Posts Tagged ‘#Affordable Dream Hunts’

DIY Costs: Dream Hunts are Affordable

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

The almighty dollar keeps a lot of people from doing the things they dream about. I was lying in bed in my dorm room 25 years ago while I was trying to attain a degree in journalism/communications. After finishing schoolwork I’d flip through magazines and imagine what life would be like in the big mountains.

When I read about elk hunting in the Rocky Mountains I figured the dreams had no chance of becoming a reality. Anything I could find pertaining to elk hunting spelled out B-I-G…….M-O-N-E-Y. The outfitters ranged from $2,500 to $4,500 all depending on where you wanted to go. There was no possible way I could afford that.

Upon graduating from college in 1991 my father took me on my first elk hunt in Colorado. We went out for the second rifle season and my father booked with an outfitter to put us in a drop camp. We would be packed in by horses and left in a tent to spend the week and fend for ourselves. Since we had no idea what to do it sounded like a good plan. Unfortunately, when we got to Colorado record amounts of snow had fallen over the past few days. Search and rescue teams were combing the mountains in order to find stranded hunters from the first rifle season.

With all of that chaos going on we decided to leave the outfitter’s place, swallow our deposit and hunt on our own. That morning we headed toward the nearest mountain range with public land. Not knowing where we were going we kept driving along dirt roads until we found a few National Forest signs with numbered roads. When we started up one of the rounds we spotted a truck buried to its axles. My dad got out and offered the two men a hand. They gladly accepted and latched a tow strap onto the bumper. As soon as their vehicle popped loose from the snow it ripped the bumper off my dad’s truck.

After a quick assessment we exchanged pleasantries and asked if they could direct us to a place where we could hunt elk. They pointed toward a mountain in the distance and told us what roads to follow to get there. A few hours later we were “in amongst them” as the natives like to say. There were elk in the timber right with us. We’ve hunted this same area since 1991.

So why did I tell you about that incident? It’s because we had planned on spending a significant amount of money for something we never needed. Since we had never hunted in the west we didn’t realize how much public land is available for hunting. There are millions of acres open to the public. Many of these pieces allow motorized vehicles and many do not. This allows you to pick a place that’s right for you. If you like to tool around on 4-wheelers and off-road motorcycles there are plenty of places to fill your fancy.

Finding a place to camp was fairly simple. We have always camped in the same general area. Camping doesn’t cost us a red cent. We bring our own 12×14 wall tent and haul an enclosed trailer. Our gear is neatly stacked in the trailer, so we have access to more than we probably need.

After pitching the tent every year we head to town to get our food. The amount of food we get depends on a lot of different things. I’ll get into that at a later date. Since there are usually four of us we split the cost four ways. We do the same for all of the gas purchased during the trip.

In order to make sure this is done fairly we keep a running tab in a notebook. If my dad gets the gas the first time he records it in the notebook. If Dave gets it the next time it gets recorded. If a toll is paid the same thing happens. In the end the notebook looks something like this for totals: Charlie $260 for gas; Dave $210 for gas; Todd $160 for gas and tolls; Brian $180 for gas; Dave $370 for food. So in the end all of the numbers get added up and divided by four. Everyone ends up paying the exact same amount. Any food, snacks, drinks or souvenirs are the responsibility of the person who wants them. This seems to work much better than trying to split things up evenly without actually recording the numbers.

By the time the week is done you will have to buy your license, food, and gas. Back in the old days tags only cost $250 which made the overall expense much less, however the entire trip can still be done for less than $1, 000 dollars if you limit your spending. The most expensive part of the week will be your license. If you hunt in Colorado you can buy your tag over the counter in many units and you can choose between an either sex tag or a cow tag. Cow tags will be cheaper, but it’s not much fun when a big bull lets a bugle rip when he’s standing 20 yards away in an aspen grove and you can’t shoot him. I’d suggest spending the extra money to get an either sex tag.

So, where am I going with this? I just want to make sure everyone knows they can do this hunt of a lifetime without spending piles of money. As long as you can take care of yourself and you like to hunt on your own you will be fine. This way you can explore different areas and not be tied to the one place an outfitter brings you. Most people also don’t know that a lot of outfitters guide on public hunting land that is open to you to hunt on without them. I’ve met more than one hunter in the woods who was hunting with a guide and outfitter and they were amazed to learn I was on my own.

Take the time to do your research, find places that look good, and Just Do It! You will not be disappointed. With every trip you’ll gain more knowledge and become more proficient with the tasks that need to be accomplished while you’re living the dream.