Do you think a western hunt is way out of your budget and you can only go on a guided hunt that costs thousands and thousands of dollars?
Wrong, a DIY western hunt can cost less than $2000 with a little time and research!
You can be hunt your choice of Rocky Mountain Elk, Coues Deer, Mule Deer, Pronghorn or maybe a bear, cougar, or wolf.
So, start saving now and make your dream become a reality and an annual event!
Do-It-Yourself (DIY) hunts are what I love to do. I enjoy everything from the research to the prep work and the actual hunt.
Today, with the wide range of information available on the internet, DIY hunts are easier than ever.
The majority of states have an interactive hunt planner to help you decide when, where and how to get to your hunt. They are loaded with information from the best zones for easy terrain, to the game units with the best odds for success for your chosen weapon.
Many states are also very Non-Resident (NR) friendly and often offer NR tags before general season or controlled hunt tags over-the-counter.
There is so much information that I can’t fit it all in one post, so I will cover the information in two posts. This post will focus on how to get started with your budget and on selecting the destination.
How To Get Started Planning Your Hunt
The first thing you need to do is decide what your budget is and what you want to hunt. You can hunt a warm Coues Deer Archery hunt in January in Arizona or a warm to cool early season Elk Archery hunt in Colorado.
If you are the adventurous type, you can head further north to Montana or Idaho and chase Elk in weather from 70 degrees to the mid-20s in September.
For our example, we will work through a DIY Over-the-counter (OTC) Archery – Elk rut hunt in the August/September time frame.
Location, Location, Location
Options for an early season archery elk hunts span the west, however, looking for an OTC tag narrows it down to a few key states – Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho are great options.
Next I determine cost of tags and what you get for each tag. While Colorado has the largest elk population in the US, you can hunt elk and fish on their tag.
Idaho offers an archer, an elk tag with the option of using it for bear, cougar or grey wolf plus 3 days of fishing.
Each state varies on what they offer so it pays to shop around for the best OTC deal.
For brevity, let’s go with Idaho, OTC tag for elk.
The Non-Resident OTC tag for elk with hunting license and other required permits comes to $591.50 (with archery permit, and three-day fishing license).
Budget Total After Tag Purchase – $591.50
To determine my budgeted costs, I use a spreadsheet I created which helps me determine the projected costs associated with this hunt.
First and foremost is determining how you are getting to the area you plan to hunt. In this case, we will plan to fly to a nearby airport and rent a truck suitable for our hunt.
Airfares vary across the country, but a little research can get you a roundtrip flight for under $500.
For this planned trip, let’s stay with our airfare of $500.
Searching rental websites, I found a Ford crew cab truck with 4 wheel drive and unlimited mileage for 10 days at $560 after airport fees and additional taxes due to the great city of Boise.
Add the cost of fuel to and from your hunting location (our estimate is $235 – 26 gallons x 3 x $3 per gallon).
I have driven my own vehicle on western hunts before. Depending on the price I get from the airlines and rental costs (and family or work time restraints) I make a call on driving or flying and renting.
The spreadsheet is set-up for both options and can help you make the call on which way you want to travel.
Budget Total After Airfare, Truck Rental & Tag Purchase – $1886.50
All the Other Costs
Now, we need to determine your chow budget for the non-hunting travel and scouting days.
I use a general rule of $15 per meal x 3 meals per day.
On this hunt we are planning two travel days and one scouting day. This adds $135 to our trip budget.
An additional budget item when flying is purchasing the items you cannot fly with such as stove fuel. For this I add an additional $50 for local gear purchase.
Additionally, we spend a night in a hotel to shower before we head home. Cost – $115 with taxes.
Budget Total For 10 Day Idaho OTC Archery Elk Hunt – $2186.50
For around $2000 we are heading west for 10 days – 2 days of travel, a day of scouting and 7 days of chasing elk during the rut.
Make it Even Cheaper – Let’s look at cutting costs to trim the total budget down even more!