NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The Game and Fish Department is drawing criticism from local hunters over the way they hand out elk tags. They think New Mexicans should get preference over out-of-state hunters, but there are New Mexicans who benefit from the current system.

Guston Woods, owns Pasamonte Hunts, a business that has been in his family for generations, leading hunters along 56,000 acres of land near Clayton. “My family bought our place in 1934, my son is the 6th generation,” Woods said.

Each year, Woods is given a certain number of elk licenses from the state. He then sells them to men and women looking to harvest an elk. This is all part of the Elk Private Land Use System or EPLUS.

“I would say about 90% of hunters that we use are from out of state,” Woods said. He says those out-of-town hunters bring a lot of money to the state. “Local taxidermy, them staying, eating at restaurants, AirBNB, ammo,” Woods said. “One of our hunters bought three guns at our local store while he was here,” he explained.

Despite that, the EPLUS system is drawing criticism from local hunters and the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, saying it’s unfair to locals. “We’re getting priced out,” said Jesse Deubel, the Executive Director of the NM Wildlife Federation. “It’s a result of the fact that these tags are being sold to the highest bidder,” he explained.

According to a report released by the NM Wildlife Federation, more than 75% of all licenses issued through the EPLUS system, are going to non-residents. “Just last year, that generated more than $83-million worth of sales to private individuals that are selling a public resource,” Deubel said.

Now, the Wildlife Federation is asking the State Gaming Commission to review their policies and make appropriate changes, giving locals a better opportunity to draw. However, Game and Fish said even with the EPLUS program, New Mexicans are still getting more tags than out of staters and at this moment they have no plans to change their practices.