By Michael Bodenchuk, CorrespondentEditor's Note: In our March issue, in the first of a three-part series on opportunities for free-range exotics across the US, correspondent Michael Bodenchuk took you on a tour of the opportunities in Alaska, California and Hawaii. This month, he's focusing on New Mexico and Texas.
New Mexico began an official, state-sponsored, exotic game program in the late 1960s. The state evaluated several species for possible introduction, among them greater kudu, Persian red sheep and Persian gazelle, none of which were ever released due to potential competition issues with native game. The animals that were released include gemsbok (which are called oryx in NM), Persian ibex (or pasang), and aoudad, (which are called Barbary sheep in NM). Siberian ibex were also released in the Canadian River Canyon near Roy, NM in the late 1970s, and a few were hunted under limited public and landowner permits. I worked this area in 1977 and saw the ibex regularly, but their numbers dwindled, and I doubt any remain.
The Persian ibex, however, was a stunning success - so much so that female ibex hunts are held today to keep the population in check. The Persian ibex, actually not a true ibex but a wild goat, was released in the Florida (pronounced as the Spanish: flor-ee-da
) Mountains south and east of Deming, NM. This is a rugged mountain range about 20 miles long and only a single ridge-crest wide at the top, with many cliffs perfectly suited for ibex.
I personally accompanied ibex hunters in these mountains for about 10 years and believe this is a unique hunting opportunity in the US. Trophy size is as good as or better than in Iran (the world record horns are from this US herd), and special opportunities exist for muzzleloader and archery hunters. The best chance for success is, of course, the once-in-a-lifetime, either-sex, any firearm hunt, but the odds of drawing that tag run about 1:200. However, New Mexico's draw system is set up so that if your application is drawn, they will consider any of your first three choices before moving on to another hunter's application. Therefore, if you are willing to try the hunt with a muzzleloader, the odds improve significantly (around 1:42). New Mexico excludes ibex (and oryx) permits from resident/nonresident quotas, so all applications in the pool receive equal consideration.