Most serious deer hunters dream of chasing big bucks in “the land of giants,” but very few actually see that dream come to fruition. Interestingly, the most common obstacle that’s keeping hunters from making the trip to big-buck hot spots are big bucks. And I’m not talking about the deer: I’m talking about the money. It’s commonly assumed that a trip to the whitetail promised land is going to cost a pretty penny, and in many cases it can.
That said, an out-of-state hunt doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. With a little extra legwork and careful planning, you can chase that big buck dream on a budget. Here are five tips to make it happen.
1. Pick the right state
Many of the high profile big buck states, like Iowa, Kansas, and Illinois, have high price tags attached to their non-resident licenses. But there are plenty of other great options available at more reasonable rates, such as Kentucky, Indiana, and Wisconsin.
2. Hunt public or private by permission
A lot of aspiring out-of-state hunters assume they’ll need to use an outfitter or pay for a lease to have success, but that’s far from the truth. With smart scouting and a good plan, there are plenty of options available to hunters willing to explore public ground or ask for permission on private. For more advice on getting hunting access on private land, check out our earlier blog post, 4 Tips To Tackle Door Knocking Season.
While gas prices are lower now than they’ve been in several years, the cost of travel is still a major expense to consider when planning an out-of-state trip. The best way to cut this cost is to invite a friend or two along for the trip and carpool to your destination. A few hunting buddies will inevitably increase your fun factor, and splitting the gas expenses can substantially lower your overall bill.
The financial burden of staying a week in a hotel can add up quickly, especially if you’re on your own. So put in a little legwork to find a place to camp and you’ll keep costs much lower. A fifth wheel, pop-up camper, or even a souped-up van can all make for great budget accommodations. And if you’re really into roughing it, you can’t beat a tent for affordability.
5. Pre-plan meals
The final major cost associated with out-of-state trips is food, and this is another one of those expenses that can be managed with a little self-control and planning. I’m as guilty as anyone of wanting a hot burger and fries after a long day on stand, but that kind of junk food every night is a sure way to drain your bank account (and energy). Plan ahead and bring meals that you can prepare for yourself over a campfire, with a camp stove, or (if you have electricity) using a microwave or crockpot. A good cooler stocked at home with sandwich ingredients and beverages is a great option as well.