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GUNS Magazine December 2010 - Page 52

sually you hunt around home, but a few years ago decided to start saving money for a guided hunt somewhere. Maybe you’ve always wanted to hunt elk or kudu. You might even dream of hunting several animals on the same trip, whether in Alaska or Africa. Or perhaps your dreams (and means) are more modest. You’d be satisfied with a Wyoming pronghorn hunt, or you just want to hunt the same whitetail deer you hunt around home, but want a really big buck. Whatever you want to do, it’s definitely scary spending serious money on an activity that, by its very definition, is an uncertain search. The natural tendency is to spend as little as possible, but in hunting you really do get what you pay for. Let’s say you decide to hunt elk, a common dream among deer hunters east of the Mississippi. Like almost every elk-dreamer, you want a big bull, with at least six tines on each antler. So you start reading advertisements in hunting magazines and Googling the Internet, and find elk hunts can run from $3,500 up to more than $10,000. The photos in every ad and website show happy hunters with 6-point bulls. Why the difference in price? Most of the difference lies in how many 6-point bulls the outfitter finds for his clients. Each year only about 250,000 elk are taken in all of North America, half the number of whitetails taken yearly in Pennsylvania. In any elk population, less than 5 percent are mature bulls, so only about 10,000 6-point bulls are taken each year. About 1 million hunters go after elk each year, so obviously the odds are against any single hunter taking a 6-point. The cheapest guided elk hunts take place on Forest Service land open to public hunting, so the outfitter’s clients are competing against dozens of unguided hunters. Six-point bulls are at least 4 years old, and a really big one 6 to 10 years old. Few bull elk grow old on public land, because the average hunter is after the first legal bull they can find. You might get a 6-point bull elk on U John Barsness a $3,500 Forest Service hunt, but the odds are better of getting a weeklong horseback ride. There’s nothing wrong with that; in fact many aspiring elk hunters want a wilderness horseback ride, along with sleeping in a wall tent. But you can go on several $3,500 elk hunts without ever seeing a 6-point bull. The odds of a 6-point are a lot better on a $6,000 elk hunt, and for $10,000 you’ll be able to pick and choose among 6-point bulls. Most higher-priced elk hunts are on private land. You’ll stay in a nice lodge rather than a tent, and ride in pickups rather than on horses. For that kind of money, Africa is a really good deal. For $6,000 you’ll be able to hunt four to six animals on the same hunt, including kudu, the African equivalent of elk. All will be mature to exceptional trophies, because there are a lot more animals in Africa than the Rocky Mountains. You’ll also stay in a nice lodge and ride around in pickups, because labor is a lot cheaper in Africa. So why do more hunters want to hunt elk than kudu? Africa is foreign, and a really long plane ride away. Also, as a friend of mine admitted, “I don’t Even if a wilderness hunt starts at a lodge, you’ll often end up hunting out of a spike camp, with few amenities. This is a bear camp in Alaska. 52 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • DECEMBER 2010

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