Are You Really Saving Money by Hunting?

by Scott Sery on November 25, 2013

Save Money HuntingThis is the time of year that millions of people across the country don their bright orange vests and go out in search of harvesting their own food.  They pile into trucks, spend weeks in the woods; they laugh, drink, and usually shoot a deer, elk, or other large game animal.  For many hunters it is a sport; a good time out with friends.  For many other hunters it is a means of survival.  Hunting can end up costing a lot of money, but hunters will justify their past time by saying they are saving money by harvesting their own animals.  Is it worth it?  I have done a quick breakdown of the numbers to see if you really do save money by hunting.

First of all, we will ignore the costs of one-time expenses such as a rifle, binoculars, and other gear.  These do play a factor, but for now (and for simplicity sake of not amortizing the costs of a gun over the years) we will consider just the on-going expenses.  These will obviously vary by state, which animal you are hunting, and how much you value your time.  Since I live in Montana, we will look at deer hunting in Montana.

Deer Tag: $14 (plus $10 for a conservation tag)

Fuel: $50 per trip (depending on how far you go)

Lunch and snacks: $15

Meat Processing: $75

Total Costs for 1 Trip: $164

For $164 you can expect to harvest about 150 pounds of meat from your typical mule deer.  This means you are paying around $1.09 per pound (which if you have that meat made into jerky, sausage, or spiced another way you can double or triple that price).  When beef costs around $4 per pound (when you buy in bulk), your hunting trip is actually a pretty good deal.  However, keep in mind most hunters do not just take one trip out.  They may drive further than a couple hundred miles, take time off work, or go out hunting multiple days throughout the season.  Every trip out adds another $50 in fuel costs.  A day off work costs $160 (if you earn $20/hr at your job) or more.  So if you go hunting 4 times, and have to take two days off work to make those trips, suddenly buying beef is cheaper and much easier.

I’m not exactly being fair to hunters here.  I understand that many people do not hunt simply for economic reasons (and those who truly are looking for cheap meat will often shoot 2 deer in an afternoon and butcher them in the garage).  Many people go hunting because they love to hunt.  And I have long been a proponent of the mindset that if this is something you love doing, spend your money on it and have fun doing it.  Personally, I have made 3 trips out this year.  All I want is to shoot a doe so I can restock my freezer.  But the amount of money I have put into hunting (not to mention 3 days worth of my time) is causing me to regret buying a tag this year (it’s not that I’m a bad hunter, I literally have not seen a single deer on the land where I can hunt, primarily due to bluetongue driving down the populations).

I wrote to you a while back about growing your own vegetables in a garden and how it is really not the most economical way of providing food.  But there is fun to be had, lessons to be learned, you get exercise, good wholesome organic food, and I like tending a garden.  The same rules apply to hunting.  Sure it may not save you money, but it is a fun past time, and if nothing else you are getting out and getting exercise.  Just keep in mind that you are probably not saving as much money as you think you are.

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Scott Sery

Scott Sery is a native to Billings, Montana. Within an hour in nearly any direction he can be found fishing, hunting, backpacking, caving, and rock or ice climbing. With an extensive knowledge of the finance and insurance world, Scott loves to write personal finance articles. When not talking money, he enjoys passing on his knowledge of the back country, or how to live sustainably. You can learn more about Scott on his website Sery Content Development
  • I did a similar analysis not too long ago at vanessasmoney. Don’t forget how the sky is the limit when it comes to buying hunting equipment and gear!

    • agreed. I think with all hobbies it can be as little or as expensive as you want to make it.

  • Interesting question. The last time a flock of wild pigs came down to my village, they killed them ALL, not thinking that next time there won’t be any… We don’t hunt but kill our own chickens and buy a pig once in a while, which is not a great business either but at least it covers the costs and you know what you eat.

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