Sense & Centsibility Blog

Hunting on a Budget: Saving Money Before, During, and After the Hunt

If you are heading out hunting tomorrow for deer opener than you already know that hunting is an expensive hobby. Scent-covering hunting clothing alone can literally cost hundreds of dollars. Serious hunters typically spend hundreds more during the off season planting food plots, buying fancy deer stands, and making countless trips back and forth from the hunting shack.

The justification is always the harvest

Just think of how much money I can save with a freezer full of meat! Well, many spend $3.00 a pound and up to have it processed and packed for the freezer. This can raise the price tag by a $200 or more for even a small deer. The costs can be staggering, and the price per pound of your harvest can rival the prices on even the finest cuts of beef.

I have searched and searched for ways to save money and I have found ways to offset many of the large costs often associated with deer season and similar hunting events. There are common themes to keep in mind here, and these themes can be used when getting involved in other hobbies. Spending can be a big issue with winter and holidays and such just around the corner… besides, the objective is to fill the freezer with cheap meat, right?

Money saving tips

A few things to keep in mind to save money on deer hunting or whatever seemingly expensive hobby you may enjoy:

  1. Always shop for used and clearance items first! Especially bigger items you may only use once or twice a year like rifles, hunting boots, portable stands, etc.
  2. Find ways to make things at home. Especially the disposable items like snacks, food, scent killing sprays and wipes, and scent attractants.
  3. There are some purchases that are unavoidable or necessary for safety -- things like licenses, required blaze orange gear, etc. Keep these things in mind to minimize expenses and still make the necessary purchases for a successful and enjoyable season.

Before the hunt

I am an avid hunter so I have been in this situation... going from store to store, spending a seemingly endless amount of money to prepare for what is essentially a sixteen day hunting season. Buy in bulk and prepare meals ahead of time to save money and time at the shack.  The best meals I can remember are foods that were canned or prepared and frozen in advance. 

And check out ways to reduce the clutter by only buying necessary items. Remember, many of our grandfathers used open sighted rifles, a few shells, and maybe a cheap pair of binoculars to get their trophies. Why do we all of a sudden “need” every new gadget available?

I found an excellent blog by Dave Cristinzio of Pro Hunter’s Journal on scent control and attractant. Everything is homemade, cheap, and easy to produce. You can wash your clothes, yourself, and even carry a powerful attractant… all for less than the price of your average commercial doe urine. Plus you will never have to utter the words “You will never believe how much I paid for this pee!” ever again!

During the hunt

Again, keep it practical. Building a stand can be WAY cheaper than those commercially produced stands. Remember, check your local laws on permanent stands and NEVER cheap out on safety!  Use cheap bullets. That means using a common gun with readily available ammo, and buying less than top notch bullets. Bullets are like golf balls, few of us are truly good enough to understand and notice the difference between the average and top of the line products.

Walk, don’t ride, out to your blind or stand. This saves gas, wear and tear, and even gets your blood moving (chances are it is before sunrise). Also, your ability to creep quietly is much greater on foot than it is riding a loud motor that is spewing fumes into the forest. I know these seem like little changes and minor expenses, but they all add up to big savings over the course of the season.

After the hunt

You have harvested your animal, and are now ready to turn this into freezer ready portions. Sure, it’s easy to hand the coolers over to a processing plant, but after paying to mix in pork and process a hundred pounds of venison, the price tag can reach into the $300 to $400 range.

Buying garage sale canning supplies and a clearance dehydrator can make a huge difference. I spent $80 and gained a whole slew of jars and rings, a canning pot, and a nice little dehydrator with four trays and several inserts. Spending a bit more will get you all the canning lids and spice combinations you could possibly want, with enough left over to buy freezer wrap and a few other necessities. Canned venison, if you have never had it, sounds nasty. It is actually my second favorite way to store and eat venison, next to jerky. Between canning and dehydration, you can use all of the meat harvested and save money in the process.

Again, if you are not a hunter, but prefer other hobbies, keep these general tips in mind. Think creatively, buy used, and always use a discerning eye to determine needs from wants. You do not NEED a top of the line gun or NEED the same bike and gear as Lance Armstrong; nor do you NEED to buy $300 worth of gear for your new yoga class. Remember, shop carefully, buy clearance or used, and never cheap out on safety. Good luck to all of the Minnesota Hunters heading out this weekend! And remember to be safe!

When you think of financial counseling you may not think of saving money on something like hobbies. We are different. Our counselors will help you develop a budget to see the categories that you may be overspending in. Call us today at 888-577-2227 or visit our website. Whether it's debt, credit, money management, or reaching financial goals, we're here to support you, not take over. We'll listen and provide a plan that can get your spending back on track.

Author Malcolm Johannessen is HUD Certified Housing Counselor.