Arguably some of the best trophy pronghorn hunting anywhere is available in New Mexico. However, that may soon change! For several years, the New Mexico Wildlife Federation (NMWF) has been pressuring the New Mexico Game and Fish Department to change the rules for hunting antelope. That pressure has been ramping up, especially since last spring. A Department review of the A-PLUS (Antelope Private Lands Use System) program has slowly moved through the evaluation and public comment periods and a decision is expected from a December 9 meeting.
Simply put, NMWF is lobbying for a drastic reduction in the number of landowner antelope licenses in the A-PLUS program. A-PLUS is the Department's program to "recognize the contributions of private lands and landowners to the management of pronghorn antelope and their habitats, while providing an appropriate, biologically sound and effective harvest through sport hunting." This is far from just a "free-license giveaway" program, as it is portrayed by NMWF, since the department considers ranch acreage, antelope habitat, herd size, buck-to-doe ratios and even drought conditions in order to determine participation and allocation of licenses. To participate, landowners are required to enroll their deeded lands and any public and/or private leased lands. Further, the ranch owner must choose either Ranch Only permits or Unit-Wide/Reassignable permits when they apply. In the past, about 70 percent (76 percent last year) of the antelope licenses in New Mexico have been given to the landowners to sell, use, or throw away, with the balance of the antelope licenses issued through public drawing. Hunters have free, unrestricted and equal access to the entire ranch during the season and are also allowed access two days prior to the season for scouting.
How does the A-PLUS........(continued)