This is a guest post by Anne at Unique Gifter. My first thought after reading this was “holy freakin’ cow, is Anne ever an intimidating bad ass”. Proceed.
Is it cheaper to hunt for meat? 99% of the time, the answer is no. That said, there are a lot of variables affecting how much it will cost. Below, I outline a few different but similar scenarios and give some more reasons as to why someone would want to hunt for meat.
Note: There are a lot of laws and regulations that apply to hunting and they change based on geographic area and change each year. There are also a lot of safety precautions. This article is only looking at the range of costs you can expect to incur when hunting. To ensure you are complying with all of the applicable laws, consult your local authorities, not the financial musings of someone on the internet.
Cheapest Case – 1 Hunter, 1 White Tailed Deer in British Columbia
|Inherited or Borrowed Rifle + Scope||
|Hunting Licence + Species Tag – From BC, 1 White Tailed Deer||
|Butcher Yourself – Butcher paper, tape + sharpie, no sausage, etc. Use of a grinder if wanted. Free, proper disposal.||
|Reloaded Shells, 2 shells||
|Average Cost per Pound||
Meat yield for a white tail doe/small buck taken from here: https://www.butcher-packer.com/index.php?main_page=document_general_info&products_id=331
If the same hunter were to get two deer, her costs would fall to $1.01/lb.
If the assumptions were modified a bit, for 1 elk, assuming a 50% meat yield from a 600 lb live-weight animal, it would work out to ~$0.26/lb, but chances are really good you would need to spend more on gasoline. This is also assuming that your time is free. Butchering an animal that large takes a long time!
CORE – Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Education
- This course and exams are necessary in order to acquire a hunter number. There is a written multiple choice exam and a practical firearms handling exam. Hunter numbers are issued by provinces, but can be transferred to a new home province, as a version of the CORE course is offered by each province.
- The course teaches laws, firearms handling, safety and animal identification.
- You can challenge the exam, but generally it is a weekend course which costs in the neighbourhood of $149-200, including the book and licensing fees.
PAL – Possession and Acquisition Licence
- This is the mandatory course and licence in Canada in order to have and to acquire firearms and ammunition. There is a variation called the Possession Only Licence, if you were to say inherit guns and want to keep them but not buy ammunition or purchase any additional guns.
- It is not strictly necessary to hunt, but you will have to be in the supervision of someone with a PAL at all times otherwise.
- It is also usually a weekend course, running $100-150 and includes two exams. After you pass, there is a licence application process, applications are reviewed by the RCMP and take a few weeks before you receive your licence. It is a photo ID card (that’s purple and rainbow covered and therefore hilarious).
- If you own your own guns, there are strict storage laws, which means you will likely need to outlay some money for trigger locks and a gun safe (or equivalent), plus a locked storage device for ammunition.
- The sky is the limit when it comes to gear, but you will need some knives, a way to transport your game, access to a rifle and some ammunition, at the very, very least.
Certain costs can’t be avoided each year, like licences and tags. However, the way you treat a lot of your other expenses makes all the difference in the world.
Rifle + Scope Purchase – You may only need an iron sighted slug shotgun in some places, like Ontario, which is substantially cheaper than an entry level rifle and scope set up. For our purposes, we’ll use a Remmington 700 300 WSM caliber bolt action rifle, which is a relatively inexpensive, but good quality rifle in a caliber which has enough power to drop all of the game in BC (though I’d want something even bigger for a grizzly!). As long as they are taken care of, rifles and scopes last a long, long time. I’ll pick 25 years as their useful life, though realistically it can be much longer if you do not use them enough to warrant changing the barrel. I’ve added $200 for accessories (strap, scope lens covers, carrying case, cleaning kit) and a mid-price scope at $750. Adding some tax and rounding, it is $1800 for a set up.
|1/25 of a Rifle + Scope Purchase||$72.00|
|Hunting Licence + Species Tag – From BC, 1 White Tailed Deer||$49.35|
|Butchering – Skinning, disposal, a few different cuts, one specialty product||$120|
|Shells – 2 Shells||$3.00|
|1/20 of a Side by Side + Trailer||$400|
|Average Cost per Pound||$16.54|
Side by Side + Trailer – Trailer insurance will be annual, but assume the quad is used for other purposes as well and has a useful life of 10 years.
You could also go on a trip, pay for meat shipping (for example if you went Caribou hunting in Northern Quebec, or Sitka Deer hunting in the Haida Gwaii).
In order to more tightly control how much hunting occurs and specific areas populations, there is a system called Limited Entry Hunting in BC, where you pay to participate in a lottery system which assigns a certain number of very specific tags. For example, moose and bison tags are often allotted this way. There is a cost to participate and participation does not guarantee you will win a tag.
These cost assumptions are all based on getting smaller game. If you were to get an elk, for example, most of the costs stay the same (the tag costs $25 instead of $15), but the meat yield is much larger. In my area, butchering fees are about $200, but you yield 200-400lbs of meat!
There are a million other things that you can also purchase, like game packs, nitrile gloves, ear plugs for the range, range memberships (usually come with liability insurance), flagging tape, cheesecloth, bone saws, binoculars, camouflage clothing, hunter orange clothing, gloves, hiking boots, first aid kits, trail cams, scents, spreader bars for butchering, butchering knives, spotting scopes, quads, targets, side by sides and more.
Once you have the meat, you have to put it somewhere. When we got our first elk, we also got our first stand up freezer, which set us back a cool thousand dollars or so. There’s also the electricity cost of keeping it running year round. A trade-off is requiring fewer groceries from the store, so perhaps fewer trips overall.
The Costs are What you Make Them
Do you love spending hours in the slight rain, really early in the morning or as it is getting dark, driving and hiking around, when the temperature is preferably below 10 degrees Celsius? Ya, I don’t usually either. During the fall, my inclination is to spend about two months sitting on my backside on the couch watching TV and reading. Giving me the motivation to get out there and hike in the great outdoors is worth something to me and to my health. For that reason, my spouse and I choose to treat the gasoline cost of hunting as an entertainment cost, because we are doing something much better than what we would otherwise. We also tend to treat our gear costs as sunk costs, like our tent and our skis and our hunting equipment. (The meat that first year was probably $200/lb!). This is our personal choice regarding how we choose to account for things.
Another cost-related thing is ethical meat. I prefer to eat a vegetarian diet, because of sustainability and hormone concerns around industrial farming. Wild game, from the area in which I live, fits into my little set of ethics, especially given the deer and elk over population problems in BC these days. For example, raising beef on a feed lot requires a LOT of water, treated and piped in, used to raise and process food crops, etc.
Here’s a summary of what our hunting costs look like in an average year:
|1/25 of a Rifle + Scope Purchase x 2||$0 – Sunk Cost|
|Hunting Licence + Species Tags||$150|
|Butchering – Skinning, disposal, a few different cuts, one specialty product||$250|
|Shells – 2 Boxes Rifle (Range time) + Shotgun slugs (Bear safety practice) + Shotgun shells (Small game) + .22 Shells (Small game + range)||$65|
|Average Cost per Pound for ethically raised & slaughtered, organic meat||$3.21|
We hunt elk, white tail deer, mule deer, grouse, rabbit and turkey. Unfortunately we haven’t managed to get everything on that list yet, but we have got most of those things.
There you have it… hunting is generally reserved as a way to acquire meat where you prefer the flavour, have some of a wide variety of ethical reasons to pursue game, are looking for something to do in the fall shoulder season, or, in some cases, would like a more affordable, lean meat.
When Anne isn’t casually inferring neo-primitivism has some upsides, she writes @UniqueGifter, a website full of awesome gift giving ideas and ways to spice up otherwise mundane wedding gifts, like sheets! Winter is coming, and so is Christmas, so check out her site!