By Ray Sasser
You can’t pick up a newspaper or turn on a television these days without hearing a dire economic prediction. These are stressful times for everyone, particularly for middle class sportsmen who own a $40,000 fishing boat or pay several thousand dollars a year to go hunting on a lease 200 to 400 miles from home.
Fuel costs are a major issue, but so is the cost of everything else, partly due to increased shipping expenses. Ammunition has risen steeply since last hunting season. Even the cost of shelled corn has skyrocketed as hunters compete with ethanol production. I’ve heard corn prices as high as $10 for a 50-pound bag. That’s double last year’s cost.
Here are some tips on how to tighten your sporting belt:
n Plan hunting and fishing trips as soon as possible. Rather than travel to a hunting lease four long weekends a season, schedule vacation time to coincide with the peak hunting period for your favorite game species. If you’re deer hunting, try to match your hunting period to the peak of the rut, which varies from one area to the next.
n Don’t drive to a hunt by yourself. Carpool by loading up as many hunting companions as your vehicle will hold. Share gasoline and other expenses. Do the same with fishing trips. Every boat should have at least two anglers, and many boats are big enough for more.
n When planning a fishing trip, concentrate on one small area of the lake where you’re confident of catching fish. If the fishing is slow, stick it out and wait for the fish to start biting, rather than cranking up the outboard for a 10-mile run. It’s hard to catch fish while moving at 50 mph. If you determine it’s necessary to move from one end of the lake to the next, load your boat on the trailer and drive it to a well-positioned ramp. Even while towing a big boat, your truck or SUV gets better fuel mileage than the boat.
n If you shoot a lot of shotgun shells, invest in reloading equipment, then buy shotshell components and reload your own ammo. You can save 40 percent or more on a box of shells. If you hunt with the same buddies all the time, pool your money, buy the equipment together, then make a social event out of getting together once a month to reload shells.
n You can also save money reloading rifle cartridges, but most big game hunters don’t shoot enough to justify the expense of buying reloading equipment. Most riflemen who reload cartridges are more interested in accuracy than in monetary savings.
n If you use corn to bait deer and hogs, get together with as many hunting buddies as you can find and buy the feed at bulk prices. It’s cheaper that way. If you’ve got a 300-mile drive to where you hunt, don’t buy 200 pounds of corn near home and haul it to the lease. Save the weight in your vehicle by buying corn near where you hunt. Make a call first to compare prices. Corn prices in a good hunting area may be artificially high during deer season. If you arrange to buy a bulk volume of corn now and pay for it up front, you might get a better deal.
n Forget about baiting with corn and return to the old school method of just going deer hunting and trying to figure out the animals’ natural movements.
n Maximize your fish and game harvest through careful handling and preparation of the meat. Most modern hunters hunt more for the experience than for food, but wild game is a distinct bonus. When handled and cooked properly, it’s a very pure food source. Few hunters can justify the expense involved in hunting with how much food they put on the table, but it’s wasteful not to take full advantage of harvested animals.
Serving as much fish and game as possible will help offset the associated costs by fewer trips to the grocery store.