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Big Buck Central

Big Buck 411 Blog


By Mike Handley

Marc Barnes
Texan Marc Barnes shot this 254 3/8-incher (composite) while hunting public land in Kansas in 2006.

Hunting is a rich man's sport.

I hear that all the time. Actually, I’ve heard it since the mid-1970s, when Alabama timber companies began rewriting their lease agreements to include annual increases in the cost per acre.

I remember lifelong hunters quitting because they couldn’t afford the jump from $150 to $200 for a club membership. They quit when it went from $200 to $325. I even saw decades-old hunting clubs die overnight, the result of too many members dropping out, thereby increasing the burden on those remaining.

Nowadays, some Alabama clubs (with no more acreage than they had in 1975) have membership dues of $3,000. I’m also aware of clubs in Illinois that have tiered memberships starting at $10,000.

Truth is, you’d have to look mighty far back to find a time when hunting was cheap.

I’ve always had a rough time of it. Every dollar spent in the pursuit of my passion has been felt. If it weren’t for friends who like the way I string words together, I’d probably trade my guns and bow for more paintbrushes (

Dan Bradley
Dan Bradley took this 221 7/8-incher (composite) while hunting state forestland in Ohio in 2008.

Believe me, whenever people write to say they’re about ready to throw in the towel, it hits close to home. They want answers, and I sometimes feel ill equipped to give them.

Here are a couple of e-mails that hit my inbox last month (edited for clarity and length).

“All I want is a good quality place to hunt. In north central Mississippi, it is very difficult to get permission to hunt private land, and I can’t afford the good places. To join a good club, I’d have to pay anywhere from $1,200 to $2,000 a year. I find myself losing the lust for opening day. The only places left for me are public lands, and there are just too many people to have a good hunt.”

“I just got out of the Army three months ago, after six years of service, and I came home to an overpopulated public hunting area in Oklahoma. I would like to get my first buck this year, but I don't know where to go or what to do. I have no land and no family that does. What should I do?”

Outside of winning a lottery or inheriting a farm, I can think of only two options: hunt with an outfitter, or turn to public lands. If you can’t afford a $2,000 share on a lease or club membership, then forget the outfitter. Two grand for a guided, four- or five-day hunt is cheap.

If nearby public lands are too crowded for your taste, you might be out of luck unless you’re willing to expend a little time and energy to discover those that aren’t, even if it requires driving to a different state and purchasing nonresident licenses and tags.

Another thing to consider is what you’re carrying. If you’re a gun hunter, I’d highly recommend you acquire a bow. Public lands are far less crowded during the archery season, and some of the best allow only bowhunting.

That’s not to say you can’t find excellent and uncrowded places to hunt with a rifle, like in Kansas, but it’s too late in the season to get a permit there.

Hunting might be a rich man’s sport. But determination, knowing your way around the Internet and boot leather can still put you in range of venison.

BTR Morgan Wallace Ron Stevens Ronnie Forrest

Post Rating


J. Baker
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 11:22 AM
Check military installations some have great hunitng and do allow civilians. Example, Fort Gordon, GA has a lottery for civiians each year the drawing is held on May 15 at the Thomson, GA DNA; 250 names drawn. You get to hunt and fish for a year can invite two friends at $10 per day to hunt and $5 for fishing. Over 40,000 acres. Call DNR (706) 667-4672 for info. All hunters reguardless of age must be Hunter Safety certified on Fort Gordon.

Check your state military installations.
Join the Army
US Army Retired
Dan Carl
# Dan Carl
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 11:34 AM
What non-land owner's fail to see sometimes is the cost of land ownership. Not only is there the money you paid for it but there is the annual cost of insurance and property taxes to be paid. Here in Southern Michigan a 100 acre track of land's property taxes will cost you a minimun of $3,000 per year and could easily run as high as $10,000 per year. Nothing is free and we should be greatfull for the public lands and the opportunities they do present.
Eric Titler
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 11:58 AM
I have only just started to scratch the surface with my web site because we are only in North and South Carolina (for now) but I am trying to make a difference in the struggle to find new hunting properties. Sorry, for the flagrant plug but I thought it might help some of your readers in their search to find hunt clubs. The biggest problem I have encountered so far, besides the lack of funds to further promote my site, is the hunt clubs unwillingness to post their property (free) on the site. If I could get more up-to-date hunt club manager participation on the site, hunters in our states would find it easier to find cost vs fit clubs to join. We all have our limits on what we can or will pay per year the big problem is finding that fit without making a career of it.
# Steve
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 11:59 AM
Yes, 8 years ago I saw much land being POSTED, so I worked extra to buy some. I now have 40 acres with Deer, Moose, Grouse, Turkey and Elk. The yearly property taxes are more than any guided hunt. Quit your belly aching, get off your butt, turn off the TV and work extra to buy your own land. It is very cheap right now. There is work out there ! Maybe not what you want to do, but there is work. Get your priorities straight ! Mine are work to hunt !!

Most of us private landowners deserve what we have !
# amm
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 12:02 PM
I think all of us can feel the pains of finding a place to hunt. My group and I have leased the same property for almost 10 years. We have ofered in the past an increase in lease monies but the landowner always said it was blood money and he did not want it. This year however he wants an extrordinary amount of an increase. I dont think it is greed on his part but just a part of the overall economy. When everyone is straped for cash we look for it in any place possible. Couple that with media advertising the high end 10k type hunts and its easy to see where landowners look at charging high lease rates. It stinks for all of us but that is just the way it is.....
# Matt
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 12:05 PM
I'm from Oklahoma and have places to hunt in five different counties and they are all free and on private lands. I have over 1500 acres to hunt. You just have to get off your butt and knock on doors and ask permission, and maybe offer to help the farmer doing some work around the farm. It is easy and I have some terrific places to hunt. I could have a lot more land to hunt if I wanted it is just to hard to hunt everything
# mike
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 12:10 PM
i really like your write up i cant afford it my self i have 3 kids and 2 are young 11 and 9 and dream of just a chance at shooting a deer we live in chester sc and there are lots of deer for how long i dont know they let people shoot 10 deer a season and alot of people shoot double of what they shoudl with no tags i ty to tell every one that if they keep doing this one day there is going to be no deer to hunt and our kids are going to suffer from it. when i lived in new york i was luckey my grand ma lived on lots of land i could hunt and the deer where there by the thousands then they let the farmers go and shoot all of them off and now your lucky to even get a deer. but what gets me is i found a few places but the price for me and my 2 kids are just crazy i found a few places that do it by the day 20$ a day to 30 a day but for me to bring my kids and me thats 60 and i have tried to do it but they never got a chance at one .they do have state land but with my back i cant walk to far and they dont allow atv or any thing of that sort out there and the laws here are crazy my brother that never hunted never even really shot a gun do to his age he dont have to take a safty cource but me i took a 3 day one when i lived in new york and would of hade to take a other one if i didint have proof of it here. but he can just go out and get a lic and go hunting which is a reason why ia, affraid to take them to the state land there is people that have no safty cource will shoot at any thing that moves and kids have been shot out there all ready from what i have been told.. it was hard enough to afford to get my son a gun and then my little girl is getting her gun this week her grand mother is buying one for her. but still have no where to go where its safe and i can afford . thats why iam always on line trying to win a hunt off line. i understand that people half to pay there taxes and stuff but some people own the land and still wan a arm and a leg and they dont carry insurance . but iam happy for having a place that charges by the day but i cant afford it and know alot of older people that stoped hunting because they could not afford it they get there lic free but just the price to hunt some where. maybe ill try to walk as far as i can on the one place here that has state land but if never forgive my self if something happend id have to say so long my self if something did happen to my kids they are all i have .. god bless every one andmay the lord be with us all if any one know any one in my area .. that wont mind some one to hunt ill do as much work as i can to work it off help with food plots what ever ..
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 3:26 PM
If you don't think hunting, fishing, or camping is a rich man's game, just go get outfitted at Bass Pro, Cabela's, Sports Academy or any other retailer for that matter. Not only have leases, guided hunts, fishing and camping trips gone through the roof but so have the equipment and supplies needed to participate in these activities.
I would guess fishing is about the least expensive activity you can do. You can still buy rod and reel combo sets and hooks, line, and sinkers are not that expensive, and you can still walk down to water's edge with very little cost but the fuel to get there.
Back to hunting! Fair to, as we say in Texas, middlin lease...$1,000/gun, gun....$350 and up, decent scope..$200 and up, bullets....$25 and up. But the one thing that I find fascinating is what we pay to camo up and then go set in a blind where the deer can't see na dmuch less care what you have on. I thought this year I would replace my three year old Wrangler Real Tree pants with something a little warmer and found a pair of Bass Pro 10X fleece pants on "SALE" for $49.99. I was glad to pay that once I saw the other prices were anywhere from $99 to $299.
Deer blind, if you build it your self, $250, commercial blinds $1,000 and up. A good feeder $139, corn 40#, thumbs up to Bass Pro, on sale $4.99, the other food supplements etc, not worth mentioning and so and so on.
The point is, hunting is a huge industry and we hunters take our hunting seriously. Thanks to hunters that take hunting seriuosly and the corporate world's desire to go hunt two or three days and kill a Boone and Crockett buck and be dressed in style to do it; land owners, manufacturers and retailers have answered our call by supplying land, clothing and equipment at very high prices knowing full well their prices will be paid. You want to video your hunt? We won't even go there.
Basically, we "poor" hunters have just about priced oursleves out of the hunting industry. As a result we will just have to be happy to hunt when ever and where ever we can afford, make our equipment and clothing last as long as possible, and repair our own blinds we built and feeders that age.
If you see me in the cafe near our camp, I won't be in style. My three year old Mossy Oak shirt and brand new $49.99 Bass Pro 10X pants won't match.
But if all goes well of over 40 years of hunting and after 5 years on the current lease at $1,000 per year plus, I may get lucky and get chance at my second mount, a nice 12 point, that according to my $149.00 Moultree trail cam seems to have disappeared the day before opening season.
# Billy
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 7:02 PM
Just a follow up to a comment Steve made earlier in the discussion. Not everyone can have the luxury of working to hunt. I think it is great that you have that capability. The average hunter in North America does not. The average hunter works to provide for family - I believe their priorities are in order. I don't think they are sitting on their behinds and doing nothing but complaining. Quality land (ideal habitat) is not cheap.

I know - I lease over 3000 acres in the West for ducks and geese. I have leased the property for the last 23 years and have had some great hunts and created many memories. In addition to taking family out to the lease, I have also taken friends and friends of friends. They have had some great hunts and not so great hunts but we got out and connected with nature and each other. I want to get folks out and enjoy a day in nature and experience what I have for so many years. I don't want to keep it just to myself what is the fun in that. Steve I would recommend you take a dad and his son or daughter out on your land for a day in the season. Let them enjoy what you worked hard for.

I am not saying you can take everyone out but if you can get at least one guy or gal out pat yourself on the back. You are sharing with them something special to you!
# mike
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 7:25 PM
billy you could not have said it any better like a tex book. i wish every one thought like you around here they all think you will shoot the big buck they wanted to shoot .. all i want is my kids to have the chance i hade when i was a kid just being out there is great they site out side in the back yard on 3 ackers we have and try like no other its like fishing in a mud pudle but they still try to get one it really gets me i live where there is nothing but woods but to get to hunt that woods would not happen and i dont go any where that i dont have the ok to go to and have been told that the people across the street live out of state but still its not my land and its not my place to be but maybe one day with a dream ill have some land and ill make sure to make others dreams come true because it brings people closer to each other just being out there in the woods in the stand... with god willing ill have that chance to have my kids and the old lady out there .. chester sc
# Josh
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 8:41 PM
Hunting is a sport that rewards those who work hard at it! Many times the reward is seeing a child or friend harvest a buck off of your honey hole . I know that the expense of hunting can seem overwhelming , but hunters control the cost themselves. I look at the ability to hunt as an amazing blessing from God. The outdoor media pushes a man to think that if he has the latest and greatest he will be far more successful, but I beg to differ. I hunted a small 120 acre plot of land through my teen years with a 1964 model 30-30 that my father helped me buy at a pawn shop for 150 bucks , iron sights. We hunted 12 or 14 foot ladder stand we built in the back yard and didn't really care what they looked like as long as they were safe. IT WORKED , we killed deer and most of all we had fun. Hunting shouldn't be "Keeping up with the Jones'"! Do what you can with what you have and don't worry about the rest. Good Hunting! Josh Birmingham , AL
rod pickelmann
# rod pickelmann
Wednesday, November 17, 2010 8:31 AM
well i can understand the frustration of today and trying to find a good place to hunt cheap. I live in s texas below, houston. There isnt much here as far as public land readilly available but its here. Mostly in this area is hogs. You have to research places and get in on the hunts offered by WMAs and such. I was told by someone that there is access to people on a state park just north of me.Its just the frustration of inquiring ahead of time and hoping to get picked on these limited hunts.
Dennis A. McDade
# Dennis A. McDade
Wednesday, November 17, 2010 7:27 PM
Hey man,don't give up we are losing too many hunters now.There are plenty of good quality places to hunt,do your homework.You might consider praying to the good Lord about it He will direct you.
Joe S
# Joe S
Thursday, November 18, 2010 4:31 PM
I can sympathize with the author to a degree. I know that costs have risen to hunt deer. But cost for everything has risen as well. I find that people will find the funds and justification for what they truly desire. I spend around $6,000 per year hunting. I know people that spend more than that golfing, attending races, bowling, boating, or whatever their passion might be. I don't like that it costs more than it did 30 years ago. Heck I don't like it that my pickup costs 10 times more than the one I bought in 1976. But I refuse to quit. I'll do what I have to to continue enjoying my sport of choice. Best of luck to each and every one of you in your endeavor. Be Selective.
Friday, November 19, 2010 5:53 PM
Matt from OK said it best, 'You just have to get off your butt and knock on doors and ask permission, and maybe offer to help the farmer doing some work around the farm.'

Also follow the advice from Joe S. If it takes cash to find a place, take a hard look at where your time and money really go. Most of us have lost track of all the other activities that compete for space and $'s in our lives.
Jumping in your car and driving to an activity with little prep time invested is what most people have grown up with. Who hasn't shelled out money and spent time at events designed only to entertain yourself and or your kids.
carla Ehlert
Saturday, July 30, 2011 8:22 AM
Well ,You know my husband is always struggling to make money just so he can go on his dream hunt .He works very hard to make the money we have .Man when i turn around its gone .He never gets a brake to save money to even go on one ....It breaks my heart to sit and watch him bust his butt every day .He may never get to go butt he will always dream of a good dream hunt These days it hard for everyone to make a buck unless your are rich !!Butt we keep our head up high and keep on going :)

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