today but will be posted HERE as soon as it becomes available. 

           10% OUTFITTER POOL
The Commission voted to retain an outfitters ability to conduct semi-guided hunts under the 2-day rule and allow these partially guided hunters to apply in the 10% outfitter pool. While not perfect, we feel that the new language surrounding the 2-day rule is a step in the right direction. The new language in the rule should have some positive impacts that will strengthen the integrity of the pool. The language states that a hunter must be “accompanied” by their guide for 2 days in the field during the hunt dates. Thus, there will be no more abuse of the pool from the “coffee shop” outfitters who have their customers meet them, for example, at the All-sups in July. Hunters must be physically accompanied by a guide for the first 2 days of their contracted hunt. Hunters will still be able to hunt without a guide AFTER their 2 days has been met. Hunters will be required to carry a copy of their contract in the field and the terms of their 2-day outfitted hunt must also be clearly described in that contract. The language in the rule will not allow for a hunter to exercise the do-it-yourself portion of their hunt prior to the 2-day guided portion. NMCOG will continue to monitor the draw and will potentially re-address the subject in a year, after we have revised our statistical information. 

Additionally, outfitters and guides will no longer be allowed to guide themselves. If an outfitter or guide draws a permit in the outfitter pool they will be required to have a valid contract and at least 2 days of accompaniment by a licensed guide just like every other hunter who draws a permit in the outfitter pool. 

During our discussions with the Dept. it was clear that our industry is never going to see the day where the Dept. completely stops requesting a copy of the hunter/outfitter contract. This is a tool the Dept. states is extremely important to their officers’ ability to determine the legality of a hunt. The best area of middle ground that NMCOG was able to negotiate was being able to have the ability to provide contracts to the Dept. prior to the hunt (so as not to disrupt a hunt in progress in the field). The Dept. accepted our negotiation and outfitters will now be able to email a copy of their contracts to the Outfitter/Guide Registrar up to 48-hours prior to the hunt. This is an OPTIONAL method of providing contacts to the Dept. If an outfitter chooses not to submit their contracts via email they will still be required to carry them, or have their hunters carry them, in the field (which has been the Dept.’s interpretation of the rule for nearly 2 years). 

At the request of NMCOG the Dept. recommended, and the Commission approved, additional language in the rule which will clarify the requirements of those individuals who conduct hunting operations as “landowner agents”. For years the public land management agencies have required that outfitters be licensed by the NMDGF to conduct hunts on ANY public land. However, the language in the Guide and Outfitter Rule was vague. The rule is now clear that a “landowner agent” can conduct hunts on deeded acreage only. Any outfitter conducting hunts on public land must be properly licensed as an outfitter by the NMDGF regardless of whether or not the hunted acres are subject to a rancher’s public land grazing permit. Additionally, a “landowner agent” must not advertise themselves to be an outfitter. Only the actual landowner may advertise the hunting opportunities on their deeded property without being licensed as an outfitter. 

In the new rule a section was created to replace the previously labeled "additional prohibitions". This section simply refers to the violations that would need to be decided by a Magistrate Court rather than by a NMDGF administrative hearing. A number of violations have been moved from administrative to criminal to provide the outfitting industry with a fairer and more just means of determining innocence and guilt. The following violations will need to be determined in an actual court of law rather than by a Dept. hired hearing officer

  • It is unlawful for an outfitter to allow or use an unregistered person to perform outfitting or guiding services for the outfitter.
  • It is unlawful for any person to guide or outfit in New Mexico without completing all requirements and possessing a current registration from the department. Each guide or outfitter shall carry proof of registration in the field and provide such proof upon request.
  • It is unlawful to apply in the special drawing pool using a New Mexico outfitter number prior to having a valid, signed contract with the same New Mexico outfitter.
  • It is unlawful for a New Mexico outfitter to knowingly allow a hunter-client to apply in the special drawing pool prior to having a valid, signed contract.
  • It is unlawful to hunt with a license obtained through the special drawing pool without being accompanied by, and contracted with, a New Mexico outfitter or their guide.
  • It is unlawful for any outfitter to not have a valid, signed contract with each hunter-client 
  • It is unlawful for any outfitter to refuse or fail to produce a contract when requested by the department.
  • It is unlawful for any person to submit an application for any hunt or for any person to counsel, aid or abet any person in submitting an application for any hunt in the special drawing pool with an unregistered or unqualified outfitter number.
  • It is unlawful for an outfitter or guide to have more than four hunter-clients in the field for each registered guide or outfitter. 
  • Revocation Rule
The Dept. also proposed changes to their Revocations Rule. The changes were approved by the Commission during Thursday’s meeting. This regulation covers the entire hunting and fishing industry and not just the outfitting segment. However, NMCOG was actively involved in assisting the Dept. in re-developing the section that determines how outfitter/guide violations are handled. Below is a list of changes as they relate to the outfitting industry. The final rule has not been officially posted by the Dept. as of today but will be posted HERE as soon as it becomes available. 

20 Point
  • guiding or outfitting without being registered by NMDGF
  • using an outfitter or guide license issued to another
  • outfitter allowing or using an unregistered person to perform outfitting or guiding services
  • applying for or receiving an outfitter or guide registration while revoked
15 Point
  • hunting with a license obtained through the special drawing pool without being accompanied by, and contracted with, a New Mexico outfitter or their guide
10 Point
  • refusing or failing to produce an outfitter contract or not having a signed contract prior to hunting 
20 Point
  • outfitter or guide failure to comply with registration audit or conditions
  • outfitter or guide misrepresentation
  • outfitter or guide failure to disclose
  • landowner’s or authorized ranch contact’s misrepresentation or violation of the conditions of a contract, application or agreement with the department.
  • any person submitting, or allowing to be submitted for them, false or fraudulent harvest reporting information as required by rule.
10 Point
  • outfitting on state or federal lands without a proper permit or authorization
  • outfitter breach of contract
  • outfitter, guide, landowner or authorized ranch contact failure to report illegal activity.
5 Point
  • outfitter or guide violation of any conditions of a state or federal permit or authorization
  • outfitter or guide failure to comply with any local, state, or federal laws other than outfitting on state or federal lands without a proper permit or authorization
  • outfitter failure to supervise guides
  • any outfitter and guide misconduct not otherwise specifically listed herein. 
Carcass Tagging
The Dept. provided their final update to the Commission on their continued work to produce a system of carcass tagging that would be both convenient to hunters as well as more effective for conservation officers in the field. The Dept. has decided that going back to a durable carcass tag is the most effective way to provide officers with the tools they need to verify the legality of carcasses in the field. The Dept. is proposing to mail the carcass tags to all hunters successful in the draw (or to an address of that hunter’s choice). Carcass tags for landowner permits may either be requested by mail within 10 days of the hunt or obtained from a vendor in the case of a last-minute license purchase. The Dept. only received 3 public comments during the 30-day public comment period and all were in favor of the Dept. returning to a durable carcass tag. The Commission voted to approve the Dept.’s proposal. Commissioner Espinoza voted against the proposal but explained that it was because he was under the impression that the Dept. was planning to roll out the durable carcass tag and the electronic tagging option at the same time. Director Sandoval explained that the electronic tagging option would not be ready to pilot until April 2018. 

Landowner Certification of Non-Navigable Waters 
Chairman Kienzle provided the other Commissioners with an update to establish a certification process by which a landowner will be issued a certificate and signage by the NMDGF director and the commission that recognizes that within the landowner’s private property is a segment of a non-navigable public water, whose riverbed, stream bed, or lake bed is closed to access without written permission from the landowner. The Chairman’s proposal relates to the Stream Access Law which was passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor in 2015. The stream access law codified 30 years of Dept. regulation that stated that an angler needs the written permission of the landowner to fish in non-navigable waters that have private land on both sides. The proposed new rule can be found HERE and is also currently open for public comment. This item was for discussion purposes only but will likely be voted on at the Commission's newly scheduled special meeting on December 20th in Albuquerque.

Special Draw Deadlines 
Finally, the Commission voted to approve the 2018 special draw deadlines. Deadlines are as follows: 
  • February 7, 2018 – Bear Wildlife Management Area and Special Turkey draw permits.
  • March 21, 2018 – Public land deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, oryx, ibex, Barbary sheep,
  • bighorn sheep, and javelina.
  • August 22, 2018 – Public draws special upland game and waterfowl permits.

Special Commission Meeting on Wednesday December 20, 2017 - Albuquerque, NM
Next Regular Commission Meeting Thursday January 11, 2018 – Santa Fe, NM


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