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Deer Elk

The Future of Working Class Hunting, pt. 1

by Conrad Evarts   |  June 22nd, 2011 20

This dumbass just keeps showing up for work.

I don’t care much about politics anymore. I’ve accepted the fact that here in America one party panders to the rich and another panders to the poor. Since I’m one of those dumbasses that just continues showing up for work, I don’t have a political party. I also realize the Whitehouse isn’t taking my calls and the reward for calling my elected officials in Congress is a condescending letter written for people who lack the ability to reason.

Statistically, wages for morons like me are flat over the past decade. Meanwhile inflation rose. Then the Great Recession came along. So here we working stiffs are generally 30% poorer, many of us unemployed or with increased productivity expectations and all of us wanting to continue to hunt.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to wait until the CEOs, economists, politicians and pundits green light the continuation of my hunting career. I grew up, like many of the folks reading this, hunting before anyone came up with the genius idea to convince us that a pair of hunting pants could be worth $400. I hunted in the boots I worked in, wore a normal winter coat tried not to get caught using a school sweater as a base layer.  What I lacked in gear I made up for with above average cojones.

I’m in an odd position right now. I jet set around the world as a camera monkey for

My hunting jacket? Not awesome. My hair in '89? Fully awesome.

hunts I’ll never be able to afford while I plan my daughter’s first DIY cow elk hunt. The juxtaposition of these two different types of hunting answers the rhetorical question my old uncle used to ask me when we hunted together on a shoestring. “I wonder what the rich folks are doing for fun right now?” He asked me this question for a reason. He wanted to remind me that we were right then and there enjoying a simple great time the high rollers would never know. With one rifle between us, a gut full of biscuits and gravy and some of the shittiest hunting ground Northeastern Washington offers, we were having a great time. We worked our asses off up and down mountains, through hill and dale and wild rose choked draws. My mulie hunting was along the same lines, sharing the floor of a trailer with a half dozen other kids hoping the old men in the beds didn’t step on my face during one of their dozen nightly trips to the can.

My ancestors were not sponsored hunters.

My ancestors were not sponsored hunters.

In conjunction with the series of blogs I’m doing on prepping my daughter’s cow elk hunt; I want to explore strategies for continuing hunting during the Great Recession which looks like it might end when China buys us.  Hunt it up now son, sweatshops and Buddhists aren’t conducive to hunting.

I will be looking at the changes the Great Depression brought to hunting, but in the modern context of decreased access, more extensive regulations, increased work loads and general exhaustion of the working person.

As I begin to research how my great grandma and grandpa hunted through the depression I’m going to ask you to contribute your tricks to hunting on the cheap.  What are some cost saving ideas you can share with us? How do you care for your equipment to make it last? If you still have a job, how are you whittling off enough time to make your hunting happens? If you’re old enough to know a thing or two about hunting during the Great Depression, what knowledge can you share that is applicable to today’s hunter? How do you make your gear last? What else would you like to know as I embark on this research project that will hopefully keep more of us and our kids out in the field between now and our Chinese as a second language studies?

I may run for office soon and get this thing sorted out for all of us. I’m pretty damn sure elected offices will be the only reliable source for new jobs for some time to come. But until I get hired as King of the World, lets collaborate on getting us out there more.

Read “The Future of Working Class Hunting, Pt. 2″


  • Aaron Decker

    Looking forward to following this Conrad…

  • po boy

    I'm a 35 year old working class stiff. I know where you are coming from. I use a bow that was bought for me when I was 17. I hunt military ranges which is a happy medium between public land and overpriced club dues. My shotgun is a rem 1100 that dad bought when I was 16. I got my 30-30 when I was 12. I do have a good jacket and boots that I bought back in 2000. My pants are from the army surplus store. As you can see, I keep my expenses down but I still complain about ammo and gas prices. I can't justify spending (insert insane amount here) for something I can do for a fraction of what most spend. Take care of your stuff.

  • Angela Pham

    Awesome post.

  • Ron

    Mike Schoby wrote a great book a year or so, I think it's called something like– Do it yourself Dream Hunts—-. Some great tips in this read.

  • Roland Millington

    Simplify everything in your rig. Learn to make gear that you cannot afford, and learn to repair gear that is in other wise good shape save for a few aspects of its serviceable life.

    The most important of all the tools we employ in hunting, is our networking. Talk to people, other hunters, etc. Be polite, respectful and treat their property (if you're allowed to hunt it) as if it belonged to your grandfather, because there is always the possibility that it belonged to theirs. And people can be hinky about their land.

    We, as a nation, would do much better if we were far more self-sufficient. As it is, we're slowly being made to rely on Uncle Sam for every scrap and morsel that falls upon our table. And while many of us jump on that idea readily due to outright laziness or perhaps for lack of opportunity, the rest of us are being force fed the idea that the government should care for us.

    It's about time we pushed that plate back to them, got back to working hard, and doing for ourselves instead of others doing for us. To me, that's what outdoorsmanship is all about. Being self-sufficient and capable of making a life for myself and my wife and my children, without owing anyone anything. That may be an ever-more-difficult to reach goal in this day and age where we're repeatedly legislated as to what we can and cannot do in the Land of the Free, but it's a goal that is well worth our aim.

  • skip knowles

    This is a a cool post Conan THe Destroyer–truth is during the Great Depression they mostly didn't hunt because of lack of resources to do so, then during WWll it got worse–Bullets, rubbers for tires (tires, conan, tires), fuel, hell food was all out of reach and rationed for the war effort…., even if there was a man not in uniform to do it. the results? A crazy heyday of giant record book mature mule deer all through the 50s and 60s…which people refer to as the good old days of mule deer hunting, but were in truth an anomaly largely created by total lack of hunting in 30s and 40s (along with much less road access, heavy predator control, lack of fire suppression and aggressive timber cutting…it's complicated). I loved this piece though, stick with this type of story telling man.

  • Dan The Idahoan

    10 years ago I was going to college in Northern Idaho. I had one rifle, one shotgun and a dog. I set up my class schedule so that I only had classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, i worked at a job that let me use my own truck for work. They paid for the gas. I managed to shoot bare minimum of 50 pheasants a year for three years. I also managed to kill a pretty nice buck and a shot an elk every year. Now I have 6 shotguns and 10 rifles, and no time to use them. Free time is the most valuable asset that someone can have.

    • Conrad Evarts


      Sounds great and you're right about time. That's a good point I'm going to consider as I continue to look at this subject. It is the most valuable resource of all. My father grew up in Post Falls and hunted his way through the University of Idaho. I was born in Harrison, ID. Great to see a fellow Idahoan on the site.

  • Stevo

    Thanks for the candid view on hunting pleasure. I am probably closer to one of the "rich folks" than a working class stiff, but I agree with your assessment of politics and the crazy prices for some hunting gear. Maybe it is time for me to think more about doing some simple hunts now instead of waiting to afford a more expensive hunt.

  • David

    My friends and I have been to Colorado elk/mule deer hunting many times. We drive straight through sharing on the driving and gas coming and going so we don't have hotels to pay for. Once there we set up camp on the mountain and stay there. We have accumulated a 20 man army tent, bought at military auction for 40 bucks, a propane fired shower, bought on clearance, a large propane stove also bought on clearance to make things more comfy. We can go to town mid-week and take a shower at the local motel for 5 bucks if we really get rank but usually don't until we are going home.

    The last time I went, three years ago, my cow elk tag, gas and groceries cost me right at $500……not cheap, but reasonable considering driving from the Midwest and hunting in Southwest Colorado for a week.

    To hunt on the same national forest land for three days with an outfitter would have cost at least $1,500 for three days…..and no guarantee of seeing or shooting anything.

    Get a group together, share expenses, and just go… many areas you can buy bull tags over the counter, and elk and mule deer can be hunted simultaneously giving you options when you apply for tags. I usually apply for a cow tag, and a mule deer tag, and then hunt whatever I get. If I fail to draw a tag, I can still buy a bull tag when I get there over the counter, and hunt or just go along for the ride and be the camp cook like I have also done.

  • Quick Draw

    The problems I see for the average hunter start as he soon as the previous

    hunt ends. First you have to save for the hunt and in today's economy it takes some time! Now the fun part comes when to put in for a tag in your state or you put in for another state (tags-guide-where to hunt). California has more zones and sub zones and tags limits which make drawing a tag a lottery. That's the wave of the future! The rich don't have these problems now, do they?

  • Joe upstate

    good replies, time and people are the most important resources. I am getting older and I pay more attention to people than when I focused on getting a deer, then getting a buck then getting a big buck. I also started sharing more with others, new hunters or new to this area. Also with people in general I have a bit more time to make myself available for whatever. A guy I helped with some fishing stuff knows some good places to hunt in the Adirondacks. There have been more invitations to hunt with a place to stay in this past year than the previous 10. And I enjoy the whole business more when I slow down.

  • Larry Holland

    We have carried my wife's (.270) & my ( .30-06 Springfield) in

    Colorado with cow tags. The beat up .270 featherweight Win.

    with the 3×9 Redfield widefield is death on elk at 200 yards.

    The family stays in a military tent—with a sheep herders

    stove & millitary tent sleeps 20– 3 unit sleeping bags,dutch ovens& cast iron from my dad & his father.

    The mentoring,bonding, & above the high dollar hunts we

    went as a family. Best season 3 cow elk plus the bull tag purchased over the counter my 361 inch bull. Total cost mom

    saved money year around ,buying groceries,saving for gas,then the lesser cost of licences. This year mom & I were

    cooks as our married sons took over & we took care of the camp. I told the old game warden the 12 guage pump was to grotect gramy & our little granddaugher who squeilled when

    4 does & a 3×3 buck came to camp 70 yards away. I told him

    no bears or cat problems here.

  • dirtcamper

    What a great posting! I'm getting to where I can hardly stand to read hunting articles or watch shows anymore. It's all about high tech gear, private ranches, and guided hunts. I hunt public lands on my own. I still use my grandfather's Husqvarna 30-06 that he passed down to my father. My son uses the Win Mod 70 30-06 that I got for high school graduation in 1972. They are cherised rifles and can't be replaced by anything new on the market. We take care of them and refinish the stocks as needed. My favorite clothing store is Army surplus. New woolshirts or pants for $5 still in the original packaging. Polar fleece jackets for $10. I was recently completely turned off by a well know shooting editor that couldn't comprehend why anyone wouldn't pay $400 for a wool shirt. I think much of the hunting media is out of touch with working families.

  • Conrad Evarts

    You guys are great! Keep the ideas and tales coming!

  • Jim Mandella

    Conrad, you are so right. I am an ex executive that has been umemployed for over 1 1/2 years now. I have a nice gun collection, but with 3 college kids my hunting will be very loca to where I live. It will probably consist of a couple of days archery and maybe the opening day for gun season here in PA.. Lately I have be filling my hunting dreams by watching the Outdoor channel and the Sportsmans channel. In a couple of years, if I am lucky and don't go broke by then, I might be able to talk my wife into letting me use my 401k to pay for a long time dream hunt to Africa. If not it will be TV and Magazines for me. What the heck did the liberals and tree huggers do to MY country?

  • Allen Miller

    This is just a great subject…If closely look at the "good old days" of hunting nobody was in camo. they wore jeans and plaid shirts. I cannot afford to keep up with the latest patterns. I really think its all in the mind on how successful you are at hunting.. The posts on this blog are great…..

  • http://? Bob Penhale

    I'm thinkin' that the folks who are the "celebraties" of the hunting mass market & the Big $ corporations that support them better figure out that when us working class folks can't afford to hunt anymore… football,basketball and .. gulp have become, they are going to be SOL as well. Maybe they ought to start concentrating on public land hunts & middlin 6 points ( 3 point Western count) instead of the pay to enter $ 3000.00 a pop no @#$& you got a 12 point. Learn to hunt boys, not just shoot.

  • H. Swoggle

    The facts are that hunting has been becoming in many states a pay to play sport and a lot of private land has been locked up and available only to the highest bidder, this is a way for ranchers and land owners to make a lot of extra money. The state of California used to have a general state-wide deer tag that was keeping small towns alive, no more and not coming back even though the number of hunters is rapidly declining as they move out of state or quit hunting altogether. The public lands in the west are now becoming the dangerous drug growing areas for the Mexican Drug Cartels and the Forest Circus is closing off all the orads it can and leaving the rest washed out and overgrown and unusable, many camping areas are being closed as well. It might be time for people to pool resources and buy land or save up for out of state western public land hunts in safe areas away from the drug gangs.

  • Laurel Lee Chaisson

    ive read part 1 thru 4 about my grandma and grandpa…and i want to know who the hell you are and what give you the right to post pictures and stories that were stolen from my grandma bensons house after she passed…i want want answers NOW

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