Few hunting experiences compare to the adrenaline-filled moment when on a cool spring morning, a Merriam’s gobbler thunders out a gobble and approaches in full strut display. The Merriam’s subspecies, native to the Carson, is by far the most striking of the four subspecies in North America. There is nothing more appealing to the turkey hunter’s eye than the buff white tipped fan of a Merriam’s gobbler matching with the snow-capped Sangre de Cristos and the residual snow banks of spring.
Through several successful reintroductions and established native populations, there is a sufficient population of Merriam’s turkey to support spring hunting on the Carson National Forest. Currently, spring turkey hunting seasons are available on an unlimited over the counter license for unit 49 on the Camino Real Ranger District, unit 51 on the El Rito, Canjilon, and Tres Piedras Ranger Districts, unit 53 on the Questa Ranger District. Spring turkey is also available in unit 2 on the Jicarilla Ranger District and the Valle Vidal Unit 55 on a limited draw basis. No fall turkey hunting is presently available on the Carson National Forest.
Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep
One of the most sought after big game species in North America is the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep. Typically, hunts for this species occur at the highest elevations of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains within two Wilderness Areas on the Carson National Forest. These areas are some of the most breathtaking landscapes on earth.
Through past restoration efforts, there is a healthy population of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep to support very limited hunting opportunities on the Carson National Forest. Currently, Bighorn hunting seasons are available on units 44/45 within the Pecos Wilderness Area on the Camino Real Ranger District and unit 53 within the Wheeler Peak Wilderness Area on the Questa Ranger District. All hunts for these spectacular sheep are so prestigious that only a very limited number of permits are available on a draw basis.
One of the truly wild sounds heard on the Carson National Forest today is the spine-tingling bugle of the bull elk. Elk are probably the most popular big game hunted on the Carson Nation Forest. Elk hunting on the Carson National Forest can take place from the sub-alpine peaks of the Sangre de Cristos to the lower elevation rolling pinon-juniper hills. Elk hunts on the Carson National Forest are known far and wide as truly incomparable, featuring magnificent animals and delivering great hunting experiences.
Management of elk on the Carson goes back to the early 1900’s when elk were first reintroduced into northern New Mexico. This management is especially meaningful today when the Carson National Forest boasts one of the largest elk herds in the state.
Elk hunting opportunities are abundant on all game management units (2,5B,44/45,49,50,51,52,53, and 55) and districts on the Carson. Early season primitive weapon (archery and muzzle-loader) to late season rifle hunts are available to meet every elk hunter’s needs and schedules. All hunts are administered by limited draw basis by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.
The jewel of elk hunting on the Carson National Forest is the Valle Vidal Unit on the Questa Ranger District. This unit contains one of the largest herds in New Mexico and offers a once in a lifetime opportunity of harvesting a world-class trophy bull. This once in a lifetime opportunity is available only through a very limited draw basis.
Another area that is worth mention to provide a memorable hunting experience on the Carson National Forest is unit 52 on the Tres Piedras Ranger District. This area boasts an elk herd second to none.
Mule Deer are one of the most difficult and sought after big game animals in North America. Mule Deer are very different in their habits than elk, and finding a respectable representation of the species requires a lot of hard work, time, and also a little luck.
Like most of the western states, Mule Deer began to decline in the late 80’s to early 90’s. As a result management agencies began to manage deer herds in many different ways. In some cases herds have begun to rebound. Here on the Carson National Forest, current management practices such as a limited deer-entry system or draw has allowed mule deer herds to slightly rebound and stabilize.
Mule Deer hunting on the Carson is available in all game management units. Limited quota deer-entry permits are available on a limited draw basis for game management units: 2B, 5B, 44/45, 49, 50, 51, 52, and 53. Archery, muzzleloader, or rifle hunts for deer are available on all the ranger districts and units on the Carson.
One of the most prestigious deer permits in the state of New Mexico is the unit 2B deer-entry permit. This mule deer hunt is located in Northwestern New Mexico on the Jicarilla Ranger District of the Carson National Forest. This area over winters one of the largest herds in the state and is adjacent to the world famous Jicarilla Apache Indian Reservation which is known for producing Boone and Crockett class mule deer. If you are lucky enough to draw this deer entry permit and the winter snows drive the deer from the Colorado high county, you just may harvest a trophy mule deer of a lifetime
Commonly known as the tan and white ghost of the prairie, stands at several hundred yards away the fleetest of all North American animals, the pronghorn antelope. Known for their keen eyesight and ability to leave hunters in the dust, the pronghorn is a challenge for even the most seasoned hunter.
The Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico is known for its trophy class pronghorn. Current hunt regulations allowing only the use of muzzleloaders has allowed the pronghorn to grow to full trophy potential. Pronghorn hunting on the Carson is quite unique. Nowhere in the state offers the opportunity to hunt pronghorn from the high prairies to the high elevation mountain meadows surrounded by aspen.
Pronghorn hunting is available in game management unit 52 on the Tres Piedras Ranger District. This popular hunt is obtained by a limited draw. If you are lucky enough to draw this permit, you are restricted to hunt with a muzzleloader. Trophy class pronghorn with a muzzleloader and non-stop action may be the reason that this hunt has gained popularity over the years. If you are willing to test your skills on this high plains speedster, come to the Carson and bring your track shoes
Click on picture for bear sound.
When most hunters talk about black bear hunting, the Carson National Forest usually comes up in the conversation. The Carson is among the most highly populated areas in the state, providing quality trophies of massive size and color variety. Black Bear vary in color from jet-black to blond, with cinnamon and brown phases also being quite common.
Fall Black Bear hunting is allowed on all of the game management units on the Carson. During this time of year bears become very active in preparation for their winter hibernation. A majority of bear will move down out of the higher country in search of mast crops. This is a good time to be out in the Carson National Forest bear woods either glassing the open country concentrating on forage-laced hillsides or hunting with hounds.
Although not as popular as other big game hunts, cougar hunting is also available on the Carson National Forest. The State of New Mexico and on the Carson, cougar zones have been established to manage cougar populations. The Carson consists of zones A (unit 2), B (units 5B, 50,51,), N (unit 52) and zone C (units 44/45, 49, 53, 55). Cougar season within these zones and units is conducted from October 1st to March 31st, or until harvest objectives have been met within each established zone. No cougar hunting is allowed on the Valle Vidal Unit.
Usually cougar are found in areas that support resident or wintering herds of mule deer, elk, and pronghorn. They are opportunistic predators and readily feed on other big game animals. Wherever you find a herd of deer you will find cougar close behind. This species is also so unpredictable in its habits that one of the only successful means of hunting on the Carson is with hounds over a well-defined scent trail over snow cover.