One of the most popular movements in DIY deer hunting is traveling across state lines to extend your season, hunt locations known for giant bucks or simply to add a little more adventure to your season.
Of course financial resources make these experiences possible, and if your budget is tight, you might believe an out-of-state journey is beyond your means. But before you write it off entirely, let’s see if we can shave some expenses off the top.
Below are six ways that you can rework your budget to reduce expenses and make that dream hunt happen this fall.
1. Hunt Public Land
Leasing land or hunting with an outfitter usually boosts your odds for success but can cost thousands of dollars. Good news: you can entirely eliminate that expenditure. Take advantage of the millions of acres worth of public-land opportunities that abound across our great nation.
Public-land hunting typically involves deeper forethought and has many uncontrollable factors such as hunting pressure. With that said, many nice mature bucks are harvested on public lands by diligent, hardworking bowhunters. Again, it’s totally free in nearly every case.
2. Hunt an Adjoining State
Many hunters think they have to blaze halfway across the country to find great deer hunting but this isn’t the case. Adventure-rich locations are scattered all over the country. For example, a New York resident doesn’t need to travel out to Wyoming to hunt. Instead, he or she can try Ohio or Kentucky, which are far closer to home, reducing travel expenses.
A shorter trip is less taxing on the mind, so you’ll likely arrive more attentive and ready to make better decisions, in turn boosting your odds for a successful hunt.
In contrast, a 20-hour trip adds expenses and mental taxation to the mix. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try an adventurous, far-flung destination. I’m just putting an important consideration out there based on the concept of cutting expenses. If you’re trying to save money, hunt a neighboring state rather than one 1,000 miles away.
3. Leave the Truck Home
If you drive a truck, you’ll spend far more on fuel when traveling 10 or more hours than you would in a sedan. Yes, your truck is more convenient and can get you places a car can’t, but if pinching as many pennies as possible is the difference between affording the trip or not, then it’s a viable option. Driving a car can cut fuel costs in half.
If taking a truck is your only or best option, consider inviting a buddy and splitting travel/lodging costs.
4. Lodge Primitively
Staying in a Holiday Inn Express is nice and comfortable but $100-$130 per night translates to $700-910 for a weeklong stay. That’s a big chunk of money just for a place to crash at the end of a long day. Fortunately, there is a good alternative.
Tent camping can be done for free or a small daily fee at state or federal camping grounds. In some cases, you can even pop a tent on the same tract of public land you’ll be hunting (check the regulations first). Not only is it way cheaper (or free), but you get the convenience of walking from your tent to your treestand.
5. Pack Heat-Up Meals
A hot meal placed carefully in front of you after a long day afield is a welcome sight, but it can add up quickly over a week’s time. Say you spend $25 per day on restaurant meals – after 7 days you’re at $175. Instead, cook large meals during the weeks prior to you hunt and freeze them in zip-top bags.
Some of my favorite freeze meals are stews, soups and wild-game hot dogs or brats which can all be easily reheated/cooked over a small propane stove.
A good thick-walled cooler with ice will have no trouble keeping your food fresh for a week so you can get hot meals without the $25-per-day expense. You simply have to plan ahead.
6. Process Your Own Meat
It’s always tempting to drop off your harvest at a meat processor when you’re far from home. While this is convenient, commercial processing can quickly add another $200-400 to your bill.
If you’re still looking to save money, with a good knife, you can quarter or debone the meat and get it on ice for the trip home.
At home, with a hand grinder or consumer-grade electric grinder, you can grind the scrap meat for burger and cut the roasts and steaks into portion sizes that work for you – this eliminates commercial processing fees altogether.
It’s easy to put off an out-of-state whitetail hunt or only take one every so often due to the expenses. However, with just a little bit of planning you can make your next whitetail hunt one for the books!