Financing a Hunting Trip

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For most on here there is a dream trip floating up around in their heads but there is a question of how to pay for it.  This has been a problem for all hunters that wish for that elusive moose, bear, goat, sheep, elk, deer, or any other hunt where you are required to hire a guide or you choose to hire one for that hunt of a lifetime.   

First off I am not a financial planner I am just a hunter that learned a long time ago that even with a great job there are going to be some things that will just stay as a dream unless you do something about it, and that time is now.  It was over 35 years ago when I was talking with a gentleman and he happened to ask me the $60,000 question at that time.  He asked me what I was doing with all of my money.  At that time all that I was concerned with was that I had food in my stomach and gas in my truck, the rest didn’t matter.  I was what they would call foot loose and fancy free.  He then asked me what I enjoyed doing and how much money it would take to continue to do these things.  At that time my bank balance looked close to the national debt.  A few years earlier I had spent every penny that I had for a brown bear hunt in Alaska when I was 19.  That trip had taken all of my savings from all the odd jobs that I had through high school and the summers of lawn mowing.

This man that I had been talking to was a financial planner and he offered to have me come into his office and to plan for my future.  Now I had a great job working for a fine company and I didn’t figure that there would be any problems doing what I wanted to do.  He however sat me down and started to explain just what it would take to be financially secure in my retirement years.  That first visit with him set in motion a savings plan that would eventually grow into my hunting account.  At that time I decided to invest money into a mutual fund along with a term life insurance program that his company offered.  At that time I didn’t miss the money and then over the years it started to grow and grow.  Then when the company that I worked for started a 401K plan I began putting money into it at the maximum rate that I could.  Now the 401K would be for my retirement and the other plan was set up for my hunting account. 

Now that I am retired my hunting account is to the point that I can withdraw enough funds for a real nice hunt of my choice each and every year without hurting it very much.  The company that I worked for gave me real nice retirement and the 401K will go along with that when I start to withdraw from it. 

So if you want to plan for a hunt of your dreams in the future and don’t have the funds to pay for it I would suggest that you find yourself a financial planner and sit down with him and let him know where you would like to be in the future as far as the hunts are concerned.  He may also be able to help you out for your retirement and what ever else you might enjoy doing that cost money.  The big thing is that you need to do it now if you are young.  You’ll be surprised at what you will have in 30 or 40 years to be able to draw upon for that dream.


ManOfTheFall's picture

Yes, I believe most hunters

Yes, I believe most hunters have their dream hunts planned out, but rarely do them. I am in that boat. I've been talking about going out west for an elk and an antelope hunt since I was 25 years old. This year I will turn 45 and have yet to do it. I have made some baby steps though and I think within the next 5 years I should be able to go. Thanks for the tip and the comments too.

AlpineClimber's picture

Great input and information.

A recent move I did to hedge the cost of a Stone Sheep was plan ahead and lock in my price.  Stone Sheep tags are becoming more and more less available.  The cost will soon rival Desert Big Horn Hunts.  Once I interviewed several outfitters at the SCI Show over two years, I finally settled on one.  My hunt will not be until 2013.  Nearly every Stone Sheep Outfitter has raised their prices in a recession when other outfitted hunts are being lowered.  The outfitter I went with has guaranteed my price with a small deposit and will allow me to hunt in 2012 if I desire.  Overall, I am very pleased and do not have to take a big financial whack in the process.

hunter25's picture

This is all very sound advice

This is all very sound advice and I hope all the younger guys are paying attention. I have saved some but my company retirement plan is fair at best. I coluld have done far better if I had planned more when I was younger. I am doing a lot more things now but I am spending for my trips as I make the money.

Even though I have been with the same company for over 20 years the current recession has cut my income by about 20% the last few years.

I have always been super cheap on basics so there is no more money to save from that direction.

The biggest way I save for my annual trips is avoiding things like a new truck or car. It would be great but what I have works fine and the lack of payment gives me over 4,000 per year for hunting. And right now that is far more important.

Here's to the future guys and all the hunts we dream of going on.

groovy mike's picture

two sides of every budget

Critter gave some good advice here but don't forget that there are two sides to every algebraic equation and two sides to every budgeting issue.


You will never go wrong by planning ahead financially.  Increasing your savings as suggested is a great start.  It is smart and down right necessary if you want to take hunting trips without causing yourself (or worse your family) financial hardships.


A method to increase savings that has worked well for me is that when you get a raise in your income, take at least a portion of it and have it automatically set aside into a savings account or other savings vehicle (EE US savings bonds, money market account, etc.).  You never miss it because it is money that you are used to getting along without (since you never had it before anyway).


But besides anything that you can do to raise your income and/or otherwise save more, the other side of the picture has to do with the spending side of the equation.  What is it that you spend your money on?  The original poster alluded to this when he mentioned that his financial planner asked him where all of his money was going.  This is a key consideration.  You don’t have to spend less.  You just have to decide what is worth spending your money on.  Spend the same amount but be conscious of what you are getting for your money. 


Is it really worth six hundred or more dollars per year to buy that cup of coffee at the convenience store every morning instead of making a cup of coffee for yourself at home before you leave the house?  Would you rather have the convenience of buying that disposable cup of coffee, or would you rather make it for yourself and carry it out of the house in a re-useable travel mug and then spend the same amount of money for a totally guilt free brand new six hundred dollar rifle.  You are spending the exact same amount.  It’s just a question of what you want to spend your money on.


Similarly, when you plan to make a hunting related purchase, or to pay for a hunting trip itself – it is important to spend your money wisely.  There is only a limited amount of income that will pass through your hands in your entire lifetime.  So you should use every dollar wisely.  Do you need the six hundred dollar brand new rifle, or could you buy the exact same model used from someone who is sick of it for three hundred instead?  If you do, you just added three hundred dollars to some other future purchase – like for a guilt free scope for instance.  If you do that, you just parleyed the exact same amount of spending – the same money you buy your daily coffee with for a new (to you rifle) and a scope to go on it.  Now don’t tell me that THAT wouldn’t be sweet!


Don’t even get me started on the options when you are booking your hunt.  I could have easily spend ten thousand dollars for a guided fly in hunt in the interior of Alaska to chase moose.  Well, I could have if I HAD ten thousand dollars to spend on hunting.  But I didn’t.  So instead I waited until I drew a moose tag in a neighboring state and spent hundreds instead of thousands of dollars for my moose license.  Even then I struggled with the choice of whether to hire a guide.  I finally decided not to hire a guide.  Instead I appealed to folks on the internet hunting forums (like this one!) to give me advice on hunting that area and made a scouting trip in advance myself.  All told, the bull moose that God gave to me cost me less than ONE thousand dollars instead of ten thousand for a fully guided fly in hunt.  Yes I had to wait a little longer to go.  And yes I gambled against the risk that I would not get a moose.  But it all worked out and I saved nine thousand dollars that can go toward funding other future hunts!


So don’t forget the spending side of the budgeting equation as well as the saving side.  You just might get more hunts all together !






jim boyd's picture

I agree with everything

I agree with everything Critter has said and long term, I have no doubt that savings are the ONLY way to go... otherwise, you will not be able to hunt at all, even in your home state much less across the country.

I do have that savings plan in place, it is called my wife! She is a great planner and really helps me hold an even keel... I am on an allowance and if I spend more than I have, it is pulled against the house and I am in "debt" until I pay it back...

On my recent Illinois trips, I ran up about $1600 in debt and this must be paid back, either out of my allowance or my selling - items I own or items I make, such as farm implements, deer stands, feeders, etc.

I am drooling now for an out west trip - I can see conservatively that this trip will cost in excess of $4000.00 so I am starting now to make a 2 year plan to save at least the bulk of this money so that when I do go, I do not have to get into the "house account" for very much cash...

Therein lies the problem, both short term and long term... I consider long term retirement (I am 53) and short term the next year or so... I want to hunt now, of course... I hear of folks all the time that wait to retirement for that "big" trip and then for one reason or another, they never go - some just keel over before they can go.

Critter, I salute your retirement and 401k and the fact that you have these freedoms - you have done it right!

I will hope - at that stage of my life - to have the same freedoms to pursue my dreams!!

Great tip and very sound advice from someone who has been there and knows what he is talking about!


arrowflipper's picture

dear drooling.....

Jim, another thing you might think about is reducing the cost of that "out west" hunt.  Have you thought of posting for someone to trade a hunt with you?  What do you have to offer someone from out West for an exchange hunt?  You might ask Groovy Mike what his two trips out West have cost him.  Another great way to save money is to make contacts with people and arrange to trade a hunt. 

I just returned from a sika deer hunt in Maryland and while there, made a contact with a local guide to exchange deer hunts.  He will come west and hunt mule deer with me and I'll go back and hunt sika with him.  The cost to each of us will be a plane ticket and out of state license fees.  Saving lots of money isn't the only way of making a dream hunt happen.

ecubackpacker's picture

That's a good idea to set up

That's a good idea to set up a hunting account, even if it's only $25 per week to start. I remember you saying something about this in an earlier thread. Of course, the more you can afford, the faster the account will grow with compounding interest. After a number of years, the balance should become high enough that you'll be able to finance a hunt trip for the year, but also pay for the necessary fees to get in most of the state hunting draws out west. Then, when you get your refund, just deposit it back to the account.
The big difference now days is most companies don't offer 401K plans anymore and some companies don't even have a retirement plan for the employees. So, all in all, it can be done, it may take a little more discipline. Thanks for sharing.

Critter's picture

I should of mentioned that

I should of mentioned that you don't need to wait 30 or 40 years but to just let the interest compound and grow untill you have enough for your trip.  As far as using it to finance tags and smaller trips here in the states where the cost are not that much, I wouldn't do it.  Just save that money as needed. 

But as I said if you check with an advisor he can point you in the right way and get you started.  Even if where you work doesn't offer a 401K or a retirement plan he can set it up so that you don't have to worry about Social Security or goverment hand outs when it comes time for you to retire. 

jaybe's picture

All Good Points

Those are all good points, guys.

We probably all make small purchases every day or every week that could be diverted to a savings account for a special hunting trip.

Too late for me, though; I'm already collecting SS.

However, since I am still working, it is enabling me to do some extra things even now because of the additional income.

That's how we are going to be able to go out west for our first mule deer hunt next fall.

I can hardly wait!