Top 5 Affordable North American Big-Game Hunts

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posted on June 24, 2024
Top 5 Afforable North American Big Game Hunts Lead

I love hunting my favorite spots here at home in my native New York, as we have the iconic Catskill and Adirondack Parks which can offer plenty of adventure. But I also love heading abroad to experience the variety of terrain, scenery and big-game species our continent has to offer. Some of these adventures can be the stuff of legend, but can also come with an incredible price tag. If you pole around, however, you can find some affordable hunts, even if ‘affordable’ becomes a relative term in comparison to similar experiences. I’d like to share my top five affordable hunts, in hopes you can expand your horizons without breaking the bank, or moving your pillow and blanket to the dog house.

Hunter posing with black bear.

1. Black Bear
I absolutely love hunting black bears, and please pardon my blasphemy, but I’d much rather spend my springtime afield in pursuit of bears than turkeys. Spring or fall, bear hunting can be a great experience and they make decent table fare as well. They can be hunted as spot and stalk, over bait or even run with dogs, and a fine black bear rug will surely make a welcome addition to your hunting trophies. Solo hunts aren’t a difficult proposition, as many states—like New York, Idaho and Colorado, for example—have good amounts of public land and over-the-counter tags, if you prefer that option. For a decent guided hunt, you can expect to spend between $2,000 and $4,000, excluding travel. Look to places like Quebec for semi-guided hunts, or to Alberta for the chance at two bears. You can often mix fishing into your bear hunt to double the fun.

Hunter posing with pronghorn in Wyoming prairie.

2. Pronghorn Antelope
To be on the Great Plains in the first part of autumn with rifle in hand is an experience every hunter should have. And the pursuit of pronghorn antelope is as good an excuse to see that part of the continent as any. I have really enjoyed Wyoming—which has more antelope than people—for both the hunt and the scenery, but there are a bunch of choices from Texas up through Alberta. Over-the-counter tags seem to be pretty much restricted to archery hunts these days, but if you want to use the services of a guide tags can usually be procured. Search the internet and you can probably find a good antelope hunt for under $3,000; quite obviously the best areas will be much more (with tags much more difficult and expensive to obtain) but if you are happy with a representative buck, a three-day pronghorn hunt won’t break the bank. Get ready to crawl, and watch the thorns!

Hunter with West Texas aoudad.

3. Aoudad (Barbary Sheep)
These creatures are transplants from Northern Africa, but have thrived in West Texas. While neither truly a sheep nor goat—the aoudad is the only member of genus Ammotragus—they do offer a fantastic hunt. With curving horns measuring over 30 inches on trophy rams, the aoudad inhabits country you might recognize from those cartoons with the coyote and roadrunner. They are notorious for their ability to soak up lead, so don’t skimp on caliber or bullet weight, and they may not let you very close, so be sure and prepare for longer shots. Prices for a good aoudad hunt are increasing (what isn’t?) with the average running somewhere in the region of $6,000 right now, but I feel that the aoudad might be the most underrated hunt in North America. You’ll glass, you’ll hike and should you be so fortunate to have a mature ram in your crosshairs, you’ll smile for sure. In comparison to the price and availability of Bighorn, Desert and Dall sheep, the aoudad represents a great value. Those hairy “chaps” on the front legs might warrant a half-body mount, but even as a European mount, the aoudad makes a great trophy.

Whitetail buck on snowy ground.

4. Whitetail Deer
Probably the most popular big-game animal in North America can certainly be hunted “on the cheap,” especially if you are the adventurous, self-sufficient type. Much like the black bear, the most attractive means to punch a deer tag is a public-land adventure, and many states (especially the Northeast) will offer an over-the-counter non-resident tag and the land on which to hunt. The trophy quality might not make the record books, but I know that those times in my youth where my father would take me to the remote parts of the Catskill Mountains still rank among my most treasured memories, despite not having fired a shot. Vermont’s Green Mountains, New Hampshire’s White Mountains, New York’s Adirondack Mountains, Pennsylvania’s Poconos; all can represent a traditional deer hunt, and non-resident tags aren’t so expensive that you’ll have to skip lunch. For example, New York charges $100 for a non-resident big-game hunting license (whitetail buck and black bear), and Maine gets $115. Maybe it’s time to scour the yard sales for that red-plaid wool jacket … .

Three rounds of ammunition on feral hog snout.

5. Feral Hogs
Among many of the Southern states, you can get into a feral hog hunt pretty easily, and like bears, there are many different means of hunting hogs. Whether over bait, bayed with dogs or spot and stalk (maybe a helicopter tickles your fancy?), feral hogs offer fine sport and good table fare. Costs and fees can be set up as a daily rate (much like an African safari) with or without trophy fees, or as a flat fee, but generally speaking, a hog or even several hogs can be very affordable in comparison to other species. I've seen daily rates as low as $400/day, with some outfits offering even half-day hunts if you wanted to turn a hog hunt into a day trip on a family vacation. Feral hogs—no matter the name, be it Russian Razorbacks, or what have you—can be a formidable foe, and even the smaller ones can pose a problem if hit wrong, and must be treated with respect. You might be challenged to find a hog with good cutters on the more affordable hunts, but I can honestly say that any hog hunt I've participated in has been a good time, and I look forward to the next one. Florida and Texas are two states with good opportunities for hunting feral hogs, often there is no season associated with them, and the hunt will surely augment your hunting memories.

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