Updated: Mar 22
Back to one of my most interesting topics to discuss. Bringing this subject up on social media gives me a bit of anxiety but it always leads to some sort of decent conversation. I get to read so many different opinions when this subject is talked about. Most have shared valid points as to why they choose a guide, choose DIY hunting or those hunters that do both. Some have provided useful information based off of good and bad experiences with other outfitters. Many have given their reasons for only DIY hunting. Then there are the few keyboard warriors that provide no useful information to help us bridge the gap between outfitting and DIY hunters but instead flood my inbox with death threats, ill-will wishes towards our business, worthless arguments that are not worth partaking in. < Please don't be that guy.
The subjects that stem off of the argument whether to go guided or plan a hunt all yourself will make this blog just the first of many that I will address. This information is based off of opinions from many different hunters, guides, and outfitters that I compiled from forums and groups.
When asking what keeps someone from booking a hunt with an outfitter the answer is almost always the price. This often leads to the assumption that Outfitters are only out to make money by offering a guided hunt, but like any business, there is overhead in outfitting and the prices should reflect the experience you are paying for.
This research and pricing is based on one non-resident 10 day trip. Obviously this number would drastically change if your driving to a location, backpacking in, and roughing it in tent for a week or so. If that's the style hunt your planning than I am truly excited for you! That type of experience is rarely matched.
The cost breakdown of a DIY hunt:
When I looked back on the cost of food for a person to eat 3 meals per day with snacks and drinks it averaged at $100 per day per person.
The average person that travels for an elk hunt is usually from the states that are not fortunate enough to have resident elk tags easily available, or do not have elk in their state at all, these states are typically a two day driving trip, which at that time of year is about the same as flying. So I averaged for travel expenses (fuel for personal/rental vehicle and flights) $1000 in travel costs for the entire 10 days.
I took the average cost of a rental vehicle for 6 days and the wear and tear on someones personal vehicle if they drove and averaged $500.
Tags and licenses vary across different states so I did use Montana Combo tag as a reference at $1200 once all license, points, and fees are paid.
A hotel/rental house for 10 days averages around $1500 for a 10 day trip.
The average total for a DIY hunt after I broke it down looked to be $5,200.
An easy way to cut the cost of this down is to invite a couple hunting buddies to help with the cost of fuel and lodging.
The cost breakdown of a Guided hunt:
I did consider taking an average cost from some outfitters prices on a guided elk hunt but it seemed that prices are different so I just took our Elk/Deer Combo hunt into consideration.
The cost of our hunts are $5000 for a 1 on 1. This hunt includes a professional guide, 3 meals a day, snacks, drinks, transportation to and from the airport, transportation to all hunting areas, and lodging for 7 nights.
We ask that you fly in a day before your hunt and get a hotel at the airport to ensure pick-up times don't get delayed. When I took the cost of a flight and hotel and compared it to 4 days of traveling by vehicle the average cost was $1000.
Again, I did use Montana Combo tag as a reference at $1200 once all license, points, and fees are paid.
Standard protocol is 20% of your hunt to be distributed to your guide, packers, and cooks. With that being said this average is based on the clients overall experience. We don't feel that it should ever be mandatory to tip anyone a specific amount. Everyone participating in your hunt whether it be the outfitter, the guide, the cooks, or the packers, should put in the maximum effort to ensure that you have the best time that we can offer. I averaged this cost to be $1000.
The average total for a Guided Hunt is $8,200.
Keep in mind that this is just a an outline I prepared to help those first time DIY hunters and those that are considering a guided hunt to get an idea of what to financially prepare for. [UPDATED] I cannot go through and pick out each individual scenario but with some simple math you can figure out what you and your group need and get an idea of what it would cost.
Some additional reparations to take into consideration no matter what type of hunt you are preparing for is gear. Having the right gun/bow, clothing, boots, packs, etc can make or break your hunt. Do maximum research on the gear that you are purchasing. I encourage you to price check and take advantage of discounts, but DO NOT GO CHEAP! Think of this hunt as an investment. Whether it is to feed yourself, or feed your soul you don't want to feel like you wasted your money on a trip that wasn't enjoyable and good gear can make a huge difference.
Try to remember that each and every hunter out there has a love for this sport. We are all out there to make memories and have a good time no matter how we choose to hunt. This way of life will only be enjoyed for decades to come by each and everyone of us contributing to conservation and being grateful for everyone that partakes in hunting. You may not agree with the logistics of all fellow hunters but there is a respect to be had for those that get out into the wilderness to do what we do.