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Elk hunting in New Mexico unit 36 is one of favorite places to guide. It’s steep and rugged. But a high density of elk and quality bulls make this one of the best elk hunts in the state.

Unit 36 Overview

“If you want to go get a lot of action and see a ton of elk, this is a great unit,” said outfitter, Jerry Blake. “But it’s also really hard to draw and the landowner tags are very expensive.”

This unit is a difficult draw for good reason. From the early season bow hunting to the late-season elk hunts, this unit offers as good a free-range elk hunt as you’ll find anywhere in the west.

For that reason, draw odds are low. At the time of this post, unguided nonresident elk hunters may only have between 3% and 5% chance of drawing a tag in unit 36. If applying with an outfitter in New Mexico, guided hunters can increase their odds to around 8% to 14%, depending on the season. 

“Unit 36 is bordered by the famed Mescalero Indian reservation where they have harvested many bulls in the 370-inch range and beyond,” LOH guide, Brendon Rosales explains. “This is a unit where you can expect to see between ten and 30 bulls each day. There are a lot of elk and we are fortunate to have a 100% success rate in this unit.”

Elk Hunting New Mexico Unit 36

The Terrain

The elevations in unit 36 range from 6,500 to 10,000 feet. This unit contains some steep mountains and good physical fitness is required for interested hunters.

“It’s very steep country and you have to be in good condition,” Jerry says. “No matter where you go, you have to go up. But it’s great for glassing and you can see a lot of elk. Hunters can expect bulls in the 310 to 320-inch range, and there are definitely some big bulls in there too. In fact, I have a 345-inch bull on my wall that’s from unit 36.

The Hunting Seasons

This unit offers both early season and late season hunting opportunities. Our favorite seasons in unit 36 are the early muzzleloader hunt and the late season rifle hunt.

“On the early season hunts, the bulls will be very actively rutting and answering cow calls, so a close-range shot is very possible” Brendon noted. “It’s a great time to hunt with a muzzleloader and hear bulls bugling.”

Even if you don’t have prior muzzleloader experience, don’t be afraid to apply for a muzzleloader hunt in New Mexico. Here at LOH Outfitters, we use modern muzzleloaders from Best of the West. These guns have taken elk from 500 to 700 yards.

In addition to the early muzzleloader hunt, we enjoy hunting the late rifle season in unit 36, which runs from the end of October into early November.

“This is a pretty physically demanding hunt,” Brendon Explained. “But during this post-rut period, the bulls are in bachelor groups and your chances of finding a bigger bull are increased.”

After the rut, these bachelor bulls move into higher, steep country where they can rest and recover. While physically challenging, this can be a fun, high-adventure hunt in some spectacular New Mexico elk country.

Other Considerations

When hunting in unit 36, we stay in comfortable lodge housing. Hunters can expect to depart the lodge each morning in 4×4 trucks to begin the hunt.

If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. In the meantime, check out some of the other units where we hunt. See our earlier blog post about New Mexico’s primitive weapon units 13, 15 and 17. And take a look at our blog post about New Mexico unit 10.  

For availability or any other specifics, you’re welcome to call Jerry directly at 315-374-8209 or you can contact us online. We look forward to helping you plan a memorable New Mexico elk hunt!