If you like math, keep reading. We will do a lot of that. Me? I’m not a math guy. I trust numbers only when absolutely necessary. But this discussion is one of those cases.
In Michigan, we have a pretty fair turkey hunt. But a late April open and a one-bird cap leaves too much spring and not enough flop. Because of this, I always visit at least three other states each spring, but I need to do it on a budget that matches my stingy style.
Over the years, I’ve learned a thing or two about cheap hunting. At first, it was a function of pure necessity. I just didn’t have the extra funds to commit. I am now a little older and a little further along in my career and have added bolsters to my financial stability. But the old ways are hard to do and I just refuse to spend more than I really need to. This is how I make the most of each spring and spend as little money as possible while doing it.
Now, while these are specific to turkey hunting, they can also apply to the fall when you’re chasing whitetails.
Gas prices are never universal
Let’s face it, even when gas is “cheap”, it’s still expensive. I’ve tried just about everything to cut fuel costs, including traveling across the country in a 2000s Pontiac Vibe 5-speed. Pushing 35 miles per gallon, that plucky steed definitely saved money on gas. But, as nice as that little car was, there are some adventures a commuter car just can’t tackle. Fuel economy on trucks has improved, but it’s still not great. So regardless of what you drive, the advice here is to be smart.
Never, repeat never, just wait until the “Low Fuel” light flashes on the dash. Plan ahead and use a fuel finder app like GasBuddy. I have saved literally hundreds of dollars on fuel over the course of a year or two just by using the app religiously. Fuel costs vary greatly by location. For example, I know that every time I head west from my home state of Michigan, I will never make a fuel stop in Illinois. Gas taxes and other factors mean that Illinois’ fuel costs are significantly higher than neighboring states. So, I refueled in Michigan and didn’t stop until I got to Iowa or Missouri or literally any other state. Doing so during a recent excursion to Nebraska saved $1 per gallon.
But even in the same state, I opened the app and found gas 25 to 30 cents a gallon cheaper just a few miles down the road.
Hotels are an unnecessary expense
I can’t remember the last time I stayed in a hotel or motel while hunting. It was once standard procedure to find the cheapest motel and call it home base. Then it dawned on me and I realized that I was literally paying for nothing but a shitty bed and a weak shower.
I have also found myself less and less interested in hunting areas that have such conveniences nearby. Hotels and restaurants mean humans. Humans mean hunting pressure. Therefore, I avoid both.
Now, I will sleep in my truck almost exclusively during spring turkey hunts. I have a decent camp setup for my truck bed under the lid. For short weekend outings, the backseat of my F-150 crew cab is a comfortable bed, and I can land anywhere I find birds gobbling. A few gallons of water and a bar of soap do wonders for hygiene during the hunt.
Obviously, you can take a tent and go camping. But the campgrounds are about $20 a night and again I’m just looking for a place to sleep. I have spent many a night hanging around in a public parking lot and the savings add up.
Food costs add up
I admit it. I’m addicted to Casey’s pizza. There’s nothing better after a morning of heavy beatings at the hands of the bearded locals. At about $4 for a slice and a pop, it’s a splurge that I’ll gladly do.
Much has been written about bringing your own food to save costs on hunting trips. I’m not offering any truly novel ideas here, but it bears repeating. The biggest cost savings for me comes from bringing my own drinks and food.
As I mentioned, I’m willing to drop a few bucks for a quick Casey stop. But, for the most part, I’m packing what I need in a cooler and carrying Sam’s Choice soda (half price, all caffeine), water, and a variety of quick snacks that keep me in the woods and away from the drive-thrus. that sucks money
Be smart about licensing
As much as I love to hunt turkeys, I’m a whitetail guy at heart. Truth be told, my spring turkey hunts are simply deer scouting missions in the fall. I plan my labels accordingly, which can also lead to big savings.
For example, since I live fairly close to Ohio, it’s obvious that I would hunt deer there. This is ideal since Ohio regulations require you to purchase a hunting license in addition to a deer tag. This means that for an additional $38, I can hunt turkeys in the spring. I could have opted to hunt in neighboring Indiana, but that tag would set me back $175. The same scenario plays out in Iowa. To hunt turkeys in Iowa, you need a hunting license and a turkey tag. In the years that I can draw an Iowa deer tag, I’ll be turkey hunting there too. In the years I can’t draw a deer tag, I won’t go turkey hunting there and opt for a nearby state with a lower cost turkey license.
Featured image via Captured Creative.