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Can you save money by hunting? I believe the answer is a resounding ‘yes,’ and I’m about to give you the justification you need to get out of your house and into the woods more often. Here’s why:
A deer was put in my freezer the other day. And as I stuffed as much of it as I could into my freezer, I couldn’t help but think about the cost of what that meat would be at the grocery store. I had just put away perhaps 45 pounds of venison. How much would that have cost me at the store? Would I have even been able to find 45 pounds of venison at the store?
Here’s how the financials of hunting break down, and I think you’ll see as well, you can save money by hunting.
Oh, deer. That’s a lot of money.
As I hoisted the deer up to make for easier dressing, I realized that the dead weight of the animal was probably around 120 pounds. Other than the occasional chicken liver platter, I don’t really eat organ meat, so all I took from this deer was the meat. After it had all been carved up, I probably ended up with 45-50 pounds of venison.
A nice formula you can use to calculate a rough number of how many pounds of meat you can expect per deer has been created by Deer Hunting Field.
They estimate that each deer you bag will yield you the following amount of meat:
(Full weight x 0.7)x 0.45 = the amount of meat in pounds you’ll harvest
So, my 120-pound deer would factor in as…
(120 x 0.7) x 0.45
120 x 0.7 = 84
84 x 0.45 = 37.8 pounds of meat I could reasonably expect from this deer.
I didn’t weigh each bag of venison, but I’d estimate it was right around 45-50 pounds in total. Slightly higher than what this formula would predict, but the ballpark figure is there.
And it only cost roughly a dollar for the cartridge. (This ammo here is $1.50/round, but you may find it cheaper locally.)
Personally, I’ve yet to see venison for sale at any of the grocery stores around where I live, but I do know they all carry beef, and I am very familiar with its price.
As of right now, a pound of ground beef averages out to around $4.60 in the US. It varies a bit on the fat content you’re choosing, and whether or not you’re choosing grass-fed beef or not, but let’s stick with $4.60 to make things simple.
Breaking down the cost of a deer in the freezer
Let’s assume that a pound of ground venison is worth the same as a pound of ground beef. If I ground up my entire deer (we’ll estimate 45 pounds), it would cost me $207.00 to purchase such at the store. I fully respect that ground venison isn’t exactly the same as ground beef (different fat contents and all that), but if you’re predominantly looking at “how can I keep meat on the table?”, hunting is a fantastic factor to consider.
Am I going to ground up 45 pounds of venison? By no means. I’ve got tender loin, back strap, and other cuts of meat that are much too nice for me to want to grind them up. Really, I think that the price point of a whole deer in the freezer is higher than $207.00.
But the point is this: at least $207 was put into my fridge for around a dollar. Even if I had sat out in the woods for four hours before I bagged the deer, I’d still be making over $50/hour, would I not?
Hunting for deer is economically worth it. You can save money by hunting deer.
What about other animals though?
Can we expect similar results from other hunts?
I think so.
Can you save money hunting the humble turkey?
A whole, frozen turkey in my area costs anywhere between $30-50 at the moment. And that’s when you can find it. For the sake of argument, let’s say a 12-pound, frozen turkey costs $30. I’ve got buddies who have shot some behemoth 20+ pound turkeys in the past, but let’s also assume that a wild turkey averages at 18 pounds.
Let’s also assume that five pounds of that bird is feathers, organs, and parts you don’t want to eat (e.g. feet and the head). A lot of assumptions, I know. We work with what we have, and sometimes, a guesstimate is the best you can do. If we stick with these figures though, that would give us 12 pounds of bird to eat.
So, the birds are comparable.
Is one 12-gauge round $20? Nope. It’s more like $2 at the moment. If you’re lucky, Mr. Turkey is bound to have friends standing real close as well, and you may be able to get one of his buddies. An 18-pound gobbler, and a 10-pound hen for $4 isn’t bad at all.
A $2 shell and a few hours hanging out in the solace of the woods can actually save you at least $28.00.
As you can see, even with turkey hunting, you’re still bound to make money.
How do other animals compare though?
While we could undoubtedly look at bear, hog, quail, or other forms of hunting, I think it’s worthwhile to focus on duck hunting instead. I don’t know too many people who eat bear or quail on a regular basis. I don’t know anybody who eats wild hog. So, ducks it is.
Normally, a whole, frozen duck could be purchased at the grocery store for around $18.00 (at close to $3/pound).
Obviously, you can get a duck at the pond for much cheaper than that today (around $1/shot). But the catch here is this: where I’m at, duck is currently unavailable in stores. It doesn’t matter how much you’re willing to pay when you walk in the grocery store. If they don’t have it, you don’t either.
In this circumstance, hunting not only saves you money, but it actually provides you something that the grocery store cannot. That’s not even considering that when one is duck hunting, getting 3+ is usually the norm. (Last time I was out, I only got two, but I digress…)
The point is that I spent four hours out in the cold and walked away with what would cost me close to $40 in the store if the store even had it in stock. Is duck hunting as “profitable” of a venture as deer hunting when it comes to the amount of meat you harvest? No, but the savings still prove – yet again – that you can save money by hunting.
“But what about all that gear?
I admit, this is where hunting can flip to an overly expensive hobby. Was it always this way? No. Consider the early American. He hunted because it kept his family alive. Do you think he had spare cash to throw into the latest camouflage, decoys, and calls?
You don’t have to either. You do need some gear, but as a whole, I think hunters tend to overdo it.
If you’re the gear junkie who drops $100 every time that you walk into the hunting store, then obviously, you’re going to have to harvest a lot more meat to make hunting pay off compared to the guy who already has his camo and rifle, and is content with things as they are. I am assuming you already have a rifle here too. Where I live, this is just a given.
If you’re looking for new camo, may I first suggest checking out your local thrift store. You’re bound to find fantastic deals on great name brand camo for a matter of dollars. If you’re looking for ammo, may I recommend MidwayUSA.com. At the moment, they’re the only supplier online I’ve found that consistently has ammunition, and at a reasonable price. Palmetto State Armory has been letting me down as of late.
As far as decoys, calls, and other gear goes, I highly recommend telling your buddies you’re in the market for such. They’re bound to be getting rid of some of their older gear – which will still work just fine – and be willing to sell it to you for a fair price. You’ll be amazed at the deals you find when you utilize word of mouth.
Can you save money hunting? The answer is ‘yes.’
Just like anything else worthwhile, it does take time and effort. You’ll have to spend some early mornings out in the frigid cold before the sun rises. You may end up spending your evening in a tree stand. But I refuse to believe that this is wasted time.
The chance to unwind and think, the chance to watch the shooting stars – and all while working to provide for your family – it truly is a gift.
What are your thoughts on the subject though? Have you found you save money by going hunting? Are there other factors to consider I did not? Let us know in the comments below.
Aden Tate is a regular contributor to TheOrganicPrepper.com and TheFrugalite.com. Aden runs a micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has two published books, The Faithful Prepper and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.