Deer hunting may not appeal to everyone but us veterans know that the once a hunter, always a hunter. There is probably no other sport that has such a rich history and myth. The very term ‘venison’ brings to mind Robin Hood, green forests, and a rich simmering stew made with fragrant delicate meat.
For deer hunters, the sport is something that they cannot do without but it can be a little expensive. Bringing down an agile, skitty little deer depends on using a good gun and scope, having a good eye, and then finding a deer to bring it down. In terms of experience and cost, this can be an expensive passion or sport. In fact, most veterans warn beginners not to expect a deer on their very first outing. You will have to spend time and money but there are a few simple tricks that will make deer hunting that much more affordable and profitable for you.
#1 Know Your State Licensing Rules
Most hunters usually do have a license in hand but beginners may have to check with the state government. Licenses vary by state. For example, Virginia offers a standard resident hunting license for $23 in which residents are free to hunt nuisance animals like feral hogs, sika deer, woodchucks, coyotes, etc. For a beginner, this license is more than sufficient until you gain expertise. Once you become proficient, a complete license is also available for $133 and you can hunt big and small game. Make sure you check with your state wildlife management agency as rules do tend to change with time.
#2 Buy your rifle or gun at least six months before you actually go on a hunt
For novices and beginners, it is recommend that you buy your gun or bow well before you go hunting. By doing this, you can use it regularly in the coming months and be ready when hunting season actually rolls around. In general, rifles are recommended and are limited to .243 caliber and larger. Bows should be no less than with a 45-pound-pull. If you want to use black powder firearms, you should choose no less than .45 caliber. However, individual situations will also determine the gun you use.
For example, what works great in a Mississippi pine thicket is useless on the flat lands of a Montana prairie. Gun choice will also depend on whether you are hunting open or are hunting timer and what caliber you are comfortable using daily. If you aren’t sure which gun to choose, we recommend you take an experienced friend who hunts deer with you when you go gun shopping. Your state will also dictate what type of firearms are allowed for hunting. For example, states like Pennsylvania do not permit semi-automatic rifles while Virginia requires the use of .23 caliber or larger for game hunting. You may be wondering why we are rambling about on gun selection.
You should know that finding a good cheap common gun and practicing on it with cheap ammo, can save you loads of money on ammunition when you actually go hunting. Believe us, practice as much as you can and your pocket will feel the difference when you actually go hunting.
#3 Fill Doe Tags
Deer herds are vast and wildlife managers do allow doe hunting. In fact, several states do issue two to three doe tags per hunting license. You can also buy extra tags for a small fee. A single female doe can get you as much as 60 pounds of meat. If your family consumes about 120 pounds of meat in six months, two does can easily fill your meat requirements for six months.
Collect the doe tags that you get with your license and buy one or two more depending on your family’s meat requirements. Considering that you already have a common gun and cheap ammunition, you could end up saving more than $500 every six months on your meat purchases.
#4 Choose Public Land
Hunting has become very popular in rural America and public land is almost always over-hunted. If you are lucky enough to find private landowners to give permission, you can hunt on private land. However, one area that most people forget about is military land. Military bases located on rural areas are filled with a variety of wildlife and they allow hunters for a small fee to clear their lands. Of course, you do have to get permission and pay a small fee.
Fees may range from $20 to $50 but the deer are plentiful along with several other type of game as well.
#5 Gun dogs
Having a gun dog is a wonderful way to speed up the hunting process but gun dogs are expensive. Food costs, vet bills, training, etc. may turn out to be very expensive. It’s a far better idea to share your gun dog with fellow hunters. This not only halves the fees but ensures that you have a back-up person to care for your dog when you travel.
#6 Process the meat yourself
If you’ve managed to down your first deer, good for you. Now comes the actual way by which you can save money. The animal has to be gutted as soon as possible to ensure that the meat remains fresh for human consumption. You can choose to gut and skin the deer yourself or pay the local butcher a small fee ($10-$20) to process and cut the deer into manageable portion.
Of course, it may not be possible to eat an entire 60-80 pound animal in a single week but you can freeze, process, can, or smoke the meat to last you an entire year. Between canning, smoking and dehydration, you can easily use all the meat you have collected and save a ton of money in the process.