Night Hunting in New Mexico – Hunting Regulations 

 July 10, 2021

By  Miranda Jones

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Last updated on July 24, 2022

New Mexico is one of three states, including Alabama and Rhode Island, that allow some form of night hunting of non-game animals. Nationally, it is illegal to hunt game animals at night. 

The only form of night hunting allowed in New Mexico is for raccoons, which requires a permit. Coyote hunting at night may be tempting since they are also unprotected, non-game animals with little regulation, but it is illegal. 

Below we will cover New Mexico fish and game regulations. We have included the different types of animals permitted for hunting, go into detail about raccoon and coyote hunting, different types of artificial light, and review whether convicted felons can hunt in New Mexico. 

Fish and Game

New Mexico's fish and game regulations vary depending on what you are hunting and the location you plan to hunt at. Fishing has a year-round season in most waters, but each lake or stream will have individual restrictions on bag and possession limits, including the size of the catch. 

Each lake or stream will have individual restrictions on bag and possession limits. Any angler from out of state will be required to purchase an annual fishing license, a one-day license, or a five-day license before fishing—the year for licensing goes from April 1st- March 31st. 

Anyone over 12 is required to have their New Mexico fishing license except on Native reservations and private class A lakes. Fishing times follow that of legal hunting hours. 

Below are several rules specific to hunting that will also apply to nighttime raccoon hunters. 

General Hunting Rules

New Mexico

While night hunting is not technically permitted, if you are out hunting for raccoons with the approved permit, here are some general rules for hunting in New Mexico that still applies for this specific circumstance. 

  • Legal shooting hours are between 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset. This applies to all big game, turkeys, and furbearers but excludes raccoons.
  • Legal sporting arms are limited to rimfire rifle, handgun no larger than .22 caliber, shotguns, or bow and crossbow.
  • Prohibited firearms and accessories include tracer ammunition, fully automatic weapons, and full-metal jacketed bullets. 
  • Hunter Education numbers are required for all hunters 17 or younger.
  • You cannot hunt or shoot an animal from an aircraft or drone or fly an aircraft in a way that will cause any disturbance to any un-domestic animals while resting or traveling.
  • Use any cellular, satellite, or Wi-Fi cameras for remotely hunting or scouting an animal.
  • Discharge a firearm within 150 yards from a building or dwelling (not including any abandoned or vacated structures on public land) without permission.
  • Under the Habitat Protection Act, no motor vehicles can be taken on closed or protected roads. Driving off established roads on either public or private land without permission is illegal.

These are only a few of the New Mexico hunting laws, so make sure to abide by all the laws and regulations held by national parks or private property owners while hunting on their land.

Animal Types

Big Game

  • Bear
  • Barbary Sheep
  • Bighorn sheep
  • Deer
  • Cougar
  • Elk
  • Ibex
  • Javelina
  • Pronghorn antelope
  • Oryx

Protected Furbearers during the Open Season

These protected species may be taken only during the open season: 

  • Badger
  • Beaver
  • Bobcat
  • Fox
  • Muskrat
  • Nutria
  • Raccoon
  • Ringtail
  • Weasel

Protected Furbearers

Taking these protected species at any time is prohibited:

  • Black-footed ferret
  • Coatimundi
  • Pine marten
  • River Otter

Unprotected/Non-Game Furbearers

  • Coyote
  • Skunk

Non-game Species

  • Himalayan tahr
  • Porcupine
  • Prairie dog
  • Ground squirrels
  • Rabbit

Lighting Types

Artificial Light

Artificial light permits are required for the use of flashlights on private property. Headlamps and handheld flashlights are permitted for raccoon hunting, but the use of spotlights or another artificial lighting such as lasers is illegal. 

Shining artificial light into areas where big game or other livestock is present while in possession of a sporting arm, except for raccoon hunting, is unlawful. 

Night Vision

The use of night vision scopes is not allowed outside regulated hunting hours because it requires a light source to produce the image. Any warm-blooded animals, including humans, are unable to see infrared, but digital vision is used with a charged coupled device or oxide semiconductor. 

Thermal Imaging

Thermal imaging detects the heat signatures of living beings in the area, therefore, not requiring a light source to create an image. Thermal and digital imaging can be used during the day as well.

There are no laws against using thermal imaging scope because it does not require an artificial light source to work. Many hunters use thermal imaging because it allows them to attach the thermal scope to their firearm then smoothly transition from day to night hunting without having to re-zero their optics. 

Raccoon Hunting

Raccoons are protected furbearers, so hunters in possession of a valid Trapper license may hunt raccoons at night only during the open season. The assistance of artificial light is permitted as long as it is either a headlamp or handheld flashlight. 

Trapping and the use of predator calls are allowed while hunting for raccoons, either during the day or at night. While they are the only animal permitted to be hunted at night, all laws regarding all protected furbearers must be followed. 

Coyote Hunting

Coyotes are unprotected furbearers and a non-game species alongside skunks. This means that a hunting license for residents and non-residents is not required to hunt them. Hunting season for coyotes is open year-round, and there is no bag limit for how many you can kill per trip.

You are legally able to use electronic game calls and decoys and a variation of weapons permitted for furbearers, such as firearms, bows and arrows, crossbows, and snares. There are also no regulations for transporting dead coyotes or their pelts across state lines. 

Coyotes are subject to very few limitations to hunting and trapping. On April 1st, 2019, New Mexico banned coyote killing contests. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed Senate Bill 76, making the creation or participation in a coyote killing contests a misdemeanor. 

The signing of Senate Bill 76 made New Mexico the third state to put a ban on killing contests that made coyotes a victim for entertainment value. This law went into effect on July 1st, 2019, making coyotes a more protected species. 

Can Felons Hunt in New Mexico? 

The short answer is yes. New Mexico law restricts any convicted felons to the use of archery equipment only since it is not considered a firearm. New Mexico Game and Fish allows for certain games to be hunted with a bow and arrow during the open season. 

Under New Mexico firearm laws, convicted felons are unable to possess, carry, or own a firearm or device considered destructive for a total of ten years after the completion of their sentence, including probation. 

Depending on the circumstances of the sentencing being repealed or deferred, the prohibition of carrying a firearm can be overturned. 


Although night hunting in New Mexico is exclusive to raccoons, fish and game catching options during the day are robust. Lenient gun laws and lack of regulation for coyote hunting have made New Mexico a hunting hotspot for amateur and skilled hunters alike.

About the author 

Miranda Jones

Miranda Jones is Smart Scouter's Product Research Manager. Miranda ensures that Smart Scouter stays at the forefront of thermal and night vision technology and knowledge so that our readers know they are getting the most up-to-date information. Miranda has been involved in the thermal industry in various capacities for 12 years. Miranda is a graduate of the University of Ohio and in her spare time enjoys camping and traveling across the US.

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