Unlike much of Europe, hunting in the United States is really not all that cost prohibitive. Sure, there’s the expense of a resident hunting license, shells, a gun and a little gas to get you afield, but the average American has the means to enjoy the outdoors.
A guided hunt for elk or another dream animal? Well, that can be another story. A quick Internet search turns up outfitter fees ranging from a $3,000 archery elk hunt in Colorado to a $10,000 rifle hunt in a prime area of Utah. And that doesn’t include license/tag fees or transportation!
So, what’s a working man to do? Not long ago, closing your eyes and dreaming of elk hunting was the only realistic option, but then along came NRA Outdoors (NRAO), a partnership between the National Rifle Association and the Outdoor Connection. NRA Outdoors is affiliated with a multitude of outfitters (all vetted), and can help a hunter find an the right fit, based on how much they want to spend, what they want to hunt and where they want to hunt (a vast number of fishing trips are also available). A quick search for elk reveals hunts starting at $1,950. Best of all, a portion of that fee goes directly to NRA—you’ll hunt, save money and defend freedom all at the same time.
Hunts for Any Budget The “quick search” module at the NRAO website is fast and rather addicting. Hunts are available for practically every big game species—even African dangerous game—plus upland birds, waterfowl and all six turkey subspecies. A search across five price ranges turned up some intriguing hunts from the database:
$500 or less Indiana waterfowl: $150 Western Kansas pheasants: $170/day Florida whitetail: $150/day (plus $500 trophy fee) Arkansas waterfowl: $200/day Kansas predators: $200/3 days Maine whitetail: $495/5 days
$500 to $1,500 Florida quail: $500/day Texas wild boar: $600/2 days Oklahoma Rio Grande turkey: $700/2 days Ontario whitetail: $950/3-5 days Montana antelope: $1,200/3 to 7 days South Dakota pheasants: $1,200/3 to 5 days Ontario black bear: $1,450/5 to 7 days
$1,500 to $3,000 Florida trophy alligator: $1,500/2 to 3 nights Montana spot-and-stalk black bear: $1,800/7 days Iowa whitetail: $2,100/5 days Arizona Coues deer: $2,500/4 days Montana whitetail: $2,750/5 days Alberta wolf: $2,900/6 days Argentina waterfowl: $3,000/3 to 5 days
$3,000 to $4,500 Colorado elk/muley combo: $3,100/7 days Montana elk: $3,200/7 days Texas whitetail: $3,500/5 days Nebraska mule deer: $3,800/4 days Wyoming moose: $4,000/7 to 10 days Quebec black bear: $4,300/6 days Alberta whitetail: $4,500/6 days
$4,500 and up South Africa plains game: $4,600/3 to 7 days Montana elk: $4,800/6 days Alaska moose float trip: $5,500/7 to 10 days Wyoming mountain goat: $6,000/8 days British Columbia cougar: $6,500/8 days British Columbia caribou: $7,900/10 days Manitoba trophy moose: $9,500/7 days
How Are Costs Kept So Low? Greg Ray, president of NRAO, says “Most of our outfitters have been in business for decades and know how to run their businesses very efficiently.” Ray said they also tend to work with smaller outfitters that do not have huge overhead to cover and can focus more on the client and his or her experience. “I think that’s also a reason we see a lot of return clients—our outfitters give them the attention they deserve and don’t treat them as just another hunter in camp.”
Still, sometimes you get what you pay for. How can interested hunters be sure that the guy they’re paying a measly $150 to hunt deer won’t provide a lousy experience or—worse yet—rip them off entirely
Ray notes the Outdoor Connection’s Approved Destination program. Every outfitter in the NRAO database has been inspected to ensure it meets quality standards. The vetting process also helps NRAO to learn more about each outfitter in order to pair them with appropriate clients. Additionally, every hunter who goes on an NRAO-arranged trip is asked to provide feedback on the experience afterward.
“We’ve heard from past clients on numerous occasions that our attention to detail is one of the things they like best about our service,” Ray said.
For example, when a prospective client calls, they ask the right questions to find out exactly what they’re looking for in a hunt, and then offer two or three choices to best fit their needs. NRAO then narrows it down to one destination and follow-up with a phone call after the client has had time to review the information.
If the hunter decides to book the hunt, NRAO will even help with travel arrangements, a checklist of recommended gear, licensing and international travel documents for those hunters pursuing game outside the country.
Even if you aren’t ready to book a hunt, the NRAO database is fun to browse and dream. And, if you are ready, it’s arguably the best service available to find a reputable outfitter within a specific price range. For more information, call 888-712-NRAO or email [email protected]