When hunter Zane Streater bagged a record-breaking 14-point elk during a Mora County bow hunt two years ago, he was taking part in a tradition of sportsmanship that many New Mexicans have carried on for generations. But Streater, who was in the middle of chicken-frying elk steaks when he got a call from SFR on Monday night, doesn't live in New Mexico.
He runs Hamilton, Texas-based Streater Outdoors, an outfitter that brings in some of the thousands of non-residents who hunt in New Mexico every year.
Sen. George Munoz plans to introduce a bill in the 2011 legislative session would allow fewer non-resident hunters to draw licenses for New Mexico game. Currently, NM reserves a higher percentage of its big game licenses for non-resident hunters than any other western state--22 percent, compared to 10 percent for Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Idaho and even less for Oregon and Colorado. Munoz hopes to drop NM's number to something between zero and 10 percent, he tells SFR.
"I think we need to take care of New Mexicans first," Munoz says.
Munoz anticipates there will be "heated debate"over the proposed
legislation, partly because non-resident license fees are a big revenue
source for the NM Fish and Wildlife Department. Resident fees are less
than $80 for any big game animal and non-resident fees are around
$500-$700. Munoz will propose to offset the loss of some non-resident
fees by charging all non-resident applicants a $150 fee, he tells SFR.
"We're really hoping to see the legislature tackle that and see (the number of resident licenses) rise to 85 or 90 percent," NMWF spokesman Joel Gay says. "Game and Fish say 'We really rely on these non-resident fees,' but we think that's just a specious argument, and that they should be doing everything they can to make licenses available to residents."
New Mexico Game and Fish spokesman Marty Frentzel said his department will "wait and see" what happens in the legislative session.
"It's very frustrating to watch people on television hunt animals in New Mexico when you can't even draw a tag as a resident," Backcounty Hunters and Anglers President Garrett VeneKlasen says. "It's insane! I have a lot of close friends here in Taos who are multi-generation northern New Mexico families who can't put meat in their freezer, and it's just not right."