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New Mexico Bird Hunting: Quail, Grouse, Pheasant Seasons, Rules, and More

New Mexico Bird Hunting: Quail, Grouse, Pheasant Seasons, Rules, and More

A bird hunter with his pointing dog hunting quail in the New Mexico desert

Discover the latest 2023 seasons and license fees for New Mexico bird hunting. Hunt southwest quail, blue grouse, pheasant, and more.

After a hard day of packing out a bull elk on a drift boat, my hunting party and I transitioned away from the high desert and into the pristine New Mexican mountains. Blue grouse, or, more accurately, dusky grouse hunting, was on the menu. I borrowed a 28-gauge Remington Model 1100 in hopes of shooting my first New Mexico grouse. 

The steep mountain was full of beautiful overlooks, manageable temperatures, and the tell-tale signs of upland birds. Young aspen cut their way down the mountain with overgrown logging roads; it felt like decent ruffed grouse habitat

We had been lucky to see grouse right out of the truck and figured hunting them was a sure bet. However, the day came together differently than planned. The blue grouse stayed safe on that day’s hunt despite some wild flushes. 

This combined elk and grouse hunting trip took me through the diverse landscapes that New Mexico has to offer. It left me wanting to continue to chase the infamous southwestern grouse species, plus Montezuma (Mearns), Gambel’s, and Scaled quail. The eastern side of the state even has wild bobwhite quail.

The “Land of Enchantment” has an estimated 31 million acres of hunting land. In federal lands, that includes over 13 million acres of Bureau of Land Management land and almost 10 million acres of US Forest Service land. The state owns another nine million acres, of which over 40 percent is open to hunting.

In addition to quail and grouse hunting, New Mexico also offers pheasant hunting, three species of dove hunting, and band-tailed pigeon hunting. It is also home to four squirrel species.

This is the latest information you’ll need to plan your 2023-24 New Mexico upland bird hunting adventure! 

Species*SeasonDaily / Possession LimitNotes
Scaled QuailNov. 15, 2023 – Feb. 15, 202415/30Limit is combined with other quail. No more than 5/10 Montezuma quail
Gambel’s QuailNov. 15, 2023 – Feb. 15, 202415/30Limit is combined with other quail. No more than 5/10 Montezuma quail
Montezuma Quail (Mearns)Nov. 15, 2023 – Feb. 15, 202415/30Limit is combined with other quail. No more than 5/10 Montezuma quail
Bobwhite QuailNov. 15, 2023 – Feb. 15, 202415/30Limit is combined with other quail. No more than 5/10 Montezuma quail
Dusky Grouse (Blue)Sep. 01 – Dec. 31, 20233/6
PheasantDec. 07 – Dec. 10, 2023 3/6Check below for special permit hunts
Mourning & White-Winged Dove (North Zone)Sept. 1–Nov. 29, 2023 15/45 (Combined with White-winged dove)
Mourning & White-Winged Dove (South Zone)Sept. 1–Oct. 28, 2023 & Dec. 1, 2023 – Jan. 1, 202415/45 (Combined with White-winged dove)
Band-Tailed Pigeon (North Zone)Sept. 1– Sept. 14, 20232/6A free Band-tailed Pigeon Permit is required
Band-Tailed Pigeon (South Zone)Oct. 1– Oct. 14, 20232/6A free Band-tailed Pigeon Permit is required
Eurasian Collared-DoveApr. 1, 2023 – Mar. 31, 2024unlimited
Squirrel (Abert’s,Red, Gray, and Fox)Sep. 1 – Dec. 31, 20238/16 (combined)

*The bird hunting season dates, game bird species available, and other information is subject to change. The article may not reflect this. Please visit the New Mexico Game & Fish website for the most up-to-date information on bird hunting in New Mexico. This information was last updated on August 12, 2023.

Southwestern Quail Hunting in New Mexico

New Mexico is famous for its southwestern quail hunting opportunities alongside Arizona. These unique species offer different challenges to upland bird hunters and hunting dogs. Each year, populations can be influenced heavily by rainfall. One season high can be followed by an all-time low. One should consider their ethics when traveling to hunt southwestern quail, including the best practices on personal bag limits and an understanding of how to not over-hunt a covey.

The daily bag limit for combined quail is 15 (including up to 5 Montezuma Quail), with a possession limit of 30 (including up to 10 Montezuma Quail).

A scaled (blue) quail successful harvest by a hunter in New mexico

Scaled Quail Hunting 

Scaled quail, sometimes called blue quail, are a popular upland game bird in New Mexico. It is the most widely distributed quail population in the state. Spring rain is very important to scaled quail populations. Scaled quail are famous for running, making them a challenging upland game bird. 

Scaled quail season opens November 15, 2023, and runs until February 15, 2024. 

Gambel’s Quail Hunting 

Gambel’s quail look very similar to California (valley) quail. The second most distributed southwestern quail species, Gambel’s rely on spring moisture for good populations, just like scaled quail. New Mexico Game & Fish states, “Gambel’s quail are a warm-desert resident of brushy and thorny vegetation in desert mountain foothills, brushy drainages, as well as adjoining cultivated lands.”

Gambel’s quail season opens November 15, 2023, and runs until February 15, 2024. 

Montezuma Quail (Mearn’s Quail) Hunting 

Mearn’s quail, commonly called the Montezuma quail, inhabit most of the southwestern portion of New Mexico. Unlike scaled and Gambel’s quail, summer rains have the most significant influence on Montezuma quail populations. New Mexico Game & Fish describes their habitat as “pine-oak and oak scrub habitats, especially in open woodlands with a grass understory. They are often found on steep slopes and do not occur in areas without an adequate grassland component.”

Montezuma quail season opens November 15, 2023, and runs until February 15, 2024.

Bobwhite Quail Hunting 

Believe it or not, the whole eastern side of New Mexico is home to a healthy population of northern bobwhite quail. Their populations are closely tied to spring rain seasons. Bobwhite quail are the most distributed species of quail in North America and are the iconic “prince of the uplands.” 

Bobwhite quail season opens November 15, 2023, and runs until February 15, 2024.

A hunter searches for dusky grouse in the New Mexico mountains

Dusky Grouse Hunting

Dusky grouse, sometimes called blue grouse, are found most abundant at elevations above 7,000 feet in the north-central part of New Mexico. They need conifer trees to survive winters and are commonly found in conifer and aspen mixes during the hunting seasons. 

The dusky grouse season opens September 1 to December 31, 2023, with a daily bag limit of 3 grouse and a possession limit of 6. 

Pheasant Hunting in New Mexico 

While pheasant are an introduced non-native species, New Mexico has small pockets of wild populations with limited hunting opportunities. The shot season runs from December 7th to the 10th, 2023, with a limit of 3 male birds (6 possession limit). 

Multiple special permit draw hunts for pheasant in New Mexico are only available to residents. This includes two youth hunts, one in the Bernardo hunt area on October 21, 2023 (20 permits) and the other at the W.S. Huey hunt area on December 2nd, 2023 (40 permits). Adults have access to a later hunt at W.S. Huey on December 09, 2023 (40 permits). These permits are only available during a special permit drawing. 

Dove and Pigeon Hunting in New Mexico

If dusky grouse hunting is not an option to scratch that September hunting itch, New Mexico offers plenty of dove and pigeon hunting opportunities. New Mexico provides mourning and white-winged dove seasons as well as band-tailed pigeons. Furthermore, it offers a year-round season for Eurasian Collared doves. Outside the Eurasian Collared dove, the migratory bird regulation handbook dictates the seasons. 

New Mexico Hunter’s Safety Course

Like every state, New Mexico requires a hunter’s safety course completion recognized by one of the 50 states to be able to buy a hunting license. New Mexico is among the states allowing hunter’s safety to be taken entirely online. The online course, offered by, is $34.95. New Mexico also offers free in-person hunter’s safety courses and field days. 

New Mexico Hunting License Requirements 

New Mexico hunting licenses can be purchased online or at a licensed vendor. They are valid from April 1st to March 31st of the following year. 

Game Hunting License (Squirrel and game birds)$15.00$65.00
Non-resident 4-day Game Hunting$33.00
A hunting dog on point in the New Mexico desert for quail.

Dog Training Permits

New Mexico requires a $15 permit for dog training for call-pen release birds (pheasant, chukar, or bobwhite quail). Field trials and hunt tests also require the $15 permit, and pen-raised pheasants, quail, chukars, and mallards can be used. 19.35.2 NMAC governs these rules.

New Mexico Blaze Orange Requirements

Hunters hunting on military properties must wear at least 244 square inches of blaze orange. If you’re hunting at Ft. Bliss, they require a blaze orange vest to be worn. Elk hunters using rifles on Valles Caldera National Preserve must wear a minimum of 244 square inches of blaze orange. Those are all the blaze orange requirements listed by NMDGF.

“Though not required elsewhere by law, NMDGF strongly encourages hunters to wear blaze orange,” says the 2023-2024 New Mexico Hunting regulations. Project Upland strongly encourages all upland hunters to wear blaze orange, too. 

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