In the last year I spent 20 days in Colorado as well as 40 days hunting in Utah. I went broke both times, for different reasons. This blog gives advice on how much to budget for expenses once your hunt has started. I assume you will pursue a basic western hunt that doesn’t require a plane ticket. If you do a few simple things you can hunt for a long time on a little bit of money.
Tags can range from consuming half your budget to nothing at all. When I hunted elk in Colorado, I had $1,500 saved up, and the tag cost over $600. By comparison, hunting coyotes in Utah cost me nothing at all. Whatever you hunt check with the division of wildlife to insure you have every tag. Some states require habitat stamps and others do not. Additionally, you may have to set up an account at the local field office before you can buy an OTC tag. This happened to me in Colorado and nearly cost us a morning of hunting. Randy Newberg and John Stallone each have good podcasts decoding the draw process in each state.
Gas money will consume an immense amount of cast if you drive something like a truck or suburban. Try to hunt with a buddy so you can split the cost. Also consider that gas costs different amounts in different parts of the US. Gas Buddy, an app that finds the cheapest gas in the area, can help save you money along the way.
Food has been surprisingly cheap ($50-$60 a week). I eat fairly clean and still avoid breaking the bank. I also shop almost exclusively at Walmart. I always eat fruits and vegetables. I also eat ramen mixed with soup in the evenings and peanut butter sandwiches with cheese for lunch. McDonald’s isn’t a bad option either, but if the old adage “you are what you eat is true” I have a feeling a baby carrot would have an easier time hiking over a mountain than a double quarter pounder with cheese.
Gyms and Showers
Getting a workout and a shower in will do wonders for your mindset. It may seem crazy to think you would workout during a hunt, but on longer hunts when you only hunt mornings a gym can be a place to get some social interaction and avoid cabin fever. When I elk hunt I bring a yoga mat to stretch out at the end of the day. If you can find a cool creek to sit in as a makeshift ice bath, this can be super helpful as well. You will develop some aches and pains from hiking and carrying gear as well as sleeping on an air mattress. Avoid ibuprofen and instead mitigate the effects through stretching out and icing regularly.
Miscellaneous and Estimates
During my elk hunt I had my car battery die and had to buy a new one when I went back to Iowa. In Utah, the grace period of my student loans ended and the last $300 I was counting on disappeared. Car maintenance, student loans, insurance and other pains will get you. Be sure you write out the monthly payments. I try to hunt as long as I can, but I often cut it too close. When elk season ended I had $30 in my bank account. I really thought I had enough going in. Be sure to overestimate the costs to prevent any mishaps. Also, call it quits when you still have a few hundred buck left in the account. I hope this helps you out. I will have more blogs on advice for western hunting in the future.
Good luck, Stu