Blake Swanson/New Mexico Department of Game and FishA mule deer munches on aspen sprouts in an area burned by the Las Conchas Fire in the Jemez Mountains
Blake Swanson/New Mexico Department of Game and Fish A mule deer munches on aspen sprouts in an area burned by the Las Conchas Fire in the Jemez Mountains of northwest New Mexico in fall.
FARMINGTON — The intense wildfire season during the past two years may not be a blessing, but for hunters it could be.

Scorched territory can be the perfect lure for the perfect game.

"Where you find the elk is those burned areas," said Dusty Perry, avid hunter and vice president of the New Mexico Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife.

Both New Mexico and Colorado had record-setting wildfires in the past two years, though most fires have left only surface scarring.

"Fires that burn really hot can really sterilize that ground," said Ross Morgan, northwest spokesman for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. "Where they burn a little slower, they burn off the old growth and let the new growth come through."

In the northwest region alone, several fires left sections of forest charred the Las Conchas Fire in the Jemez Mountains being the largest. These areas will draw in all wildlife, but namely deer, elk and furbearers, when it comes to hunting.

"It created a lot of good habitat," said Morgan.

Hunting season is in full swing already, with elk and deer having started in September. Most fur bearing animals also are allowed for hunting since the beginning of the month.

Draw permits already have been sent out to those eligible during this season. They can cost up to $91, the most expensive permit being for a bull elk.

So far, hunters do not seem to mind the sparse, blackened landscape.


"You don't have the big trees, but it's very green," said Perry, who already killed a bull elk in September and is going back for another excursion this weekend.

Despite a number of healthy burned areas, the lack of moisture this year also has affected numbers of game available for hunting.

"It hasn't been the greatest," said Perry.

While not the most valued hunting grounds in the state, the northwest region of New Mexico does offer its own selection.

Popular spots include the San Pedro Parks wilderness, northeast of Cuba. The area surrounding Mount Taylor, a sacred Navajo mountain northeast of Grants, also is a good place, so is the Chama River Canyon Wilderness in the central northern part of the state.

Areas of southwest Colorado also can provide a wealth of locations where hunting is common.

If hunting in burned areas, hunters should be cautious because trees fall easily after a fire and the ground is not as stable, according to Morgan. Fires can create unseen cavities in the ground by burning out root systems underneath.