With the rising cost of fuel these days, I can imagine there are a lot of deer hunters who will be looking for ways to cut their deer hunting cost. Maybe this isn't the year you buy that new rifle or bow. Perhaps that new set of Camouflage clothes will have to wait. Or maybe you're looking to get involved in deer hunting but it looks too expensive. I'm going to tell you that it doesn't have to be expensive and you can get started deer hunting for less than $1000 and even less than $500 if you pick your gear correctly.
You want to know a secret? You don't have to have the latest designer Camo to kill a deer! Yeah, shocking hunh!
Hunters in the Northeast have been killing deer for eons wearing nothing but Grey wool pants and the traditional black and green pattern wool coats. Some even wear the black and red plaid coats.
Any dull colored clothing will work fine as long as you're comfortable in it and it's quiet. Olive drab military surplus clothes work great. You can generally find the Military camo patterns available also. The Desert Camo is great for late season bow hunting. I would avoid wearing any brown or white colors during the Gun season though. Expect to pay less than $100 for true Military Surplus clothing (the stuff that has actually been used!)
You can also browse your local Wal-Mart store for hunting clothes. I scored several years ago on a green fleece jacket with huge pockets. Perfect for the way I hunt plus it's warm. I don't have a problem saving money on hunting clothes, I don't care who the retailer is.
Any good leather or rubber/leather boot will work for deer hunting. I've seen guys out in the woods with tennis shoes on, but I wouldn't recommend it.
Personally, I would buy a pair of boots just for deer hunting so they could be put back and kept clean.
In bow season and Muzzleloader season, I'll wear either the $15 a pair rubber boots from Wal-Mart or any other discount retailer. Good Ole Black PVC rubber boots are cheap. These rubber hunting boots will keep your feet dry if you hunt in wet areas. They're also very good and keeping your scent off the ground, which is why I use them during bow season.
They'll even work well in cold weather if you'll buy a size larger and layer your socks. I've used one pair of Cotton socks on first followed by a thick wool sock. Works wonders for keeping your feet warm.
Don't get the sock and boots too tight. A tight fit will cut the circulation off to your feet and they'll get cold, not matter how many layers you have.
I will tell you that you should not scrimp on your hunting boots if you can avoid it. If you have feet that get cold easy or have sensitive feet, pay the money and get you a good hunting boot.
When I'm not wearing the old cheapo rubber boots, I have a pair of LL Bean Maine Hunting Boots. Leather tops with rubber bottoms. In my opinion, one of the finest hunting boots on the market. They keep my feet dry, they're durable and I leave minimum scent walking in. I think my pair was around $95 and worth every penny.
Deer Scents, Calls, Etc.
Okay, for you new people to deer hunting, here's another secret I'm going to let out of the bag. You don't need all the scents and deer calls on the market to kill a deer! In fact, you don't need any! Yeah, I know what the marketing departments of the big companies all say, but don't listen to them. They're just trying to sell you deer scent and deer calls.
In fact, if you don't know how to use calls or scents, they can hurt your hunting more than help. Learn how to hunt deer without the gadgets. When can kill a deer on a routine basis without using calls and scents, then you'll be ready for them. Calls and scents are nothing more than an aid to deer hunting. Any as I just mentioned, in the wrong hands they'll hurt you more than help. You'll not get that many chances, so take advantage of every one you get.
Leave the calls on scents on the rack until you're a little more experienced.
Archery Hunting Equipment
Don't start out thinking you need the latest whiz-bang-wammy-mammy bow in order to kill a deer. You don't.
If you're not experienced in archery, I would strongly suggest that you stop by your local archery shop to buy your first set up. Tell them you're on a very limited budget and you just need a reliable bow set and arrows. Expect to pay around $200 for a bow set up for hunting and about $75 for arrows, field points and broadheads.
It's important for first timers to get help from experienced archers. Generally you'll find helpful staff in a bow shop, however from time to time you'll find the self adsorbed jerks there also. If you're jerk - snooty meter goes off when the guy or gal opens their mouth, leave and go elsewhere. You'll eventually find a shop staff member that is helpful, knowledgeable and friendly. Life to short to deal with cocky bow shop staffers!
If the store owner tries to sell you some 3,4,5 or $600 bow, go elsewhere, they're worried about their profit rather than seeing you're outfitted well.
Also, don't go buy a bow setup from a catalog or a discount store then take it to a bow shop and expect them to give you help. Some will, but most won't. Can you blame them? They way they look at it is that their bows may be slightly higher than Wal-Mart or one of the big Outdoor retailers, but you're getting personalized service and helpful customer service when you buy from them. Don't be surprised if you ask for help and they tell you to go back where you bought it from for help. Something to keep in mind when buying a bow.
Don't get caught up in the "Speed Kills" marketing hype. I believe this was a marketing buzz word put out by the Bow manufacturers many years ago to sell new bows. The funny thing is, I was just browsing Bass Pro's Archery offerings and looking at all the bow speeds. Most of those $500 to $600 bows are shooting in the 300-325fps range.
I can remember back when I bought my Darton Viper over 15 years ago. There were many bows on the market then that would shoot carbon arrows in the 300+ fps range. The main thing that has changed over the years is that the bows have become shorter and lighter. I'm not convinced that a shorter and lighter bow is worth $500 to $800. But hey, it's your money!
If you're not experienced in using treestands, it's best to just leave them be. There are far too many hunters getting permanently hurt every year from falling out of treestands or having accidents while putting them up. Find someone to help you and who will show you how to use one or leave them alone for now.
If on the other hand you do have experience with treestands, then I'd suggest buying a new one. I've bought several used ones that have had problems. Better to get a new one that the manufacturer will stand behind. You'll also likely get a free harness as well. Use it!
You have several types of stands to choose from; Hang On, Ladder, Tripod, Tower or Climbing. I started out using Loc-On stands that had the plywood platforms and the chains. Geez, talk about dating myself! Now that I'm older, I look for comfort and the stands that do that for me are the Ladder stands and Tripods. However they are not a good choice for a person who wants to be mobile.
If you plan on hunting public land, you'd be wise to invest in a lock. Those treestands have a tendancy to walk away when you're not around.
If you choose a hang-on type stand, you'll be able to choose how to get your stand and yourself up the tree. Screw in steps, strap on steps or climbing sticks/ladders. Obviously the screw-in type steps and the strap on steps are the lightest and easiest to carry. Climbing sticks and ladders can add not only expense, but weight as well.
Good quality hang-on type treestands can be had for under $125 and many are beneath $100.
A good blackpowder rifle will run you less than $200. I'd suggest your first blackpowder deer hunting rifle be a .50 caliber rifle that will accept 209 shotgun primers as the ignition source. CVA and Traditions both have rifles like this for under $200.
A scope would be nice if you can swing it, if not, don't sweat it. Save your money and buy one later.
If you know what you're looking at, Pawn Shops can be a great source for good muzzleloaders and most can be had for a song.
I'd recommend trying several of the .50 caliber bullets on the market. Hornady, Thompson Center and others put out quality bullets for muzzleloaders. Next, I'd start with Pyrodex or Triple Seven pellets. They're easy to use and come in 50 grain increments. In most rifles, two pellets will be all you need.
The pellets are pricey, but for the ease of use and the speed in reloading, they're worth the price in my book. (not to mention you don't need a powder measure!)
If you live in a State or region that only allows Shotguns or Muzzleloaders, then it might be worth your while to get a good flat shooting muzzle loader. I'd much prefer a flat shooting muzzleloader over a Shotgun. Check out my review of the MDM Buckwacka muzzleloader for a flat shooting, hard hitting muzzleloader.
Spend some time at the range with your new muzzleloader. Follow the directions for cleaning your gun. If you're going to hunt with muzzleloaders, you'd better learn how to clean and care for them properly. Even the modern blackpowder rifles need to be kept clean in order to work properly.
Deer Hunting Rifles
This will probably be your biggest expense when you start deer hunting. (if you choose to hunt with a modern rifle)
Here again, you don't need a $800 or $1000 deer rifle to kill deer. A $150 Marlin or Winchester you bought at a Pawn Shop will do the job just as well. There are many used deer rifles on the market that are just waiting to get taken out in the woods. Here is a list of 7 used deer rifles I'd recommend.
Pawn Shops can be a great source for good rifles at discount prices. If you're on a tight budget, plan to spend less than $200. You can even find some great military surplus rifles that will be more than adequate for deer hunting.
Here's an article you can read if you're just beginning deer hunting and looking for a rifle cartridge. 5 rifle cartridges for the beginning deer hunter.
Gun shows are also another source for good bargains, especially late in the day on the last day of the show. The remaining vendors will be looking to sell some inventory before packing up. You'll also find people walking the isles with For Sale signs on their guns. Cash talks so take it with you and leave the plastic behind. You'd be surprised at how a wad of green will get a Gun dealer to come down off the price of a gun!
If you don't know much about guns, then it would be in your best interest to find a local gun shop and buy your first deer rifle there. Just as with bow shop owners, if you run across jerks who happens to own a gun shop, move on.
A good gun shop owner will help you pick your first rifle and accessories. They'll also help you keep it under your budget.
Just like with the blackpowder rifles, grab you several different brands of ammo. Find what shoots best in your rifle.
Cabela's sells bulk ammo for several popular calibers like .270, .308, 30-06 and 30-30. It's 100 rounds and comes in a waterproof ammo box.
If you really want to go cheap, learn to reload. You can reload on the cheap by grabbing you a reloading manual and a Lee Classic Reloading Kit along with some powder, primers and bullets (follow the instructions in the Reloading Manual and Lee Reloader set to a "T")
The Lee Classic Reloader Kit comes for many popular calibers and the kit sells for about $20. If you have several rifle or pistol calibers you'd like to load for, then look at the Lee Hand Press reloading kit at around $35. It uses standard dies so you can switch from caliber to caliber. A reloading manual will cost you about $15 to $25 depending on which one you go for.
If you're really on a budget or live in one of the Midwest states that prohibit rifles, then break out your Shotgun. There are many choices when deer hunting with a shotgun. You may have a Shotgun like a Mossberg or Remington where you can exchange the smooth barrel for a rifled barrel. Or a barrel with rifle sights on it. So don't feel left out if you can't afford a rifle or live in an area where rifles are not allowed. If you can use a Shotgun, grab it and run to the range. Try out several different brands at 25 and 50 yards to see which one shoots best. You can then move back further and further until you reach 100 yards. That's just about maximum for most Shotguns with slugs.
So there you have it. Let's go over what we have.
- Hunting Outfit(s) bought at Military Surplus or Discount Store - $100
- Boots - $20 for cheapo's or $125 for better quality
- Deer Scents and Calls - $0
- Bow set, Arrows and Broadheads - $275
- BlackPowder Rifle and Accessories - $300
- Modern Rifle or Shotgun - $200
See, getting started in Deer hunting doesn't have to cost an arm and leg. Many times we get caught up with keeping up with the Jones' thinking we have to have the latest and greatest gear. If you can afford it and it makes you happy, know yourself out. On the other hand, if you want to get into the sport of deer hunting and don't have a lot of money, this is how it's done.
Good Luck and share some of your hunts with budget gear with me. You can even send me a picture, maybe I'll post it and share the story with other deer hunters here!