Public land open for hunting season

By Kimberly Adams<br />Staff writer

Big game elk and deer hunters are gearing up and heading onto New Mexico’s public and private lands with hopes of stocking freezers of meat for the winter or that trophy they’ve always dreamed of. In spite of the largest federal government shutdown in nearly 20 years, the state is open for the Fall hunting season which runs through the end of November and the early part of December.

In the midst of a federal government shutdown that began Oct. 1 resulting in closures of many national parks and federally operated campgrounds throughout the U.S., Colfax County hunters are safe from closures for now, according to Clint Henson, Public Information Officer for the Raton state Game and Fish office.

Hunters have inquired about camping availability on federal and state owned land, Henson explained. “All of the access to the public land is open,” he said. “It’s just the facilities there that the hunters are concerned about.

Hensen pointed out that a popular hunter spot 20 miles north of Cimarron in the Carson National Forest  is open. The Valle Vidal campground currently has a volunteer camp host on the premise in order for it to remain open for hunters.  

One of northeast New Mexico’s prime hunting areas is the White Peak region in Colfax and Mora counties which is accessed primarily via state Highway 199. However, one road many hunters take to get to the 41,000 acre state trust land has been in a public-vs-private tug-a-war debate for nearly 10 years.

Mora County Road 009, which is known in Colfax County as Red Hill Road, is the center of the controversy. The issue is whether the road is officially designated as a county road or a private road as claimed by Stanley Ranch owner David Stanley. The Raton City Commission passed a Resolution Sept. 24 supporting open access of Red Hill Road to the White Peak state land.

Last year, Red Hill Road was open for the hunting season according to the official New Mexico Game and Fish website. Springer, NM Game and Fish officer Justin Johnson said that the road will remain open for this year’s hunting season.

Over 75 percent of land in Colfax county is private. Land owners are able to participate in programs in conjunction with the New Mexico Game and Fish that allows permits for the general public to hunt on private land.

This year’s Spring and Summer seasons saw the pendulum swing from hot, dry, wildfire weather to heavier-than-normal annual southwest monsoon rains. This drastic weather pattern has affected the animals this hunting season. The resulting flooding was so spread out that animals are not congregating to known specific watering holes, Hensen explained. “The biggest complaint I got from hunters is that it was harder to find animals because they were dispersed over the landscape.”

“Anytime we can get precipitation, we can take it and be thankful for it,” Hensen said.