How do I compare one hunt against another so that I am matching apples to apples not apples to oranges?
This is very important because SportsmansLogistics.com has such a large inventory of tested hunts you want to take advantage of the ability to price match vs services. The key things that I use is the following.
Start with price:
This is the first cut that comes to be what you sort most hunts out of and which candidates are feasible, the final determination items are below. Then what is included in the price at the discounted rate.
At SportsmanLogistics.com we strive to have multiple hunts of every type available. And we do in the beginning of the year although some hunters put down a $200 security deposit in the prior year to reserve their spot. Unfortunately, there are just a set number of hunts that match our stringent criteria so that we endorse them. We put over 500 hunters in front of deer, elk and antelope alone every year, therefore by the time late summer comes our availability has dropped to less than 20%. Many hunters beat this problem at that time by placing a price lock deposit on a hunt so they are guaranteed a space next year with a set date and lock out any price increases that may occur during that year.
The discounted pricing allows affordable hunting for the working man and the ability to gain vast amounts of knowledge on how to be successful in hunting the animal they are after and even field judging the animals antlers while still receiving discounts that average 10% to 45% on our hunts. It is always best to book early because there is never any large amount of hunts available as in January, and never lower than right before a season begins.
Hunt Cost: This is a number that can go from $500 to $5000, a good indicator on if you can afford to take the hunt. This is usually the first determination cut on whether it is worth getting information on or not.
Guiding: A DIY hunt can start at $995 and typically go up to $1700 on average. Our DIY hunts always come with a level of information about the area so you don't go out opening morning blind. Scouting before season is almost never available as an option unless you go during the summer and rent the cabin. Semi-Guided and guided can start at $1700 and go up from there. Figure $500 to $1000 for a guide for the season.
License Cost: Regular or a special license required to draw: As of 2019 estimate $650 for bulls, $400 for deer or antelope as a rough license price for non-residents then exact numbers can be added when available.
Hunting Date Availability: This is a key factor and always an issue between the best dates to hunt the animal, the rut, normal weather conditions, and when your boss says you can be out for a few days to a week in most cases. Sometimes this is a season date issue or otherwise an outfitter availability date issue.
License draw ability: Preference points may be required. Wyoming has special buck licenses which gives you a better chance of drawing and they are unlimited. Where in other states you may need to purchase an expensive voucher to get a license adding $1500-$2000 to license costs. This is a good reason to always put in for points in the states that have that option. The actual license prices are relatively competitive for non-residents for deer for example but runs from $200-$600 depending on the state you are hunting. License availability can also be and issue, if they are sold out it doesn’t matter what the price is you just don’t have a way to get one at that time.
Travel Costs: Drive, fly-then short drive: Book your hunts early so you can reserve your flight and or rental car as early as possible for the best deals. Done right I usually allot $350-$400 for that item when drafting the calculation. Later hard numbers can be added.
Meals: Buy food, haul food, cook food, clean up and that all means extra time not hunting or sleeping or enjoying the scenery. Going to restaurants means extra driving and maybe waiting for a seat. For meals I estimate $25-$75 per day depending on the type of eater you are, dIY or fast but not cheap food or have a steak house appetite because you are on vacation. Many times an outfitter will state, “Home Made Pies, or special dinners.” As a rule, to most hunters it doesn’t make a difference if it is adequate and not a huge head turner in most hunters decision. Subtract this from the total price to get down to the hunt price.
Lodging: We don't have many hunts you can drag a trailer and make the lodging cheap. But lodging is a good thing; motels usually have hunting as their high rate season because they can easily book up. A 10%-30% increase in price is common during the hunting season and highest during the opening days. Again, outfitter lodging keeps you from being late every moring, dealing with the traffic and the higher than normal number of people/Hunters after exactly whatever you want. Competition again. If the outfitter includes lodging take $50-$100 daily off his price to get down to the actual hunt price for rating one with lodging and one without. Sometimes the lodging price is to increase his revenue, at other times it is to decrease you frustration of acquiring a motel and a long early morning drive each morning and eating breakfast in your vehicle as you rush to get to the hunt location on time for the morning hunt, no matter what the weather throws at you.
I always recommend booking your hunt early so you can book lodging if needed and the outfitter usually knows the best options if his lodging isn’t an option. Sometimes you can and sometimes you must live with the outcome and manage your trip accordingly.
Additional features: Does it match what you are looking for? Does it match your physical ability? Altitude negatively affects your current physical ability so you need to build up your wind (breathing) so you can recover faster at altitude.
Private/Public Land: Depending on the animal you are hunting the more ground the better is always a plus. The more private ground is a double plus. Needles to say when you are hunting the larger the area you can cover the better the option is to get a larger than average animal. I recommend keeping your finger off the trigger until your guide says that is a good one. Remember though your hunt lasts X amount of days, when you pull the trigger on your hunt is your decision.
The outfitters history: This is one item that I put the least weight on because it probably means the least. We are talking today and future not the history. It may reflect things that don’t matter anymore because of changes in his business operation to correct that problem. Don’t make it a big decision maker.
For example: A DIY hunt at $1495 doesn't include meals ($25-$75/day x 5 days = $125-$375). A DIY hunt doesn't include a guide ($500-$1000) and having a guide greatly improves your chances of being successful. Add food cost alone, not counting the cook, you are at $1620 to $1870/person. If you did a guided hunt add a guide and you are at $2120 to $2870 total cost, not counting license, travel, taxidermy and meat processing. So adding things more important to you like success rate, private land, horses every day or whatever it is can increase the price to right around $2500-$3500/person.
How do I increase my chance of success?
Units that take many preference points do so for a reason. Better quality animals. States like Colorado typically have success rates by season and species. But that combines DIY with guided hunters so it's impossible to tell what difference a guide and/or private land can make. Doing a DIY hunt is cheap, but adding a guide greatly increases your chances. Adding private land or being way back in national forest or wilderness area also increases your chances.
Like anything, you get what you pay for. And paying a little more can turn a vacation into a successful hunting trip.