Hunting for the Table: Is it Worthwhile? (+ free worksheet)

Within our North American culture, we are slowly becoming more aware that our store-bought, lot-raised, corn fed beef isn’t the best option available! A movement toward raising your own or purchasing grass fed animals from a local farmer is in full swing! We are once again becoming conscious of what we put into our bodies.

Within this movement, you can find people returning to the land in a very literal way. It’s the way people have lived for centuries, the way of hunting for wild game! I know of many individuals who supply meat for their families in this manner; my man and I were both raised on wild game! Because it was “the norm,” we’ve continued this pattern. We raise heritage turkeys for white meat and we hunt for our burger, steaks and roasts. Deer and elk are the primary source, though being a true northern fella, my husband has also hunted moose as well as the renown Stone Sheep.

I can make no claim about being a good hunter, but I love hunting! So many of my childhood memories revolved around this method of providing! In fact, our yearly family vacation existed of a 6-10 day fall hunt in the Steens Mountains, located in high desert of southeast Oregon. Still one of my favorite places in the world!

Hunting was a family effort from the beginning to end. My dad and older brothers were archers and did well pursuing the numerous deer and elk that lived on the land surrounding our farm. Upon harvesting one, the hunter would arrive home victorious and everyone would pile into the old truck to go help haul it out! When the time came, processing the meat was a group effort. Everyone helped with the butchering and even the little ones were given a very dull knife and a piece of meat to work at!

Then there were the campfires and late evenings riddled with hunting stories…those stories in which the elusive animal grew bigger every time the tale was told! I remember listening and taking everything in long before I ever hunted!

Hunting for the Table: is it Worthwhile?

Oh yes, such good memories, ones I want my children to experience. But reality? My location (and even country) has changed! My man and I have uprooted ourselves from known territory and as much as I love hunting, we have to face the question as we now live life together in a new vicinity:

“Based on our location and the costs of hunting, is it worth our time and money?”

We are saving to buy our own homestead, crunching the pennies (or we would be if CA had not stopped accepting/using ’em)! We had to consider if hunting truly was a cheaper way to provide for our needs, or if it was only an expensive, highly enjoyable, recreational activity.

I broke it down from the beginning! Listed below are the costs of hunting that should be calculated against the amount of meat harvested. At the very end, I have a break down of this past year’s hunting and a downloadable chart for your own calculations!

The Cost of Courses

The USA requires that a Hunter Education Course be taken and passed before issuing a hunting license or tag. The exception is for those born before the given year specified for each state and youth hunts, during which the young’un must be accompanied by someone who has completed the program!

In Canada, the Hunter’s Education Course (CORE) must be completed for hunting both rifle and archery. The exception is for those born before the given year specified for each province and youth hunts where young’un must be accompanied by someone who has completed their CORE and if hunting rifle, their PAL also! A Possession and Acquisition License (PAL) must be acquired before an individual is allowed to carry a rifle (bow hunters exempt). The exception? If I have my CORE, I can rifle hunt with someone who has acquired both their CORE and PAL.

I took my Hunter Education Program in the States. Upon settling into our valley, I began to do the research and discovered that Canada would accept my US training and it wasn’t necessary to take the Canadian test. After a visit to the licensing center with the necessary information, I was set!

To check out the requirements for your state or province, visit the page found on the International Hunter Education Association website.

License and Tags

Buying a license every year enables you to then purchase a tag for the type of animal you wish to hunt. Costs are reasonable and because of this, its easy to over-purchase, adding on to your costs. Think and plan realistically!

Hunting for the Table: Calcuate the Cost

Cost of Equipment

Equipment is usually a one-time, upfront cost! If you don’t already own a rifle suitable for large game, you’ll have to purchase one with a good scope, or, if you relish the challenge, buy a compound bow. If bow hunting, calculate the cost of sights, string silencers, arrows, tips and broad-head blades. Purchasing a bow or rifle is (usually) a lifetime investment.


You’ll also have to decide on the accessories: the type of ammo needed, if binoculars or a spotting scope are necessary, decide on camouflage/special clothing, if you need a tree-stand, scent cover-up, animal calls, etc. The amount of accessories largely depends on the terrain and what type of game you plan to hunt! Deer is the common choice and requires little for accessories.


The Cost of Travel!

While purchasing proper equipment often seems like the biggest expense…it isn’t! In a lifetime of hunting most will find that the contents of their pocketbook go to fuel costs. If you have to drive even 30 minutes to get out of town or to reach a location where you can hunt, the cost of that animal you may (or may not) harvest is going to quickly add up! Time spent on the road all too often renders hunting as nothing more than an expensive recreational activity.

If going into the mountains, a truck is an amazing vehicle and depending on your location you may need one to get to where the animals are! But also consider this: trucks (especially the older ones) are gas-hogs. Keep track of re-fills and gauge the cost of your hunting expenditures.

Because our hunting is contained to the valley, we hunt with our mini-van (don’t laugh)! We get incredible gas mileage and a good tarp thrown in the back does wonders to keep everything clean and contained. Thus far, we’ve hauled out all our deer in the back of it!

How to Calculate the Cost of Hunting

Ok! Maybe this does require a laugh! But hey, its cheap and it works well for us! We are fortune to primarily hunt within a 10-minute drive radius.

The Cost of Location

Just because you have the equipment, access to land and love hunting, it doesn’t necessarily (from a financial standpoint) make this method of providing a worthwhile endeavor! Does the land you live on/near have a high population of deer, elk, bear, antelope (whatever you are hunting)? Talk to the locals who also hunt! They will be familiar with the animal population, with its ebb and flow. Get their perspective on the matter and base your evaluation on their knowledge. They may also have some great leads for meat-processing options!

The Cost of Processing the Meat

Suppose you do get something during hunting season. What is it going to cost you to hang, process, wrap and store the meat? If you want burger, you’ll have to find a friend with a meat grinder, purchase one or pay to have it done up at a local butcher shop. We have friends who allow us to use their band saw and meat grinder. Of course, we offer ’em meat in return for their service…which they usually refuse! Because hunting is a lifestyle for us, we purchase meat paper at our local butcher shop in large rolls of 900ft. In the long run, its a much cheaper way to go about it! This too must be calculated into the cost.

How to Count the Cost of Hunting

The Cost of Time

Hunting takes time. Does it ever! Unless you have time to give in mornings, evenings and on weekends, hunting may not be worth your time. Do you have a farm to run? How about a family? What are the demands on your attention? While hunting can be a quality time to connect with others, it can also take away from time that should be spent elsewhere. Is it worth coming home from work only to run out the door again, returning after dark to eat supper and head for bed? Time is valuable and there’s only so much in a day! Weigh your decisions wisely.

The Question of Enjoyment

Most people I know hunt because they love getting outdoors! They hunt because its refreshing to walk through the woods, to watch the other animals that wander through, to take note of the smells, enjoy the sights and scenes stumbled upon that would otherwise be missed had they not been out hunting.


They hunt because it fills something inside of ’em! I get it! I really do! Some of my best memories revolve around hunting.

But is hunting for the table worthwhile? How much time and money would you spend on recreational activities? Does hunting adequately provide for your needs, or should it go into your recreational activity budget?  Let’s face it: hunting doesn’t guaranteed a return!

Hunting for the meat supply

I’ve included the chart we used this fall to calculate our hunting cost. Please note: while this chart makes hunting look like a good option, remember that we have a prime hunting location, the short driving distance of 10 miles (mostly), were gifted a rifle with a good scope as a wedding gift and have plentiful deer where we live! All these things give us a huge head-start in bringing down the cost of our meat.

At the time this post and chart were released, the elk and mulie season had closed. We risked $44.80 for no return. Bear was still open and my man was still going! Next year we will most likely hunt deer only; they are plentiful in our valley and we are most likely to get our return for our money that way.

Canadian Hunting Season 2016

Set Up Costs Amount 10 Yr Break Down
1 CORE/PAL with

5 yr Renewal Fee





Rifle free N/A
Scope free N/A
Gun Lock/Accessories $60.00 /10=$6.00
Butcher Paper $30.00 /10=$3.00
Cost Per Year: $38.50
Yearly Costs Amount
License $35.84
Fuel $100.00
Ammo $15.00
Total: $150.84


Whitetail x 2


1 Mulie Buck


1 elk


1 bear

Total: $100.80
Total Yearly Cost : $290.14
Year’s Harvest Dressed Weight Pkg Weight Processing Cost
2 deer 155 lbs 110 lbs $0-accounted for
Price $1.87 per lb $2.63 per lb

Want your own? Here’s a free, downloadable chart for you to use: blank-hunters-sheet! 

Decide on your own whether or not hunting is indeed better than buying meat for the table!




4 thoughts on “Hunting for the Table: Is it Worthwhile? (+ free worksheet)

  1. That’s Awesome! Lol! I love your mini van/hunting pic! 👍 You’ve got some really neat pictures! Sarah 🙂

    Sent from my iPhone



  2. Good analysis. I would not have thought to include the other incidentals in the cost. We do hunt and fish for food, but those additional costs never seemed to burden anyone. Since grandpa died, my folks don’t process the animals at home. Mom got a deer yesterday – nice 8pt buck about 125lbs dressed – it’s going to cost them $85 to process; does are only $75. They hunt on property, so that cost is zero; however, $15 for gas to the butcher shop. Ammo is probably $10 max. Since my stepdad was unable to hunt this year, mom’s license was $34 and includes fishing. Total cost would be $144 and averages to $1.15 per pound of the dressed weight. Average per pound cost of ground beef currently is around $1.89 and chicken is $1.99. Fish they clean at home, $10 in gas, $0 in fees since they are combined, and she probably caught around 25lbs this year = $0.40/lb. I would say they are still ahead of the game.


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