Wednesday, April 24, 2019

It Really is Possible

Several years ago, I was like a lot of outdoorsmen I know and felt that some of the big adventures I had always dreamed of were out of reach.

Buck killed in Illinois 2018
Being a working class man with a modest job and even more modest writing career, I always felt that hunting big game and upland birds was something relegated for the rich and the well off.

That was until I made the decision years ago to "try" and go on at least one hunting trip or fishing trip every few years. My first real trip was to Pennsylvania to hunt whitetail deer. It was through the now defunct North American Hunting Club. They offered a unique to the time idea of "swap hunts". Where one hunter would offer hunting with him or her at their place in exchange for hunts at their your place. It was  great concept and it led to many awesome adventures.

Three trips to Pennsylvania for archery whitetail. A trip to Alaska for moose, and a trip to Texas for desert mule deer. All of these trips established friendships that opened even more opportunities to travel and hunt on a slim budget.

As an example, the Alaska moose hunt was the biggest and most expensive. But, I was able to save vacation days, and save money and the entire unguided three week moose hunt cost me - $1,400. You read that correctly. A $680 plane ticket and $400 license and the rest was food and misc expenses.

A 10 day trip to Idaho for mule deer a few years later cost all total - $1,100. Granted this is unguided on public land. But it was affordable and memorable.

On both of the hunts mentioned above, I was able to take an animal. I took my moose on the 9th day and the mule deer on the 6th day.

A trip to Texas for desert mule deer resulted in memories and friends made and a great experience. Same is true for elk in Colorado, three trips, no elk. But I have made great friends and learned a lot about hunting the Rockies.

This year, I have planned a pheasant hunt in South Dakota, a fly-in-fishing trip to Canada with Kashabowie Outposts, and if I get drawn for my Antelope tag- an antelope hunt in Wyoming.

I have come to learn that the biggest obstacle to taking big game or upland hunts is intimidation of the process. And it can be intimidating. But it doesn't have to be expensive or impossible. Here are some tips to making the trip of a lifetime come true.

1. Start with your budget. Set a budget and do not go over it. Surprisingly, in most cases your biggest expense is the hunting license and tag. Learn what those costs and then build your budget accordingly.
2. Select an animal and location.   This is especially true if the tags are lottery or over the counter. If you have to apply for a lottery tag, the process is daunting and can be difficult to manuver. We will do a full blog post on that shortly. I would recommend starting in places where over the counter tags are available.
3. Build a team of friends to share it with. It is amazing how sharing the expenses can help offset the burden of paying for a trip. Five of us driving to Colorado (30 hours in the truck!) is a lot less expensive than going alone and it adds to the experience. The fuel bill is split 5 ways, the food bill is split, and the work is shared.
4. Decide if you want to camp or stay in a hotel. This can really add to the expense, but also make it easier or more doable for some folks. I prefer to camp, it gets me closer to the hunting and the overall experience is enhanced by sleeping on a cot in the high country.
5. Plan for success. I have seen several hunters who take the trip and never expect to kill anything and then are overwhelmed when it happens and they don't know what to do to get the animal home. Plan for success. There are several options for success if driving. People haul freezers and generators to keep game fresh. You can have it processed and frozen for the return trip.
If flying, I have mailed my clothes home and checked the cooler with meat as luggage. I have also, done both. Mailed my clothes home and shipped meat home. But being prepared can save you a lot of money and headache.

The 7 day elk hunt in Colorado cost me $1,000. That was $618 for the tag and license and the rest in fuel and food.

It takes a lot of planning for sure, but many of these trips are very affordable and achievable if you plan it. Don't let your dream hunt or fishing trip pass you by because you feel you cannot afford it. Often it more possible than you realize.

Lastly, many years ago an elderly gentleman and I were discussing this topic and he instilled in me the premise - "don't let the fact that no one wants to go with you, stop you from going."
Granted it is cheaper and often more enjoyable if you have someone to share it with. But even when I cannot get someone to go with me, I do not let that stop me. Some of my best trips have been alone. And meeting the people along the way was the highlight of the experience.

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