Hunting Season Begins at the Jicarilla Apache Nation’s Lodge and Ranch, a Thriving Business Venture Since 1995

The Jicarilla Apache Nation’s hunting grounds include Horse Lake Mesa Game Park, the largest single elk enclosure in the country. (Courtesy The Lodge and Ranch at Chama)

For any angler, hunter or outdoorsman, The Lodge and Ranch at Chama Land and Cattle Company is legendary. Owned by the Jicarilla Apache Nation, the award-winning destination is found in an area of northern New Mexico, known for its “sublime scenery and spectacular sporting.”

By day, visitors can rough it on 36,000 acres in the Rocky Mountains as part of a general hunt for deer, elk, bear, bison and turkey, or meander through more than 12 miles of mountain trout streams. Come dark, they return to the Lodge and find Belgian chocolates nestled on their pillows at bedtime — part of the resort’s nightly turndown service.

The Lodge mounts animals as decoration, and antler chandeliers preside over the Great Room. (Courtesy The Lodge and Ranch at Chama)

Located just 7 miles from the New Mexico-Colorado border, the 3,000-member Jicarilla Apache Nation extends a welcome to their magnificent world of nature, renowned for hunting, fishing, boating, camping and hiking opportunities. The land includes Horse Lake Mesa Game Park; at nearly 15,000 acres, it’s the largest single elk enclosure in the country. General ranch hunts are available over a massive 30,000 acres, while private hunts get narrowed down to 6,000 acres.

“This is much more than just a hunting lodge nestled among the aspens and oaks at 9,000 feet,” says Yvonne Sandoval, general manager of the operation for 25 years. “We are a hunting and fishing lodge that uses mounts of all the animals we hunt as decoration, like antler chandeliers found in our Great Room, but we’re an elegant facility that presents clients with a unique experience. Once you’re a guest, you’re likely to return. I’ve had clients come back year-after-year for the past quarter century.”

While there are year-round opportunities to immerse oneself in nature in its purest form, it has to be in cooperation with the weather. “This year we had an abundance of snowfall — defined as in excess of 167 inches — so activity levels don’t pick up traditionally until about mid-June, when snowmelt offers accessibility to the higher lakes, about the time turkey hunts end. High season begins in the fall about the time the leaves start to turn color ushering in the big game hunting season that typically runs from September to November.”   

Most visitors arrive here willing to give up their normal business trappings of suit, tie and briefcase, and trade them for a hunting vest and a rifle or a creel and a fishpole.

All hunting and fishing packages include lodging, meals, guide service and transportation on ranch property. Trophy Bull Elk, Antlerless Elk, Trophy Bull Buffalo, Spring Turkey, and a Fall Cast-and-Blast combo of fish and grouse are all full-day bookings. Fly fishing is no-limit-catch-and-release.

“We’re talking about stocking the once-endangered Apache trout and are already in the planning stage of an area where anglers will fish specifically for cutthroat trout, because not many places have them available,” says Sandoval.

For those with extended families or for corporate bookings, the entire lodge with its 21 rooms and 4 suites can be rented at the day rate of $12,180. For smaller parties, per person per day (double occupancy) lodging only runs $290 and includes meals and complimentary bar along with use of the spa.

The award-winning Lodge also offers corporate facilities, ideal for clients and staff. (The award-winning Lodge also offers corporate facilities, ideal for clients and staff.) (Courtesy The Lodge and Ranch at Chama)

“The Nation purchased the property in 1995 as one of their business ventures,” adds Sandoval. “They own it; we manage it as a separate enterprise. Revenue that is generated here, stays here. It gets returned to us (Chama Land & Cattle Company) as caretakers of the property to be reinvested for renovation and operating expenses.”