Hunting for the price of the sport

I have a confession to make.

I’ve lived in Warren County (for the most part) since 1995.

And I’ve never shot a deer.

I was born and, until I was 10, lived in a suburban area in Northeast Ohio.

Neither of my parents came from hunting families so the phenomenon has always been a bit foreign to me.

But the longer we live here, the more I feel like I’ve missed out something essential to our area.

So, in part because it would be a fun newsroom exercise and in part because I want to be persuaded to go out next year, my colleague Brian Ferry and I undertook an analysis.

Now, before I say another word: Don’t take this as an attack on hunting from a city-slicker.

Also, don’t take our numbers as the gospel.

I freely admit that my knowledge is quite limited in this area but I also know that the ballpark cost of it – fair or otherwise – will impact whether this is something I want to pursue.

But, before making that decision, I wanted to answer a few questions first:

1. What would it cost someone – without help – to get in the woods?

2. What’s the return on that investment look like assuming one deer a year in one year, five years, ten years, etc.?

3. Should I hunt next year?

What would it cost me to get in the woods?

Well, there’s no precise number here so we’re looking for a ballpark estimate. For the things we know we need to buy, we consulted Cabela’s, Field and Stream, Walmart and other websites.

Here’s the ballpark:

¯ Rifle: $500

¯ Ammunition: $30-$50 (or a bit more… for someone with as little firearms experience as myself!)

¯ Scope: $224-$250

¯ Game Commission-required orange: $15 at Walmart.

¯ License: $20.90 and then an additional $6.90 for an antlerless tag

¯ Hunter’s Safety Course can be done for free in person or for $20 online. Odds are, I’d do it online.

¯ Processing: This varies. I’ve found as low as $50 but the interwebs seem to indicate that somewhere between $70 and $100 is average so I’m splitting the difference and counting $90 here.

Those are the bare essentials.

The recurring costs were added in were the license, ammunition, antlerless tag and processing.

What’s my return on investment?

This one is super-subjective.

So we’re going to go off some research that’s been done here.

So, if you disagree, go after the universities that conducted the research. I’m just the messenger!

A Penn State report concluded that, field-dressed, the average deer weighs between 75 and 125 pounds and yields roughly 55 pounds of meet.

A Wisconsin study concluded meat return on a hog at 79 percent, angus beef at73 percent and just 40 percent for a deer.

Knowing what I pay at the grocery store for meat, we took the initial costs and recurring costs and fleshed out a per year cost per pound of venison.

Again, I’m sure our math isn’t perfect. I’m just looking for a ballpark estimate.

And, for the sake of the math, I’m assuming an average hunter gets one deer a year (which, before someone calls and screams at me, I acknowledge isn’t always the case).


Year one: $16.16 per pound.

Two: $9.59 per pound.

Three: $7.28 per pound.

Four: $6.13 per pound.

Five: $5.44 per pound.

10: $4.05 per pound.

15: $3.60 per pound.

To be completely honest, those numbers aren’t as high as I thought they would be.

Should I hunt next year?

I think my answer is this: A very tentative yes.

I was hoping that all of this would convince me to give it a try and I think it might have.

I’m sure I’ve got friends and family that would help me along the way, especially with the one thing you can’t quantify monetarily – the knowledge to be successful.

I guess I kinda feel like I’m missing out on a significant aspect of what it means to live in Warren County and be part of the culture here.

This has become home.

Over the last few years, I’ve spent more time on the trails, fishing and in the Allegheny National Forest than I had previously.

That’s been intentional – to embrace what comes with living in Warren County.

There’s no doubt deer hunting is part of that.