Hunting is an expensive hobby to have. If you can even call it a hobby. Hunting for me is quickly turning into a lifestyle. For two years now, from November to January, I’ve been out chasing waterfowl here in West Texas. The problem with that is it puts a massive dent into even a well-off hunters pocket. Budget hunting is something I’m quickly learning to do. Most of us don’t have the luxury of getting paid to hunt, let alone to take a sick day for some of Mother Nature’s medicine. Here is a groundwork for creating a plan of budget hunting to make the most of your time and your money.

Make the Most of it

A duck pond great for budget hunting.
Making the most of your hunts means looking out for weather that will produce a good experience. Like Sunny with some wind for ducks.

This should be every hunter’s number one rule with budget hunting. Making the most of the time out in the stand or blind can make or break your outing. First things first, you need to understand the animal you’re hunting and its natural habits. For example, ducks like to fly during massive cold fronts with wind and sunshine. Deer will be up and moving around more during cold fronts as well and will look for green food sources during these cold fronts. Educating yourself will do you some good when it comes to you punching that tag or filling that limit.

Knowing the habits of the respective game you are hunting will help you plan your hunts to meet your budget hunting plan best. If you are in a job that is anything like mine, you can’t afford to be off work in your stand or blind every day for two months or longer. So instead of wasting the money on gas, watch the weather charts and plan accordingly.

Technology is Your Friend

As much as I hate technology, it helps when budget hunting. I depend on the hunting and fishing apps I’ve downloaded on my smartphone. Scoutlook Hunting is my #1 weather conditions app I use on my phone. It’s pretty simple to use; you can save hunting spots and log harvests. When you log harvests, it also saves the weather data during the time you were hunting. Data such as moon phase, barometric pressure, wind direction and speed, can all be factors in a successful (or unsuccessful) hunt. Regarding waterfowl hunting, it also shows you which way the birds will be flying in to land, helping you set up your decoys.

Bargain Shop Hunting Gear

Showing off a hen mallard harvested.
Bargain shopping is a great way to save money. The Cabela’s waders in this photo were bought on sale 3x cheaper than Banded or other brands.

Yeah I know, we all want that $350 game camera that snaps pictures in 3D and films in 4K UHD, but sorry dude, you’re boss doesn’t give you an allowance that high. Although I am a firm believer in “you get what you pay for”, in today’s world of high-speed gear, you need to look into what you can afford. That $400 waterfowl jacket is nice, and yes it keeps you warmer than Mary Jane in the backseat of your car on prom night, but that $50 jacket plus that hoodie you wore twice last year will keep you just as warm.

The fact of the matter is you need what you can afford, not what you want. Online reviews and your buddies can help you decide on the best gear for your wallet. Also, look for sales and deals. The Gander Mountain closing sales we had here helped me out a lot. I managed to pick up a dozen Hard Core decoys for half off, and at Cabela’s snagged a set of 3mm Neoprene Cabela’s waders for about half off too.

Knowledge is Power (and Free)

When it comes to clothing, a helpful consideration is understanding the material and how they work to provide the comfort and practicality you seek. Knowing that wool retains its insulating properties when wet far better than cotton, or polyester is far more breathable than cotton really is important. Down and down synthetics with a hard shell will keep you warm and dry, too. Knowing these factors will allow you to purchase clothes that will work and prevent you from getting dazzled by brand name price tags.

While having a cartridge that has self-stabilizing rotations that maintain velocity out to 1400 meters is nice, odds are you aren’t reading this because you can make the mile-long shot. The added confidence you get from buying the latest technologically advanced round or shell is a placebo. If you put in the work to make the shot from a reasonable range, you can put your game on the ground with just about any brand of ammunition and save the extra cash.

Looking for deals and doing your research on products will save you with your budget hunting. Instead of buying a new set of waders every year, or buying a brand new bow after you just bought a brand new bow, you could put that money into shells or rounds or an extra tank of gas on that day off.

There is no Offseason

Sunrise over a duck pond.
Scouting can lead to great days out in the blind or stand. If you know where they will be, your chances of harvesting increase.

If you are a die-hard hunter, this is no surprise to you. If you aren’t and can only get out maybe once a week, this is something you should learn in creating you budget hunting plan. Scouting, trail cameras, and migration reports from social media or apps like Ducks Unlimited, make everything easier. How many times have you been out in the blind or stand, just thinking “this looks good” and see nothing. Sure it felt ducky, yeah you heard there was that big buck in the area, but you saw nothing.

I can’t stress enough how vital educating yourself is to make the most out of your hunt. When there is no hunting to be had, go out and set trail cameras. Drive around some corn fields and look for ducks or geese feeding and start marking patterns. Notice the time of day, the weather conditions. Find what natural resources in the area are bringing the animals to it. Do not just go look and hope for the best if you can’t afford to do it. I have two specific spots I hunt duck, where I know I will always harvest at least one duck.

Friends Help Friends

Men around a truck bed full of ducks.
Friends help friends kill ducks. #friendsfreezersmatter.

Making friends with that guy who has four dozen decoys, 3 Mojo’s, and the pop-up blind isn’t a bad thing. Hunting should never be “I need more than them.” If you are that kind of hunter then just stop reading this and continue trolling Drury Outdoor photos because you can’t shoot anything larger than a year old spike.

Hunting is just as much about camaraderie as it is about the harvest. So make friends with people and help each other out sometimes. As an example, I have grown friendships with two great hunters. Sean, who is from Michigan, found his way to West Texas and Carr is a former guide who managed to do the same. Both of these guys have been hunting waterfowl long enough to rewrite the book on it. Our friendships, while cherished by me, come with perks. Carr loaned me a Mojo teal decoy during a hunt a few weeks back. Sean brought at least four dozen decoys and three mojos to opening day, I provided maybe 2 1/2 dozen decoys and a jerk rig.

Budget hunting turkey in Kansas.
Looking for people, like First Sergeant (Ret.) David McNeal, who run free guide services is always a benefit. Check out 1SGT McNeal at huntfortriley.com

Both of those hunts turned out to be some of the best harvests I’ve had. Opening day with Sean found us two short of a five-man limit. I bagged out for the first time and harvested my first Widgeon ever the day Carr loaned me that Mojo. Be friendly, get yourself a crew, and learn and rely on each other. There’s a reason wolves hunt in packs.

Don’t Break Your Bank

Humans have been hunting, and hunting successfully, for thousands of years without the glitz and glam of technologies that are raged about in commercials on the Outdoors channel. Remembering the fundamentals that go into the hunts for whatever game you pursue will bring far more success than a $5,000 Benelli or a $1,000 Leupold night vision optic that translates deer grunts into French. You can’t put a price tag on hard work and proper preparation.

Budget hunting really is key. Realizing your monetary limits, especially as a hunter, is frustrating. Recognizing what you can afford, educating yourself on animal habits, and putting the work in during the offseason can help lighten the burden on your wallet. Look for the deals (online or in-store) and don’t be afraid to “settle for less” with gear. Make friends while you’re in the field and team up to make the most of your hunts. Last but not least, when you do go out, make the best of it. Whether that means you kill something or not, remember, you’re out doing what you enjoy.

For more from Brandon on hunting, fishing and the outdoors, check out Cold Water Outdoors on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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