June 20, 2016
Hunting isn't cheap. Especially when it comes to arranging adventure hunts that may take you west or even overseas. However, there are ways to make adventure hunts more affordable. Here are five adventure hunts anyone can afford.
Most of these hunts require at least a moderate level of physical fitness and a knowledge of some basic outdoor skills like skinning, quartering and hanging game, navigating in the wilderness, horseback riding, and so forth. However, a willingness to shoulder some of the responsibility for the hunt helps you save money and provides a great sense of accomplishment. Best of all, these hunts will provide a lifetime of memories and they are bucket-list hunts you can actually do right now.
Outfitted Wilderness Elk
Guided elk hunts are expensive and the demand for quality elk hunts is high, so prices probably aren't coming down any time soon. But if you have the basic skills required for this hunt — the ability to cook your own food, scout for game, handle meat, handle horses, and not get lost then an outfitted hunt might be just what you're looking for.
Unlike guided hunts, you will be provided with the basic amenities (and this varies by outfitter, so make sure to clarify — there are no convenience stores in the wilderness) but finding game and handling meat is up to you.
Having a hunting partner on these trips helps lighten the work load and ups your odds of success, and many outfitters require at least two hunters to book an outfitted trip.
Odds of success vary, but in prime areas you have just as good a shot at getting a bull as guided hunters. This is not a hunt for the faint of heart or first timers, but if you possess a little wilderness know-how and a sense of adventure this is one of the best ways to get your bull.
Tenderfoot Outfitters has been guiding elk hunters into the Colorado wilderness for years and charges less than two grand a person for two-man hunts.
The Working Man's Ram
If you can't afford to hunt Dall or Stone sheep and are afraid that you'll be an octogenarian before your name is ever drawn for a sheep tag in the Lower 48, don't fear. The aoudad or Barbary sheep — a horned member of the goat clan native to North Africa — has been introduced into the American Southwest and they are thriving.
They are also the most affordable North American mountain game to hunt, with week-long trips costing between $3,000 and $4,000 a person. But don't be fooled into thinking that just because they aren't native game that aoudad are stupid.
You can spend a week chasing them up and down in the steep, dry, remote country they love so much and never get within shooting range. Each herd has sharp-eyed sentries, so getting into position for a shot takes skill and patience.
Aoudad rams make magnificent trophies and they'll test your mettle on the same level as domestic sheep species — they just won't cost as much to hunt. I hunted with Bill Perry's Hidden Creek Outfitters on the Texas/Mexico border last year and scored on a big ram after a grueling day of hiking in the desert hills.
Fly-In Float Hunts in Alaska
Alaskan hunting is a dream for many hunters, and the demand for quality guided hunts is so high that costs have risen dramatically.
A moose hunt in the Last Frontier might cost north of twenty thousand, making it out of reach of some hunters. But if you're the adventurous type and are willing to do your homework, hunt hard every day, and take responsibility for your success and safety then a float plane and rafting trip might be the best way for you to get your moose.
Companies like Alaska West Air are willing to take you and a hunting partner (this is, at the very least, a two-person operation) into some of Alaska's most remote bush country where you'll see lots of game and very few if any other people.
From the drop-off point you will raft your way through the wilderness, hunting by day and camping at night. There's a legitimate chance that you'll drop a big bull moose or caribou on this hunt — but you have to know how to handle the meat if and when that happens.
There's also the possibility of running into bears, and there's no one to help you in the far-flung corners of the Great North. There's risk involved here, but if you do your homework this opens the door to one of the country's greatest hunts at rock-bottom prices.
Spot-and-Stalk Black Bears
Black bears abound in the deep wilderness, dining on choke cherries and roots in mountain meadows throughout the west. One area that offers great potential for do-it-yourself hunters is Idaho, where bears grow large and hunting licenses are affordable.
The steep country in the Boise, Nez Perce and Clearwater National Forests offer millions of acres to hunt, lots of bears, and tags are affordable. But, like Alaska, the remote backcountry of Idaho is wild, so you need to be prepared for a week-long hunt in a remote area.
The biggest bears are often in the deepest, darkest canyons and don't show themselves until daylight draws to a close, but if you're in position you can tag the trophy of a lifetime here for a very affordable price and there are a very high percentage of color-phase bears in this region (just make doubly sure that what you're looking at isn't a grizzly if you happen to be in a corner of the state where Ursus horribilis resides).
Your favorite deer rifle should work well, but you'll need a good pack, excellent boots, navigation equipment and really good glass so you can find the bears. Idaho is one of the most hunter-friendly states and the Idaho Fish and Game website spells out the regulations very easily. This hunt can be done for under $500, even if you are from out-of-state.
There is a prevailing sense that Africa is out-of-reach for the average hunter, and that's simply not true. Yes, hunts for dangerous game in the best concessions in Tanzania can cost six figures, but it's still possible to have a great week-long plains game hunt for less than the cost of many guided elk hunts here in the States.
Namibia is undoubtedly one of the safest and most affordable African hunting destinations, and there are still some vast stretches of untouched, unfenced wilderness that look the same today as they did a millennium ago.
If affordable adventure is what you're after then look to the massive Kalahari Desert or Kaokoland region in the northwest. These areas are home to dozens of species of plains game like kudu, eland, wildebeest, oryx, springbuck and hartebeest — and very few humans.
Hunts can be had for as little as $350 a day, and accommodations are generally quite good. Trophy fees vary, and shipping and taxidermy costs can be fairly steep, but if you don't want to pay those costs consider a cull hunt where you take older non-trophy animals that will feed local communities — and your hunting camp — for a more affordable rate.
Namibia took the bold step of actually banning hunting bans this year, and their network of professional hunters are among the best anywhere. Plus, the country offers tremendous non-hunting opportunities as well such as game viewing in Etosha, climbing the red sand dunes in Sossusvlei, and fishing for oceanic species out of Swakopmund and tiger fish in the Zambezi (formerly Caprivi) Strip.