12 Most Affordable Bucket List Hunts in North America

12 Most Affordable Bucket List Hunts in North America

As booking agents for Bowhunting Safari Consultants, we work with a lot of clients on a variety of goals. The most talked about goal of course is the Super Slam, which is harvesting all 29 free-range North American big game species.

We have 14 clients who have completed this extremely difficult and challenging goal, and a couple dozen others who have 20 or more species. We had an international client who had not hunted any free-range animals in North America contact us to discuss what it would take in time and money to accomplish this.

To put this in perspective, if you harvested every species the first time you hunted them (which isn't going to happen to the best of hunters), theoretically you could schedule all 29 hunts over a five-year period. The costs of the hunts alone without licenses, taxes, tags, and travel would exceed $400,000 if you went to the absolute best places.

So now back to reality for the majority of the bowhunters in the world.


While hunting in general continues to get more and more expensive, just like everything else, there are still many neat adventures that are within the reach of most bowhunters. Many of our clients are everyday workers who have harvested some whitetails in their home state, and perhaps a couple of neighboring states, who simply want to expand their bowhunting horizons with some new adventures that are within their reach.


Here is a gradual progression that we have seen with the thousands of clients we have worked with over the years.


Once they have a few whitetails under their belt, elk are usually the first game animal bowhunters ask about. The truth is, if everyone is being honest, elk have the lowest success rate of any of the North American species. The TV shows make it look a lot easier than it is, but elk hunts can be tough. Many bowhunters simply lack the physical conditioning to hunt at high elevations.

Most of us get pretty excited when we see an animal two or three times the size of a whitetail, with antlers that take our breath away. Throw in the vocalizations that elk make, and a lot of bowhunters simply come unglued.

Our advice? Start with some other species and develop additional skills and confidence before tackling elk.


Pronghorn

Pronghorns are a great species to hunt, and they are affordable with extremely high success rates - if it doesn't rain! Hunts will range from $2,000 up to $4,500 depending on where you hunt, trophy quality, accommodations, etc.

Tags will cost about $250 on average, and you can keep travel expenses to a minimum if you drive.


Even flights to Western locations are normally in the $300-$400 range.

Black Bear

Spring black bear is another great species to expand your horizons on. You can do spot-and-stalk or treestand hunts over bait, and success rates in good camps will run 90-100% and shot opportunities as close to 100% as you can get. Spot-and-stalk hunting depends on much more than your ability to hit a paper plate at 20 yards, but black bears are a great species to hone those skills, and ALL bear hunting is exciting!

There are bear hunts in eastern Canada with good results for under $2,000, and hunts in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Alaska (all baited locations) will run in the $3,000-$5,000 range.

Spot-and-stalk hunts in British Columbia, as well as Alaska, will generally run a bit more because of the guide ratio normally being 2:1, but still, $5,000-$5,500 can get you on a great hunt.

Doing a coastal spot-and-stalk black bear hunt is also a great learning experience if you ever intend to do a spot-and-stalk grizzly or brown bear hunt.

Deer Slam

To keep costs down for muleys, be flexible on antler size.

Another request that has become more popular is the "Deer Slam." There are five species of deer recognized by Pope and Young: whitetail, mule deer, Columbian blacktail, Sitka blacktail, and Coues deer.

The whitetail, being the most diverse species, is found in most areas of North America. Whitetail hunts range from inexpensive ($1,850) up to $6,000 in your Midwestern trophy states and southern Canada.

Mule deer hunt prices vary greatly by the trophy quality you are expecting. While most mule deer hunts are spot and stalk, there are treestand and ground blind hunts available in a few areas that produce good results.

When someone calls and wants a mule deer in the 180 to 200-inch range, it really narrows the field as opposed to someone who says they'd be happy with a 140 to 160-inch mule deer. It often depends too if you would rather see quantity of deer over quality of deer.

There are great mule deer hunts in the $3,500 to $4,000 range, and if you want to hunt locations where trophy quality is considerably higher, the majority of the hunts are in the $5,500 to $6,500 range.

Coues deer are a really fun species to hunt, and you can expect to spend $4,000-$4,500 on these hunts. Or you can do your research and plan a DIY hunt in Arizona in January for a fraction of the cost of a guided hunt, and you'll learn a lot.

Success rates in general on DIY hunts are considerably lower than outfitted hunts. But the first year is a learning experience, and you go back the next year and you'll have a lot more going for you.

Columbian blacktails on the West Coast will run you $3,000-$5,000, depending on who you hunt with. Some hunts are from treestands and ground blinds, and others are all spot and stalk.

Some outfitters have a $2,500 hunt fee and a $2,500 trophy fee, which makes the hunt more desirable. The Sitka blacktails in Alaska can be hunted on your own, but you'll still have $1,000 in travel and a lot of homework and gear to buy.

A guided hunt in Alaska will cost you $4,000-$5,000, plus your travel expenses.

Turkey

bucketlist_turkey

There are four subspecies of turkeys in the U.S., plus two in Mexico. You can find numerous hunts for Easterns, Rio's and Merriam's for around $1,000. The Osceola is native to Florida, with a hunt price of around $2,000.

The Gould's species are mainly found in northern Mexico and along the southern border of Arizona. The Oscillated turkey is found on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, and those hunts range from $2,500-$3,500.

Alligator

10_alligator

There are alligator hunts in the South that can be found for $1,500 up to $4,500 for trophy gator hunts, and there may be an option to hunt hogs during the day, since the gator hunts are normally done at night.

These hunts are offered year-round, but September and October are the best months for taking a larger gator.

Caribou

[caption id="attachment_10459" align="alignright" width="300"]<p />Caribou appeal to a lot of hunters, and for good reason. Caribou appeal to a lot of hunters, and for good reason.[/caption]

The interest in caribou is constant. There are five species of caribou in North America, with four of them found in Canada, which means you're required to book your hunt through an outfitter.

Right now, guided caribou hunts including travel, tags, tax, etc. add up to $10,000 pretty quick - the mountain caribou more like $13,000 when you add it all up. However, if you have caribou on your bucket list, you can do a DIY drop hunt in Alaska with some proper planning for under $6,000 all in.

There are drop hunts available on the North Slope for around $2,000, and you can expect to have $1,000+ in your travel and easily another $1,000 to $2,000 for proper gear, license, and tags.

You should have experience in wilderness DIY-type hunting, and if you don't own quality gear, you will need a good tent, sleeping bag, bedroll, stove, freeze-dried food, fuel, etc. DIY hunts are often the most rewarding because of the amount of planning involved and the sense of accomplishment that you get when it all comes together.

Success rates on DIY hunts are normally considerably lower than on fully guided hunts, but if a caribou is on your bucket list and outfitted hunts simply break your budget, get planning and get going!

Moose

[caption id="attachment_10460" align="aligncenter" width="600"]<p"If you have your heart set on moose, there are " affordable"="" options="" available."="" width="600" height="400" /> If you have your heart set on moose, there are "affordable" options available.[/caption]

Moose are another species that we get a tremendous amount of requests on. Most moose hunts will not fall into this article's price-range parameters of "affordable," as we have noted hunts topping out around $6,000.

However, if you look at hunts in Newfoundland, consider driving (which makes bringing 600 pounds of meat home a lot more affordable), or look for hunts that don't require bush flights into camp.

If an outfitter offers a 2x1 guide ratio option, you can put together an "affordable" hunt. Some outfitters have drive-in camps where their overhead isn't as much as camps where everything is flown in by helicopter or floatplane. We know of one operation that is $3,900 plus 13% tax (license included) for a six-day 1x1 hunt, and shot opportunity has been around 50% on bulls.

While these camps don't always have as high a success rate as more remote camps, and in some cases offer smaller overall trophy quality, if you have someone sharing fuel costs with you for the drive to Newfoundland, for example, you can put a hunt together for under $6,000 including guide tip, fuel, ferry crossing, etc.

Elk

Before you tackle an elk hunt, make sure you are ready for it.

Ok, now back to elk — provided we haven't convinced you to try some other species first. You can hunt elk for a reasonable amount of money, but elk hunts vary greatly in price and type. There are treestand/blind hunts over water or travel routes that normally have a 2:1 guide ratio, which saves you money over 1x1 bugling, run-and-gun hunts.

Some guided hunts will take place from wilderness wall tents, some from a ranch house, and on others you stay in a hotel. Hunts range from $4,000-$15,000 depending on where you are hunting, tag costs, and your trophy expectations.

There are several states where you can execute a DIY elk hunt. Thousands of bowhunters head west on these types of hunts every year. With a lot of research, networking, planning and conditioning, these hunts can be successful and exceptionally rewarding.

Oftentimes the first year is a learning experience, and the second year you start to have things figured out. If you have never hunted elk before, we suggest not getting too hung up on the score.

A lot of clients who have never hunted elk, let alone killed one, call and say they want to hunt where they have a chance at a 350-class bull. We send them a picture of a nice 270 bull (with no mention of score) and ask if they would be happy with a bull like "this," and they respond, "heck yeah." When you stipulate a certain trophy size on elk, as well as many other species, you really limit your options.

There are 2x1 hunts available for under $4,000, and 1x1 hunts start around the $4,500 mark, plus your tag. If elk are on your bucket list, and your budget is around $6,000, there are hunts available where you have an excellent chance of drawing a tag or tags are available over the counter. Some areas will produce on average 250 to 300-inch bulls, other areas 275 to 325-class bulls.

When you narrow down your options by putting a 350-inch stipulation on the area you want to hunt, these hunts normally will require years of drawing preference or bonus points, or in states like New Mexico, expect to pay $5,000 minimum for a Landowner Permit in areas that produce elk of that caliber on a regular basis.

Yes, hunting big game with a bow and arrow is an expensive undertaking that requires personal commitment in more ways than one. In the final analysis, it's up to you to make your bucket list hunts a reality. The old saying holds true. "Whether you think you can, or if you think you can't, either way you'll be right!"

Get after it.

Eric Barrett

It was the October archery season, and much like in every deer circle there were reports of giant bucks coming from all over. One in particular came from a joining farm that Barrett hunted. The landowner had several trail cam photos, and even a video of the buck in velvet. Rumors of the buck's 30-inch spread fermented in Barrett's mind.

Read the full story here.

Nick Brown

The 13-pointer's full-velvet rack exhibits an impressive combination of height, width and mass. The exceptional main beams exceed 29 inches, and the outside spread is 24 1/8. Tine length is also outstanding, with G-2s that tape 10 2/8 and 9 2/8 inches, followed by 13-inch G-3s. The circumferences average nearly 5 inches.

Put it all together, and the deer's 5×5 typical frame grosses a remarkable 186 7/8. Asymmetry deductions, plus three abnormal points totaling 10 inches, drop the final typical Pope & Young score to 171 0/8. But as strong as that net score is, this whitetail clearly has the appearance of being even larger — especially with his rack in full velvet.

Read the full story here.

Ben Cockell

Ben Cockell had one chance to recover from his accident and reclaim his life, and he had one chance to make the shot on the buck of a lifetime. He made good on both counts.

Read the full story here.

Bobby Davidson

Some hunters will go to great lengths in hopes of killing a dream buck. Their journey may take them all over the country from big buck state to big buck state. But sometimes the buck of a lifetime is hiding right in your own backyard; in a state that is slowly building it's big buck reputation.

Read the full story here.

Rick DiBene

This Long Island buck is really impressive, whether categorized as a typical 10-pointer or a non-typical 13-pointer. Total gross score, including 5 6/8 inches of abnormal growth in the three extra points, is 175 2/8. Typical gross score is 169 4/8. The rack is really wide, with a 21 3/8-inch inside spread, and the main beams are good, at 24 4/8 and 25 5/8. Tine length is extremely good, with three over 10 inches: the longest being the right G-2, at 12 1/8. Each base circumference measures 4 4/8.

Read the full story here.

Mikell Fries

At 16 yards, Mikell took aim at the giant and released his arrow. In an instant, the shaft had passed through him. The deer instantly whirled and ran out of sight . . . but then, within seconds the archer heard him crash to the ground.

'œI remained in the stand for several minutes to gather my thoughts and calm down,' Mikell says. 'œI'm sure the entire encounter only took a few minutes, but it seemed an eternity.'

Read the full story here.

Brett Gibson

As any deer hunter knows, a chance at the buck of your dreams sometimes involves a great deal of luck. Blow that shot and it typically becomes a story about 'œthe one that got away.' But if we amend that last statement slightly into 'œthe big one that got away, once,' that changes everything.

Read the full story here.

Keith Grubbs

'œMy buck turned out to be a basic 9-point typical with three abnormal points. His sweeping typical frame totals a gross Pope & Young score of 162 1/8, with a non-typical gross score of 170 6/8. The main beams, which nearly touch in front, match each other at 26 7/8 inches, and each long G-2 is 12 2/8.

"The great deer's three non-typical points total 8 5/8 inches. Of these, the longest is the 5 7/8-inch fork protruding off the back of his right G-2 tine. The antler trait that had made him so identifiable even at age 2 1/2 was still there when I got him, and more prominent than ever. There's zero doubt this was the same buck I'd been after for several frustrating seasons.'

Read the full story here.

Andy Hall

For three years Andy Hall watched this buck on trail cameras, but much like many giants in the whitetail woods, this buck remained hidden from the eye. That lasted until the second day of firearms season in Garfield County, Oklahoma.

Sneaking into his stand with bow in hand on November 23, Hall setup on a creek bank where he believed the buck would be about an hour before sunrise. It was a near perfect setup, and almost identically matched a similar setup Stan Potts employed during an episode of NAW TV. The shape of the creek cut into the landscape and gave the hunter an advantage with the prevailing winds.

Read the full story here.

Rick Halverson

Three years is a long time to wait for the opportunity at a dream buck. But as any whitetail hunter will tell you, it's all worth it when there's success at the end.

Avid Iowa bowhunter Rick Halverson finally connected on a giant 205-inch Iowa buck he named 'œDroppy' last season after years of passing buck after buck, holding out for this particular droptine giant since first seeing it in 2010.

Read the full story.

Kyle Heuerman

Any serious whitetail hunter knows that it's not often that we get a second chance on the buck of a lifetime, or even a first chance for that matter. But luck was on the side of Kyle Heuerman and his girlfriend Jennifer Weaver when they put an arrow through this 196-inch Illinois brute.

Read the full story here.

Scott Hove

'œAs quickly as he came to the trail, he started moving away. I thought to myself, '˜I'm not going to get a shot at him!' Instead of leaving, he moved to the 35-yard trail my son had talked about. Knowing he was on that trail, I put my 35-yard pin on him and let the arrow fly. I made a good hit, and I killed the '˜lucky draw' buck.'

The 7 1/2-year-old monster's rack is indeed unique. It ended up with a great net score of 212 5/8 non-typical, thanks to 40 inches of mass, 27 6/8-inch main beams, split brow tines and that 12 6/8-inch 'œunicorn' point.

Read the full story here.

Adam Hupf

The 2014 hunting season was a busy one for Wisconsin bowhunter Adam Hupf. He hunted elk in Colorado, black bear in Wisconsin and put an arrow through a Wisconsin typical archery state record whitetail.

Read the full story here.

Corey Klein

'œOther hunters keep asking me how I remained so calm and kept my composure to make the shot on this deer. The truth is, from the moment I spotted him until he had an arrow in him was a span of maybe only 40 seconds; there wasn't much of a chance to think about it before shooting. That's one of the great things about hunting: You just never know what will happen on any given day.'

Read the full story here.

Jon Massie

Jon's no stranger to free-ranging whitetails across the central plains, having guided a number of clients to trophies and harvesting many big ones himself. In fact, going into 2013 he'd shot two net Boone & Crocketts: one a non-typical scoring over 200, the other a typical from public land. With such success behind him, Jon felt all of his hunting dreams already had come true. At least, he did until a buck he'd never seen showed up on one of his trail cameras.

Read the full story here.

Dean Partridge

Even an old dog gets lucky sometimes. For Dean Partridge, host of Canadian Whitetail TV, it wasn't just luck that allowed him to tag out on opening day for the first time since he was 12 years old, going 27 years between first day harvests.

Read the full story here.

Bryon Raper

Bryon Raper's dream was to someday own the old family homestead that had been sold many years ago. As a boy, he vowed to buy back the farm if he ever had the chance. He had no way of knowing it back then, but his dream would come true 40 years later. And to make it even sweeter, he'd end up shooting the buck of a lifetime after reacquiring that property.

Read the full story here.

Steve Richardson

'œThrough the brush, I saw the head of a big buck low to the ground, smelling the doe's bed. I turned the camera on and hit 'œrecord.' The buck paused, then started walking toward my shooting lane. I pointed the camera at it and hoped the wide-angle view would catch the action. As I drew, he paused for about five seconds. When he started walking again, I picked my 40-yard pin . . . and as his shoulder passed it, I let the arrow go.'

Read the full story here.

Danny Thompson

As an avid bowhunter of 16 years, Danny Thompson's only bow-killed buck prior to this season was a small basket rack. However, since moving to southeast Minnesota — considered by some as the state's Mecca for monster whitetails — Thompson has passed on many quality bucks in hopes of tagging his dream buck. After four years of waiting he was finally rewarded just an hour and a half into this season.

Read the full story here.

Wayne Waldo

Five hundred yards from Wayne's tree stand was a buck — and even by the lofty standards of Fulton County, he was a giant. But nothing else about the situation was favorable, from the hunter's point of view. For starters, Wayne was bowhunting; the buck was out of range many times over. Granted, it was Nov. 12, so the monster no doubt was looking for love — but he already had a wad of does around him. Oh, and then there was the wind, which was anything but light. Put it all together, and the scenario was hardly a recipe for big-buck success.

Read the full story here.

Curt Wells

On the first day of the hunt, my NO CAM HTR was pressed into action. It was 10 degrees below zero (real temperature) and dead calm. A good buck stood 15 yards from my ground blind, staring at me. If there was ever a time when I needed to draw quietly, smoothly, and without commotion, that was it. The arrow flew true, and my new bow saved me from five more days of subzero hunting conditions!

Read the full story here.

Ryan Sullivan

Ryan Sullivan was only 19 when, during the 2013 season, he arrowed an Arkansas buck of gigantic proportions. Like many of his fellow Arkansans, Ryan is a deer and duck fanatic. For several years, however, he gave up most of his duck season to lock horns with the world-class buck.

Read the full story here.

Bill Robinson

Three double-digit tines of 10 2/8 to 13 5/8 inches, plus 7 1/8- and 9 3/8-inch brows and a 21 3/8-inch inside spread, add plenty to this regal crown. Put everything together and you have a gross 9-point frame score of 193 6/8. That's as big as it sounds.

Typical asymmetry and 11 6/8 inches of abnormal points total 25 1/8 inches of deductions, so as a typical, the deer nets 'œonly' 168 5/8. But the 8×5 rack's total gross score of 205 4/8 is much more reflective of its stunning size. Regardless of score, the Robinson buck is clearly a marvel of nature.

Read the full story here.

Bo Russell

Bo is a dedicated hunter who spends a lot of time getting ready for deer season. He's been known to pick out a certain buck and focus strictly on him — for better or for worse. This time it was definitely the right choice. The 231-inch buck he named Southpaw evaded Russell time and time again. But his persistence paid off when he finally bagged the buck of his dreams. The giant had a gross score of 246 4/8 inches and a net of 231 4/8. Read the full story here.

Drew Baier

Sometimes you are in the right place, at the right time. That was the case for Drew Baier as he bagged this once-in-a-lifetime buck. After capturing photos of the buck from July until mid-October on his cousins' trail camera, the photos of the buck suddenly stopped. But that didn\'t stop Baier. After an uneventful November morning hunt, the giant made his presence known. And so did Baier, who dropped the buck later that day. Read the full story here.

Jason Erb

With daylight quickly fading on a mid-November evening, Jason Erb closed the deal on his 193-inch 'œbuck of a lifetime.' From his treestand on a friend's serene plot of land in northeast Ohio, Erb nabbed this Buckeye monster buck from 18 yards. Read the full story here.

Jim Cogar

Despite one of the worst droughts in history, in July 2012 Jim Cogar\'s expectations for deer season in central Ohio were as high as ever. Trail cameras were set, mineral sites were established, and other attractants were strategically placed throughout the farm. But after monitoring trail cameras for two months, he realized the inventory of big bucks was depressingly low. However, Cogar was still able to harvest this Buckeye state megabuck. Read the full story here.

Mike Miller

After beating leukemia, this 215-inch bruiser buck stood no chance when pitted up against Mike Miller. Miller didn't know it that fateful October afternoon, but as he drove onto the property and unloaded his ATV, the buck was making his first-ever daytime appearance in front of his camera. Shortly after, the buck was within shooting range. With the buck distracted by a truck in the distance, Miller took aim and downed his dream buck. Read the full story here.

Robert Taylor

If you enjoy a good story about a kid and his very first buck, you're sure to love the true tale behind the 254-inch bruiser whitetail Texas archer Robert Taylor brought down in Grayson County during the waning days of the state's 2012-13 deer season. Read the full story here.

Ty Schaefer

Ty Schaefer overtook Pennsylvania\'s No. 4 archery typical of all-time spot with this impressive 172-inch buck. It was the first deer he had ever taken with a bow, and what a beauty. He set up in a staging area between a grass field and a nearly impenetrable thicket, it appeared to be in a prime location. At just 20 yards the buck didn\'t stand a chance. Read the full story here.

Brett Carman

Brett Carman nabbed this astounding 194-inch non-typical on his 154-acre 'œwhitetail paradise' in Adams County, Ohio. Read the full story here.

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