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Big-game hunting costs outrageous

In 1967 at age 18 I determined that I wanted to go on a hunting trip somewhere out-of-state, so I contacted a few outfitters in western states and Canada. I settled on a mountain lion hunt in southeastern British Columbia because it was all I could afford at the time. (The outfitter fee was $300 and I had a fine time and shot a lion.)

One of the outfitters who contacted me was Garry Vince, who operated in the fabled Prophet-Muskwa region of northern British Columbia. He phoned and said he charged $100 a day for a 15-day mixed bag hunt, which means you could take a number of big game animals if you had the opportunity.

A general hunting license was something like $65 in those days, and you could buy a pocket full of tags for various species for a pittance. However, after gasping, stammering and declining Vince’s offer, I hung up. $1,500 was a lot of money in those days, particularly considering that the odd jobs I did while in college paid less than two dollars an hour.

So imagine my interest when last week I received an e-mail from a booking agent announcing a “British Columbia Combination Hunt” in Vince’s very same area of the Prophet-Muskwa. (Vince sold the outfitting rights in that area 20 years ago or more.)

First, it is a 10-day hunt — not the 15-day trip that Vince once offered — and for a basic fee of $21,500. That includes harvest fees for Canadian moose, elk, mountain caribou, Rocky Mountain goat, black bear and wolf. A non-resident hunting license is $189.00. And unlike the old days when one could buy tags for a few bucks, following are the pre-requisite tag fees:

$262.50: moose

$262.50: elk

$651.40: Stone sheep

$367.50: mountain goat

$189.00: black bear

$241.50: caribou

$52.50: wolf

$1,081.50: grizzly bear

Now here comes the real kicker: The harvest fee for a Stone ram is $35,000! For a grizzly bear add another $15,000!

Add a GST tax of 5 percent, government royalties on game taken, your flight to and from camp (this will run $1,000 or more), your commercial flight to B.C. and return, fees to fly out meat, horns, antlers and capes, shipping, crating and export permits, and a mandatory “Non-resident Hunt Preservation Fund fee” of $200.

Don’t forget tips for the guide, wranglers and cooks.

As you can see, one could easily spend $85,000 or more on such a trip! And for only 10 days of hunting!

This is what happens, though, when states or provinces require non-residents to hunt with outfitters. It provides outfitters with a monopoly in that every non-resident hunter must hire an outfitter.

You can hunt Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in Colorado or desert bighorn sheep in Nevada for $6,000 or $7,000 if you are able to draw the permit because there is no mandatory guide law in either state. In Wyoming, where non-residents must hire a guide if they hunt in wilderness areas, the rate is closer to $10,000. Still, hunting Stone sheep in B.C. or the Yukon, where an outfitter is required, costs $40,000 to $60,000! That is because outfitters are able to charge such outrageous fees and get them from wealthy hunters.

Over the decades I was able to go on outfitted hunts in B.C. on four occasions, once in Northwest Territories and twice in the Yukon. The trips cost plenty even, in those days, but I was able to work hard, save the money and go. Today, it is far more difficult for the average working person to do so, and that is a sad fact indeed.

I am glad I was not born any later.

Bernie Kuntz, a Jamestown native, has been                                        an Outdoors columnist for the Sun since 1974