State Game Commission

Game Commission Re-cap
April 5, 2018
Clovis, NM

The NM State Game Commission hosted a meeting in Clovis on April 5th. The agenda was very routine and most of the items were for discussion purposes only. The meeting was completed in record time with very little public comment. There were however, a number of items missing from the agenda. NMCOG had expected to see the pronghorn, javalina, and bighorn sheep rules on the agenda for approval however a discussion with wildlife chief Stewart Liley clarified that due to a timing issue those rules will actually be approved at the May meeting. That does not mean that the rules are still open for public comment, they aren’t (even if it appears that they are on the Dept. website). The statute that governs Rule creation requires that a rule be posted, and unchanged, on the register for 30 full days prior to its approval. Thus, for all intents and purposes the details provided in the commission report from March 1st are what will be approved in May. 

Update on Hunter Education

The Dept. provided an update on their hunter education program. Program director Lance Cherry explained that the fishing education program has really expanded. The program seems to be having a positive impact on increased license sales in not just youth but also families. Also, last year the Dept. had many students participate in skills-based archery camps supported by National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP). NM has the fasted growing NASP program in the west. Traditional hunter education class enrollment remains flat, but the good news is that the Dept. is seeing a strong retention rate with most graduates going on to purchase a hunting license. And while the national trend has seen a decrease in involvement in hunting and fishing, New Mexico participation is staying steady.

Update on Habitat Restoration Project in Colin Neblett WMA

The commission heard a presentation on the successful habitat restoration efforts in the Colin Neblett WMA located to the east of Eagle Nest Lake. Restoration efforts have focused on the southern end of the WMA to thin 538 acres of mixed conifers. Due to the remoteness and lack of roads, crews used chainsaws and hand piled slash to be burned. The Dept. contracted with a wildlife coordinator to get a “burn boss” to facilitate a prescribed burn on the area this past Feb. The burn was successful, and all 1100 slash piles were burned. The efforts have succeeded in restoring the habitat back to a healthy level of conifers and aspens. There is still another 400 acres that needs restorative efforts which the Dept. is planning to accomplish soon. The Dept. has really focused on thinning and burning all Dept. owned properties to help restore habitat and watersheds. They are in the process of assessing which properties are first priority. 

Initial Proposal for Changes to the Exotics Rule (Barbary Sheep, Ibex, and Oryx)

The Dept. presented their initial proposals on the exotics rule. This formally opens the rule for public comment. The Dept. will be hosting some public meetings over the next month and NMCOG will be meeting with the Dept. to discuss our industry concerns on April 17th. If you would like to provide comment on these rules please do so by visiting the public comment page on the Dept. website or by sending your comments direct to NMCOG at info@nmoutfitters.com

IBEX – The Dept. really ramped up nannie hunts on the Floridas over the past few years. During a helicopter survey 5 years ago the Dept. counted 1200 ibex on the mountain. At the time there was an agreement with the BLM of no more than 350. The Dept. negotiated that number to 700 and that is the number they have been working towards for the past 5 years. The Dept. has been attempting to maintain Billy quality while also reducing the population. 815 ibex were counted in last year’s survey. For the next 4-year cycle the Dept. would like to continue to reduce the herd size through an increase in nannie hunts. 

BARBARY SHEEP – license sales have really increased over the last few years. Mostly due to the OTC tags and much of that is on the west side of GMU 34. There has also been an increase in harvest and hunter success rates which, the Dept. feels, indicates an increasing population size. The Dept. is proposing the following changes to the Barbary sheep rule for 2019-2022.
  • Combine all draw units together so that hunters can choose where they would like to hunt without confining them to a certain GMU. They will also increase license numbers by roughly 25% but will hopefully spread out the hunter density and avoid the clumping issues that is currently experienced. 
  • 10-day hunts across 2 hunt codes rather than a month-long season.
  • Allow draw hunters to access private land with the landowner permission just like we do in all the other species (this is currently not allowed in the existing rule).
  • Increase hunts by 33% on McGregor range

ORYX – The Dept.’s attempt to decrease oryx license numbers on White Sands Missile Range to reduce hunter orientation issues has also resulted in a decrease in hunter satisfaction on on-range hunts. The Dept. biologist and the WSMR biologist agree that the population is thriving and an increase in licenses is warranted however they disagree on how to accomplish that. For the next 4-year rule cycle the Dept. would like to increase the number of licenses issued for once-in-a-lifetime (OLT) hunts on WSMR from 275 to 575 hunts. And go from 5 to 9 on-range hunt codes. The WSMR biologist Pat Morrow and hunt coordinator Gilbert Villegas would like the Dept. to stay at the current hunt code and license level (to alleviate very long hunter orientations) while instead implementing a population management opportunity where they could utilize hunters in problem areas at the end of the season. Negotiations between WSMR and the Dept. are still underway.

The Dept. also plans to make the following additional changes to the rule.
  • Increasing broken horn hunts as well as the veteran hunts (changing the veteran requirement to include any NM resident veteran). 
  • Maintaining youth and mobility impaired hunts. 
  • Ensure quality OLT hunts by eliminating the area designations such as “Rhodes” and “Stallion”. 
  • Off-range population continues to increase. The Dept. plans to increase these hunts by 25% as well as the youth hunts. 
  • Private land oryx will remain unlimited but landowners must contact the Dept. for authorization codes. The Dept. does not do population surveys on private land but will gladly work with landowners to establish open gate agreements for those interested in opening their private property to public draw hunters. 
Subsequent Discussion on Changes to the Turkey Rule

The Department provided their subsequent presentation on the Turkey Rule. So far the Dept. has received only 13 public comments the majority of which were requesting additional opportunity. The Dept. is proposing to provide the following additional hunting opportunity. To provide public comment on the Turkey Rule please email DGF-Gamebird@state.nm.us. This rule will be finalized and approved at the June Commission meeting.
  • Adjust seasons for youth hunt opener and add a youth draw hunt in GMU 30 on Washington Ranch. 
  • Open some additional areas for spring turkey blue bird mesa WMA and will open GMU 33 for OTC tags. 
  • Open some additional areas for fall turkey GMU 5A 32, 51, 33

Subsequent Discussion on Changes to the Migratory Bird Rule

The Department provided their subsequent presentation on the Migratory Bird Rule. So far most of the public comments the Dept. has received have gone against the requirements of the federal framework. It is important to understand that the Dept. Migratory Bird rule must adhere to the US Fish and Wildlife Service federal framework. Migratory bird biologists from across the country meet several times per year to determine the health of migratory bird populations across the country annually. The NMDGF is required to adjust bag limits according to this federal framework. The final framework for the 2019-2020 hunting season will be filed in May. This rule will be approved at the June meeting. If you would like to comment on the Migratory Bird Rule please email DGF-Waterfowl@state.nm.us

Odds and Ends

In addition to the above agenda items the Commission heard an update on the progress of the new Roswell office complex. They also approved the Dept.’s recommendation to reserve two elk licenses (ES – in any unit accessible by the hunter) for a hunter approved through a non-profit wish-granting organization for individuals who have a life-threatening illness. Additionally, the Dept. initiated their budget initiatives for 2020 which is a general presentation that provides the Dept. the ability to begin working on their operating plan and long-term funding goals.

Next Commission Meeting May 22, 2018 – Los Alamos, NM

For Copies of Archived Commission Re-caps Please email info@nmoutfitters.com