Imagine a place unlike anywhere you’ve ever been.
A place where the sun shines 310 days per year.
A place where snowcapped mountain peaks gradually succumb to a vast expanse of high plains.
A place where the sunrise illuminates windswept grasslands to reveal peacefully grazing cattle interspersed with pronghorn antelope.
A place where rose-colored deserts are in stark contrast with a horizon of fluffy white clouds, cartoonishly dotting a turquoise blue sky.
A place where the sunsets blaze red like fire against a rugged mountain silhouette, the faint echo of a bull elk bugling in the distance.
No, this isn’t Montana or Idaho. It’s not Wyoming or Colorado or even Arizona.
This is New Mexico!
Centrally divided by a continuous yet diverse expanse of mountain ranges, New Mexico meanders from Colorado through the southernmost peaks of the Rockies in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, into the Sandia-Manzano Mountains along the Rio Grande valley and ultimately reaches the jagged granite peaks of the Organ Mountains overlooking the arid Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico. High plains along the eastern border with Texas give way to broken mesas, scenic plateaus, and heavily forested mountain wilderness near Arizona.
Although thoughts of New Mexico typically conjure a mental image of hot and dry desert landscapes, much of the state is actually more in line with an alpine climate. New Mexico rises in elevation from its lowest point along the Pecos River in southeastern Eddy County (2,845 feet) to its highest point on Wheeler Peak northeast of Taos, New Mexico (13,168 feet). With one of the most diverse landscapes in the world, New Mexico is home to notable fun facts like: the highest altitude state capital in the country (Santa Fe, New Mexico), the birthplace of the Wilderness Act (the Gila National Forest), and the state with the most unpaved roads.
New Mexico is the fifth largest state in the U.S., boasting a land mass of just under 122,000 square miles. But despite its geographic size, with a total population of just 2.1 million, it’s one of the least densely populated states in the nation. Lazy, wide-open country creates a slow pace, laid-back culture affectionately referred to by the locals as “the land of mañana.”
New Mexicans take great pride in our Spanish and Native American heritage. The legendary mystique of the cowboy philosophy can easily be felt today. Here, the romantic images of riding horseback through a steep canyon, working cattle along a barbed wire fence, tumbleweeds quietly rolling in the wind, and crystal-clear blue skies are more than just theatrics. Indeed, New Mexico is the real-life backdrop for many of the best Western films of all time. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, John Wayne’s The Cowboys, Silverado, and Lonesome Dove are just a handful of Westerns that were filmed in New Mexico. But cowboy hats and boots are more than just a fashion statement; this is business attire in a state where land-based activities such as ranching, riding the range via horseback, hunting wild big game, fishing, and fur trapping are still a respected and revered way of life.
Cattle ranching continues to be one of New Mexico’s top producing industries and has been since long before statehood back to the days of Spanish colonial rule under Juan de Onate. Today, New Mexico is home to some of the largest, contiguously-deeded acreage ranches in the country. Many of the top 100 landowners in America have significant investments/holdings in New Mexico ranch real estate. The historic Bell Ranch in San Miguel County spans 290,100 acres, boasts 3,000 head of mother cows, is in its fourth generation of production, and continues to be managed as it was 100 years ago: by cowboys on horseback. And this is just one example of many; the TO, UU Bar, CS, Singleton, and Great Western are large working ranches that illustrate New Mexico’s value of conserving history and tradition through maintaining ranching as a livelihood.
Like other Mountain States, New Mexico relies on annual snowpack to maintain surface water and replenish ground water reserves. However, like many desert climates, New Mexico also experiences an annual monsoon season from July–September which accounts for much of the state’s annual rainfall. With less than 10 inches of rain annually, livestock carrying capacities are lower than other states, but despite this, New Mexico is prime cattle country. This is because what we lack in soil moisture we make up for in the nutritional quality of the forage. New Mexico’s rangeland is primarily Blue Gramma, a grass which is drought tolerant and maintains up to 50 percent of its nutrients even when dormant.
However, cattle are no longer the only reason to purchase land in New Mexico. Over the past two decades, a new and equally vibrant industry has emerged to encompass ranch real estate. Big game hunting is big business all over the world and New Mexico is no exception. With some of the best hunting and fishing in the country, New Mexico has more species of huntable big game than any other state in the lower 48, and the trout fishing along the San Juan River below Navajo Dam is world renowned. New Mexico is famous for our elk populations, but we have fantastic mule deer, antelope, and bighorn sheep hunting as well. We also have three species of free ranging exotic big game (oryx, ibex, and aoudad) which makes the state unique from any other in the country. New Mexico is a highly desirable location for both New Mexico resident and non-resident hunters.
Hunting and fishing combined are the number one tourist activity in New Mexico, and the industry contributes over a billion dollars to the state’s economy annually. In-fact, big game hunting alone is the second highest grossing recreational activity in the state (just slightly behind skiing—yes, we have that too). The guided hunting and fishing industry is booming in New Mexico, and ranch real estate is playing a very large role in that success.
With over 50 percent of New Mexico’s land mass characterized as private land, hunting permit programs provide ranch owners with the ability to capitalize on the sale of hunting and fishing opportunity. Hunting permits for elk are awarded to private land ranches based on the quality of habitat provided by the property. Opportunities for mule deer, antelope, bear, cougar, oryx, aoudad, turkey, and other small game hunting permits are also available. And private land fishing easily rivals that of states with more water. These opportunities, which are fully transferable, can be sold on the open market either direct to sportsmen or through an established outfitter. Landowners looking to partner with well-established, respected, and highly ethical outfitters should contact the New Mexico Council of Outfitters and Guides for more information
Regardless of how you plan to manage your property, New Mexico is a ranch-friendly state. The expense of ranch ownership is amongst the lowest in the West. Operation costs and state regulations pertaining to ranch activities are minimal and not overly burdensome. And land values are half the cost of surrounding states. As stated by John Diamond of Beaverhead Outdoors Ranch Group (BeaverheadOutdoors.com), a firm brokering some of the most prized cattle and hunting ranch properties in the state, “New Mexico ranches offer extremely unique opportunities compared to most of the country. The diverse terrain and temperate climate create year-round options for cattle ranchers while also creating an environment where trophy game thrives in a large variety of species.” So, whether you’re in the market for a cattle ranch, a hunting ranch, or a ranch with river frontage, the beauty of New Mexico is that you really don’t have to choose. The Land of Enchantment has it all.