The economics of hunting and fishingLast week I sent a far-too-large personal check to a lodge in Alaska to book a fishing trip for Laurie and me, and it got me to thinking about the shaky economics of hunting and fishing.
By: Bernie Kuntz, The Jamestown Sun
Last week I sent a far-too-large personal check to a lodge in Alaska to book a fishing trip for Laurie and me, and it got me to thinking about the shaky economics of hunting and fishing.
Of course, there is some hunting and fishing that is indeed economical. I have shot a number of deer within 30 miles of my house, using a $10 license and buying a couple gallons of fuel; also, some mallards and geese in similar fashion, and my last bull elk, taken in 2010 was 18 miles from my house. Twenty bucks for a license and a couple gallons of gas for the old Suburban. How can you beat that?
For a number of years Laurie and I traveled to the Missouri River Breaks, a distance of about 250 miles one way, set up a camp and usually got an elk. So for $100 worth of fuel and a $20 license we had elk meat for less than a dollar a pound.
I also have caught trout from creeks and rivers in the Gallatin Valley where I live. In Alaska we caught salmon and halibut a short distance from our home (from Laurie’s $12,000 Boston Whaler…I suppose we should factor in that expense.)
Those are the kinds of trips you want to promote to a non-hunting spouse who may be skeptical of your expenditures for hunting and fishing.
But 90 percent of the time things are upside down when it comes to analyzing hunting and fishing trip costs. Take my annual trips to northeastern Montana for pheasants. I did that from the early 1990s for a dozen years or so. It ended up something like this — a 500-mile drive to Plentywood, three days in a motel, 100 miles a day driving from Plentywood to the hunting area, then the 500-mile drive home. Even with gas at $1.50 a gallon or less in those days, those pheasants probably cost $25 a pound!
But how do you put a price on watching Labradors work the CRP fields, the excitement of the flush and the shot? Of course, you can’t. It was worth every penny.
Over the years I made 10 major hunting trips to Alaska, only one that was guided, some while I was a resident, others after I moved to Montana and was a non-resident of Alaska. Among the edible game that I killed were three big caribou bulls and a 55” bull moose. I gave the caribou meat to a friend from Anchorage, who needed meat badly at the time, so I didn’t bring back any meat on those trips. I also remember paying more to fly myself and the caribou carcasses from the bush to Anchorage than what I spent several years later to fly round trip from Bozeman to Johannesburg, South Africa!
When I shot the moose, on Sept. 11, 2001 no less, I packed 70 pounds of it into a cooler and gave the rest to my three partners. Even with the free plane ticket my partner gave me, I figure that 70 pounds of meat cost $30 a pound.
I won’t even dwell on northern sheep hunts that cost thousands of dollars. You eat the meat in camp and come home with a cape and horns, if you are lucky.
Fishing trips to the North Country are another uneconomical matter. For 50 years I’ve been traveling to Manitoba or Saskatchewan to fish for pike and walleyes. Nowadays you can bring back only five pike and four walleyes per license from Saskatchewan, however, you can eat as much fish as you like while you are in camp. Figure $1,000 for a cabin, another $1,000 for fuel, $80 for a license, a couple nights in a motel…we won’t even discuss the cost of owning or renting a boat. It works out to some very expensive fish indeed!
Two years ago Laurie and I flew into Rivers Inlet north of Vancouver, British Columbia for some salmon fishing. We brought 40 pounds of fillets home and figured it cost $200 a pound!
One point to remember with all this, however, is that if you go to Disneyworld or on a Caribbean cruise or to see the fall colors in New England or any other hundred trips, you will bring back no game meat or fish.
So the sorry economics of hunting and fishing doesn’t really matter. That’s what I keep telling myself.
Bernie Kuntz, a Jamestown native, has been an Outdoors columnist for The Sun since 1974