Adjusting Expectations … The “Free” Hunt
January 24, 2013
This is just a note, sort of in response to a couple of recent emails I’ve had lately. I hope no one takes any of this the wrong way, but it needs to be said because I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who’s experienced this.
One of the reasons I came to Texas is the abundance of game and hunting opportunities. And, of course, when I moved here, I told many of my friends that they’d be more than welcome to come down and hunt with me. (It was a sincere offer, and it still stands, by the way.) But the thing is, I can only invite folks to hunt what I have here to hunt. Right now, on my place, the only consistent game is whitetail deer. I’ve had more and more turkeys lately, and I have a feeling the spring hunt has good potential, but I don’t have any hogs and I don’t have any axis deer.
So when someone sends me a note and wants to come hunt axis deer or hogs, I tell them I can probably set something up. Then I do some research, ask around, call a few people, and there’s usually someone offering day hunts or weekend hunts in the area. But it’s usually not going to be free. And that’s when I hear something I used to hear so much in California. “Well, the hogs (or axis) are supposedly overrunning the place down there,” they say. “I’m not going to pay someone so I can come get rid of their pests!”
Seriously, I get the sentiment. On first glance, it does seem that, if farmers wanted to get rid of hogs, or axis, or coyotes, or whatever, then they’d open the gates to the masses. I felt the same way in CA, when I watched the price for a hog hunt go from free, to a couple hundred dollars, to over $500! I remember seeing where one rancher had slaughtered over a dozen pigs in his barley fields, and just dumped them in a ravine. I asked about getting permission to hunt and maybe help get rid of some of these troublesome hogs, and was told I’d have to pay $200 a day to do so. Since then, an outfitter has leased that property and you’ll pay about $650 if you want to come kill one hog.
But this is a reality, and it’s no different in Texas than in CA. As the popularity of hog and exotics hunting increases, these animals become a valuable commodity for the ranchers and farmers. It’s a little extra income for people in an industry that doesn’t generally offer very high profit margins. Add to this the reasonable fact that few people are comfortable with the idea of armed strangers roaming un-escorted around their properties. Escorting the strangers takes time, and time is money. If a property has invasive exotics, those critters are eating crops or taking feed away from livestock. Charging money for hunts helps recoup those losses. It is seldom “greed” that drives landowners to charge hunters for the privilege of hunting their land.
Point is, there aren’t that many free hunts around these days. Not only that, but the price of paid hunts is going up. That’s the facts. So if you ask someone to do the footwork to find a hunting opportunity, don’t get indignant if the best they can find exceeds your budget. Adjust your expectations.
And to be clear, there are a couple of groups of people for whom I’ve coordinated hunts in the past. I enjoy doing this, and look forward to doing it again in the near future. This message is not intended for any of you.