Of the couple hundred big game hunts I have embarked upon on this fortunate continent, only about 15 were guided, and most of those were hunts where a guide was required by law (i.e., grizzly bears in British Columbia, Dall and Stone sheep in B.C., the Yukon and Northwest Territories.)
I have nothing against guided hunting trips. However, the current cost of most North American hunting trips has become almost unaffordable. Some hunts almost cause me to swallow my cigar in disbelief!
How about a Stone sheep-hunt? In northern B.C. it runs $43,000. Any additional animals taken require extra costs. For example, a Stone sheep hunt in the Yukon costs $41,500. Add mountain caribou for $6,500, grizzly bear for $8,500, moose for $11,500. That’s $68,000 and you haven’t even bought your plane ticket, bush plane flight, license or paid any tips. I daresay a fellow could spend a month or six weeks in Africa and shoot a dozen animals for about the same cost.
The cheapest Dall sheep hunt I was able to uncover was a 10-day hunt in the Brooks Range of northern Alaska for $16,500. Bear in mind that you have to fly commercially all the way to Anaktuvuk Pass before paying for a bush plane flight into the Brooks Range.
Alaska Range horseback Dall sheep hunts run about $19,000. Go to the Yukon for Dall sheep and the price is $20,500 to $23,500. One outfitter charges an extra $6,000 for a helicopter charter.
I hunted caribou in Alaska four times, only one of those was a guided trip and that cost about $2,000 plus air charter. I shot three good barren ground caribou on those four trips. Today a seven-day guided caribou hunt, two hunters per guide, costs about $7,000. That is for one caribou — not two—as it was when I last hunted caribou in Alaska in 1998.
I went on my one and only mountain goat hunt in B.C. in 1972 and it cost $1,000. Today the price runs from $10,000 to $13,500.
My last northern moose hunt was in Alaska in 2001. I hunted unguided with three partners and managed to shoot a respectable 55-inch bull. One of my partners used his frequent flier miles to buy me a commercial plane ticket. So the hunt cost me little more than my share of the bush plane flight, hunting license and groceries. I don’t think I spent much more than $1,000. Today, a guided moose hunt in Alaska starts at around $18,500. Again, that is just the outfitter’s fee.
My only guided grizzly bear hunt took place in B.C. in 1973. It cost $750. Today grizzly bear hunts run $15,000 to $17,000. Coastal brown bear hunts in Alaska cost $20,000 to $25,000. (I hunted Alaska brown bears three times in the mid-1980s as a resident, and never spent $500 on any single trip.)
One might think that deer and elk hunts in the West might be a comparative bargain. Not so. A guided mule deer hunt in Montana, for example, runs in the $5,000 to $7,000 range. Hunt in Utah with a landowner’s permit (no drawing required) and you are looking at $8,000.
A guided six-day elk hunt in Montana sells for $7,000 to $8,000. A five-day elk hunt in Colorado costs $4,800. Add two days to the hunt and the possibility of taking a mule deer buck, and the charge goes to $7,500.
Guided elk hunts in New Mexico and Utah, utilizing landowner tags, run $9,000 to $13,000 and more.
So you can see that guided hunting for big game in North America has become a high-cost activity. I wish it were not so, and that we could go back to the day when a working man had the ability to save his money and hunt anything in North America. It occurs to me that I did some hunting that a younger man could never do, unless he is making $150,000 a year.
I am glad I was not born any later.