Hunting on a Budget

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When it comes to deer hunting, there are endless different ways to go about it—from one end of the monetary spectrum to the other, you can more or less spend as much or as little as you want to. 

At one end of the spectrum, you can drop mega cash on big-time outfitted hunts, stay in top-of-the-line lodges with warm food ready for you at camp, and probably have a minimum age class or score of buck you can shoot.

At the other end, whether by choice or necessity, there is hunting on a budget. Cutting costs, and doing everything yourself (especially when you travel) can still lead to wildly successful hunts. So, if you want or need to hunt on a budget, I’ve got plenty of experience at the frugal end of the spectrum and have picked up a few things along the way. 

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Hunt with a Buddy

There are a couple different camps when it comes to doing all your hunting with a buddy, but if you’re someone who’s looking to cut costs, doing everything with a good friend is a great way to go. When I look at how I’ve employed this and the effect it’s had on me, it’s not only been a great way to enjoy experiences with someone else, but it’s also been more affordable.

My good friend Garrett and I do all our hunting together. We hunt the same spots out of the same stands, share all information, and (more or less) all our gear. Hunting on a budget wasn’t the reason we began hunting and doing everything together, but it’s been a big bonus for us. When you hunt with a buddy, you’re able to split a lot of the costs. We go halves when buying trail cameras, stands, paying for cell cam plans, you name it. If we’re able to split the cost of something, we pretty much do it. Plus it’s nice being able to have someone to hunt with. 

Hunt with a buddy to help save costs on trips.

Bargain Shop for Hunting Gear

In this day and age of deer hunting, sometimes people want the best of the best “just to have it.” Whenever someone tells me they don’t deer hunt because of how expensive it is, I cringe. Yes, it can absolutely be crazy expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. 

You simply don’t need the brand-new 2022 bow, top-of-the-line camo, five of the nicest tree stands on the market, etc. Don’t be afraid to head into a Walmart for arrows or to look up a used bow on eBay or Facebook Marketplace. There will be options at a much lower price tag, and you can be just as proficient. To me, you’re much deadlier in the woods if you’re a great hunter with lower-end gear, as opposed to a bad hunter with top-of-the-line gear.

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Try Cost-Effective Camo

Not all new hunters need full suits of state-of-the-art camouflage. That can come later after your hunting skills improve. As long as you can stay warm and dry, you can get away with low-cost camo. You can find cheaper brands at outdoor stores like Cabela’s or even Walmart. Pick the right pattern for the areas you’re hunting and you’re set.

Hunt Public Land

No need to pay for access to private lands or join an elite hunting club right out of the gate. Public land is there for everyone, especially hunters. Checking out where there’s public land near you is easy with onX Hunt. Finding public land where you can hunt for no additional cost can save new hunters hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars each season.

Butcher Your Own Wild Game

The cost to process an average-size whitetail deer is between $75 and $200-plus depending on what cuts you request and where you live. Sometimes hunters lack the space to process game, but if possible, butchering your own wild game will save money. With a few basics: a knife, saw, butcher paper, and tape, an entire animal can be broken down in one evening. Of course, the next step many DIY butchers take is investing in vacuum sealers and standalone freezers.

Hunting Out of State

This section could be an entire post, but there are a few main points I want to hit on. Don’t let the idea of hunting out of state fool you into thinking it’s not plausible because of how expensive it is. Once again, it can be expensive, but it’s all about how you plan and prepare. First things first, take a look around at what states you want to hunt and check out their non-resident tag prices. Some are crazy expensive, while others are more moderate. Next, going with a buddy once again can prove fruitful—you can split gas prices, lodging, etc. 

Find out-of-state locations to hunt in using the onX Hunt app.

Once you’ve got those plans made, you’ll need to figure out where you’re going to stay. I always ask people: do you have anywhere you can travel to hunt where family or friends live? A big reason I started hunting in Nebraska as opposed to other states was my cousin lives down there and I can stay with him. So right off the bat, I’m not paying for any lodging. If that’s not the case, plan on staying in the cheapest motel you can find—or if you’re able to, don’t be afraid of camping. I also hunt North Dakota every fall and this upcoming season will be the first time I won’t have a buddy’s place to crash. Because of that, I’ll be staying at a campground instead of paying for a hotel. 

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Really, when it comes to chasing whitetails, you can spend pretty much what you want. Want to be fancy, have top-of-the-line stuff, and spend a ton? Easy to do. But if you want to hunt on a budget and cut costs and still be successful, that’s doable as well. 

Alex Comstock

Born and raised in northern Minnesota, Alex fell in love with whitetail hunting in high school. He jumped all in and hasn’t looked back. Alex owns, a YouTube channel, and blog focusing on all things whitetails, and has written for a number of whitetail-centric magazines. Alex now divvies up his time hunting whitetails across Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Nebraska.