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Best Hunts for Broke College Students?
Hi all, I've been looking into a few different hunts. As in inexperienced bowhunter, I would really love a guide although I do understand that would significantly increase prices. No one else in my family hunts so I’m at a loss. Does anyone have any recommendations on a trip that broke college students could afford? Happy to do just about anything, looking more for the experience than anything else. I had considered OTC pronghorn but it looks like any unit that has any sort of public land now requires points (I only have one for Wyoming as of right now). Thanks for any advice!
Nebraska mule Deer is OTC, Arizona has an otc deer system, whitetails basically nationwide, Alaska has some affordable hunting options although they are getting fewer and farther between. What months can you hunt that don’t interfere with class schedule and what budget are you working with? I had the broke college kid hunting down to a science a decade ago so I can probably give you a few leads with a little more info.
Check South Dakota. I think you can find OTC and decent public for pronghorn. Not 100% though. Inexperience and pronghorn is a great place to learn a lot about bowhunting.
OTC Colorado elk. May not be an option in a few years. Hundreds of thousands of public acres, amazing country. Some areas get a lot of pressure but there are places you can feel very alone.
What’s a realistic budget for you?
If you are a student in Connecticut your best bet would be to find a couple like minded students and put together some money for a deer lease near the university. Hunt whenever you aren't studying or working. Exchange ideas with your new hunting friends. You'll learn fast.
A trip out west will run you as much or more than a lease and will only give you a few days to hunt.
Lots of public land hogs in Texas.
If you're a broke college student, huntin' shouldn't necessarily be a priority. Been there in those shoes, there's a season for everything...
As mentioned, what opportunities are more local for you?
As a broke college student myself, I’m a subject matter expert. Focus on Pronghorn or AZ deer, as those are what typically are available before (Pronghorn) or after (AZ Deer) the fall semester, and are typically cheap truck-camp hunts that provide plenty of access and opportunity. SD, Nebraska, or New Mexico for Pronghorn, as they’re either OTC or a random draw (NM). If your school schedule allows you to get away for 2-3 weeks in the middle of a semester it opens your opportunities many times over, and they become really endless. Any tag you can draw with 0-1 points is within your reach. If you can work that in, then any random draw like Idaho or New Mexico is on the table for any species.
I went on a brown bear hunt (packing and photographing) and was able to get by missing 3 weeks of classes this semester, and missed 2 weeks last fall for a black bear hunt, so it’s doable despite what your class load is. It’s much easier to get off of college than it is to get off of work, especially nowadays when most classes are primarily online even if they are “in person classes”. The professors work for you, you’re paying them to teach you and MOST of them realize that and are flexible to your schedule if you give them a heads up of when you’ll be gone whenever the semester starts unless you’re a Graduate Assistant or something.
If budget allows, look at Alaska Caribou, it’s one I might try to sneak in before the 2024 school year starts, but will require a much higher travel budget than lower 48 trips.
As stated above, your biggest limiting factor will be the fact that you’re in CT and travel time and cost to western states will be a bigger deal than if you were Midwest or western to begin with. If you’re looking for an adventure type hunt, which I’m assuming you are, then your opportunity doesn’t truly start until you’ve already drove for a day and a half straight at the very least.
Building a truck bed camper opens up opportunity as well, as it eliminates lodging costs and also doesn’t tie you to staying close to a town on hunting trips. Biggest pro to this is you can drive until you get tired, then stop anywhere and sleep for free before rolling out again in the morning. Hotel parking lots are good areas for this as you typically don’t draw as much attention there as you would in other parking lots.
If you’re wanting to experience some really cool hunts that would take you decades to draw or save up for, make friends here. I’ve been invited on some cool hunts just by having connections and them knowing I was interested in learning and experiencing the hunt. This isn’t the route to take if you’re only interested in pulling the trigger yourself, but is an option and most guys on this site would likely get a kick out of being able to introduce a young student to the outdoors, especially if said young student is in good shape and doesn’t mind carrying elk quarters.
Thanks all! Some great ideas.
TEmbry - August is ideal but I know that's early for most seasons. I can get away with taking off a little over a week (11 days) but that would likely involve driving from New York since I wouldn't be able to rent a car if I flew. Nebraska sounds very interesting - I know nothing about mule deer, but half the fun is figuring them out. I'd love to hear more about Alaska. I had seen caribou were an option but it sounded like most people were flown to drop camps which seemed to cost $5k+. If I can convince my girlfriend to blow all my money on this trip (that's a big "if"), I should be able to afford $2k total. I have enough points to fly anywhere in the US for free, but the car rental part is the issue.
JohnMC - Thanks! I'll definitely look more into that. Speed goats have been on my list for years. It seems to be a very hit-or-miss type of hunting, but worth a shot.
[email protected] - Planning on Colorado in 2024! My friend and I were going there this year but he had to cancel because of work. I'm going to wait for him but very much looking forward to it.
CFMuley- Excluding plane tickets, probably $2k if I am able to really stretch my savings. I'd love to keep under it but realize that may be very difficult
Aspen Ghost - I had considered it, but unfortunately only know one kid around me that would be interested. I go to school in NYC so there's no hunting-types here sadly.
FDP - That sounds like fun. Where in Texas is best?
Don't forget about black bears. It's a tough time to get into hunting if you aren't rich.
HDE - I've got a serious case of senioritis. Only have two classes this fall as my internship is fulfilling the rest of my requirements and luckily I know the two professors. They're very relaxed and I'll make sure to get the work done ahead of time. I do have a trip planned for Ohio whitetail this fall already for a weekend (family owns a farm out there but doesn't hunt) so I'm excited for that one. Still would really like an adventure type hunt though before I start working in December
Boggs - Thanks for all the info! Nebraska seems like it would be closest and have a few options to choose from. I was thinking I'd take about a week and a half, which definitely does suck driving-wise but I really don't mind all that much. That's a great point about joining in on hunts - while I'd love to shoot something, I'm really more looking for learning opportunities and am glad to have the chance to shoot something if the opportunity arises.
MichaelArnette - Definitely. Saw a few trips sub $2k up in Maine that I was considering. Seemed like it would only be for a weekend though, which kinda sucked. Hoping for at least a week. Do you have any outfitters you recommend that are relatively affordable?
For what it is worth I'd guess pronghorns are less hit and miss than just about any western animal.
You don’t want the guided hunt you can get for $2,000 unless you’re getting a screaming deal on cancellation. Spring bear hunts are a good option that can be fairly affordable. Pronghorn are another great option.
Hogs, Shiloh Ranch, Stonewall, Ok is a blast & great for broke people. Antelope DIY, public out west is very do able (we've done it successfully several times BUT with all the winter kill & reduction in tags this year for critters I would pass this year & maybe next too. Build some points for Wy. DIY deer you can do "just about anywhere. Took my son to Wy in 2019 on his 1st. Our group of 4 drew with 5 points among us. 4 hunters, 3 Bucks, 1 Doe. Sons Buck on 3rd day. All spot & stalk as there was water everywhere & waterholes were out.
Good for you trying to make it happen, but I’ll be the negative Nancy and tell you how hard it’s gonna be. You are already behind the 8 ball living in NYC. Travel is gonna kill your to almost anywhere.
Forget about doing an outfitted hunt for $2k, unfortunately just not gonna happen these days. If you driving to say CO for an OTC elk hunt you will be close to your $2k budget in gas and lisc/tag. I assume you have little (or maybe zero experience) and sounds like no family/friends who hunt. Again, huge hill to climb right out of the gate.
Ohio whitetails sounds fun, but without some boots on the ground prep a 2 day weekend is probably gonna be a really tough situation to actually kill one IMO. But certainly a good start, try to figure out how to make it 4-6 days though to give yourself a chance. Bowhunting is tough, and when you don’t kill anything it’s gonna be hard to stick with it! I would recommend looking for closer to home stuff, whitetails in some urban areas maybe? Turkeys? Sika deer in Maryland perhaps? Ground hogs or raccoons? With your budget and time constraints it just gonna be tough to do a real “adventure” type hunt right now. Find opportunities close to home you can do more regularly, learn how to hunt, shoot, plan, set realistic goals, and fight disappointment. Make some freaking money and THEN make the more adventurous western and adventure hunts happen. I’m certainly not saying wait too long, but figure out how to swim before jumping into the deep end with the sharks.
There are guys in the pit of hell NYC that hunt and even a few that bowhunt, seek them out, that is how to get in the lane to make things happen. Trying to figure it all out on your own with bowsite and YouTube from your dorm room is not gonna get you were you want to go IMO.
Hit me up on PM if you want some specific advice, I was young and poor once (and still fairly poor) but I had opportunities you don’t have growing up in OK with family and friends who hunted. I don’t think I would have done any of the stuff I have done if I grew up in NYC or the likes.
Shi whitetail in most states will keep it cheap compared to a guide hunt. Good public land and doing it yourself, trial and error will teach you a ton. Lots of hunters on public land willing to help and give advice.
DIY Black bears in western Massachusetts won't cost you more than a license and lodging. Lots of public land, not many bear hunters. Long multiple seasons. Same holds for deer in upstate/western New York. No these are not 'high percentage' hunts but cheap.
Here's a map of OTC Archery Pronghorn in Colorado - everything shaded is open to OTC
Plenty of area
the best hunt for a broke person is close to home. there is deer, turkey, bear, and fish in NY and nearby states that you can hunt with a bow.
depleting your savings to hunt across the country should not be a consideration at this time.
i would also recommend you attend a few of the numerous 3D shoots/bow festivals that are in your area of the country every year within a half day drive.
most of us have been in your shoes. stay local, save money, work toward bettering your income, build preference points if needed, save some more, and then go hunt out of state. set a goal of say 3-5 years.
Everyone’s different, certainly, but there’s a lot of guys out there who’ve never paid a dime to hunt, outside of license and equipment (and that can be a little or a lot, I realize), and had loads of fun. In the East this would be deer and bears, of course. There are places in NY that are crawling with deer. At a minimum, seems to me this would be a good starting point.
SCT, If an adventure is what your looking for plan a trip you can do car or truck camping. Your young and invincible so sleeping in your car is doable and will help your budget. Half to 2/3 of the country is within range for an adventure. From southern Maine I was in western Ohio in a day this winter. And with a good nap along the way, I can be at my dads in northern Alabama in 24 hours. If you can find a travel/adventure partner to switch off driving all the better. I would heed JohnMC and think about a pronghorn hunt. Or the Dakota or Nebraska hunts. 6 days driving and 6 days of hunting. Yes the excitement and adventure is always better on the other side of the fence. But don't forget about the opportunities in your own back yard. For strictly opportunity to arrow a deer, you can't beat eastern New York (north east of New York City) or south east Connecticut. You would need land owner permission but your out of pocket cost would be pretty low. For all the shit everybody gives the CT Live Hunts there are a pile of deer in that area. Far higher deer density than southern Maine except for the coastal/suburban swath. There is no better teacher than being in the woods, reading sign and making an attempt on a shot opportunity. If you expand your circle just a bit, Maine and New Hampshire have alot of opportunity. Both states have permissive trespass laws allowing you to hunt on unimproved and unposted land. Plus there is a pile of public lands when you add up town, fish and game, land trust, university and National Forest. In both states the turkey, deer and bear seasons overlap for a month and all the tags are over the counter. Bear without bait is certainly lower odds but if you are hunting over a game trail or good mast crop your opportunity is there. I would probably give New Hampshire the edge as Maine does not allow Sunday hunting. Heck, I would be excited to hunt Ohio given all I hear about it!! I would make you a deal. You send me out a week ahead of you to your Ohio land to scout, hang some stands and hunt it before you arrive, I will set you up on some opportunities in Maine or New Hampshire. Challenge and excitement is how you define it Erik
I'll be a downer. Focus on college, finish with the best education, get a jib with real money and then hunt. Priority to setup for future.
more than welcome to Come to Virginia pal, I’ll put ya on a deer or on a black bear
I hunted constantly through college, and it delayed me from graduating. If I had it to do over again, I'd have been more decisive in my degree and buckled down. Back when pasture ground was still $500/acre and prime timbered creek bottom in Kansas was $1,000/acre. I'd have been able to buy a lot more property If had the income then I have now.
If you’re broke I’d just buy a license and hunt and not travel and spend money on a guided hunt. Learn about hunting first while going to school.
i agree with bob h...best hunt for a broke college student is the one for a job.
Nonresident archery tags are no longer valid for mule deer in the mule deer conservation areas in Nebraska.
Do your homework and find somewhere in Wyoming where you can draw a pronghorn tag. They’re out there and it’s the perfect hunt for you.
Public ground make your own hunt and learn.Most people start there.
Being a student in NYC is a big plus. That means you can hunt all of New York as a resident. NY has great bowhunting opportunities. And all of New York is a much shorter drive than SD,NE,CO,WY, TX. which means more hunting time and less gas money.
There are a lot of hunters in NYC colleges. They just keep it quiet. Start asking around to see if your university (or any other nearby university) has an archery club. There are a number of archery ranges and archery shops in or close to NYC. Stop in to the nearest ones and ask if they know of any college/university archery clubs. Find an archery club and within that group you'll find bowhunters.
Solid advice and offers (Erik and Hunter in particular) in this thread. The one thing I'll add is that nothing is getting cheaper, and demands on your time aren't likely to go down. Kids in particular can change things quickly. Like others, I think you're probably better off taking advantage of all the eastern seaboard opportunities you can while saving money, but don't let an opportunity pass you by either. Coming up with a long term hunting plan can help you refine goals and setup a realistic path to your dreams.
I went on my first adventure hunt at age 35 but I did retire at 55.
Lots of different opinions on here. Don’t know if you’re bowhunting locally but that’s the start. Every place there’s game is an adventure. For me and most of my friends we wanted to get out west and learn how to do it. That’s what we did and I’d recommend that to everyone. It didn’t include a lot of success to start with but what an adventure.
Thank you all! I think I'll explore some nearby areas to begin with and try to get a few deer under my belt. I'll save up and maybe try to get a trespass fee next year for Colorado OTC elk. Thanks again!
If I wanted to just hunt, no matter what it was. And do it cheap. It would be Colorado bear. That's not figuring travel expense.
KsRancher - Thanks, looks like the tags are nice and cheap. I don't know the first thing about bear and I see it's illegal to bait in Colorado. Do you have any resources you recommend to learn how to better hunt black bear without using bait? Thanks again!
Water holes. One of my guides sat a hole and shot a 600lb cinnamon phase black bear some years back. Dang thing looked like a grizzly.
If I lived in the northeast I’d try to find some urban or suburban deer hunts. Hunts where you can do plenty of shooting. Start stacking up does and get a lot of kills under your belt and you will be better off than most western guys when you finish college and have more expendable income. Living east of the Mississippi lets a bowhunter get a lot of kills under their belt. You could have more kills under your belt in a few years where you live than they average western guy would get in 10.
I honestly didn't allow myself to bowhunt in college, because I knew that once I started, I probably wouldn't graduate. True story.
Get thru school. Get a good job, so that you can go on bow hunts the rest of your life. I looked at it as a temporary sacrifice for the greater good.
I think that’s a tough call. A young guy can put things on hold until he has more money, has the right circumstances, etc, and when that time finally rolls around, what he no longer has is his youth.
I guess everyone has their own definition of broke, but mine wouldn't include a destination hunt where fuel alone might cost $1,000, depending on what vehicle you have access to. Having said that, good luck to you on whatever you choose. I wouldn't totally forego a trip of some sort, but I wouldn't spend the kind of money at that point it would take to go on a western trip.
There’s some darn good bowhunting in the Catskills and Adirondacks, and it’s close! You will have chances at deer, bear, turkey and small game….
What Jebediah said x1000. Don’t sweat the guys saying it‘s better to wait until you’re out of college. I was in Alaska for 3 weeks of this spring semester and had a 104, 99, 99, 96, and 94 in my five classes. You can absolutely do both. Time, Health, and Money are the three things required to go on a hunting trip. If you’re in college, you have the time and health. Money is the easiest of those three to gain at a later date, don’t mind investing early in memories that you’ll have forever.
Me and my buddy VISA made some ill-advised hunting decisions when I was young.
Zero doubt it was a poor financial move. Also zero regrets and some amazing memories were made. Some hunts, like Quebec caribou may never be back. Whatever I paid looks like a helluva bargain now.
Life is short.
Like to see these last couple posts. Some good financial advice on here. You won’t get that from me. Life is short with no guarantees.
OTC whitetail tags. Relatively cheap with multiple tags. There’s a YouTube channel has a couple of guys that do a bunch of DIY hunts. One guy hits several states hunting out of his Subaru. Can’t do it much cheaper than that.
Thanks everyone! Friend decided he could make it to CO for some OTC hunting so I figured I might as well too. I've got enough points for both our flights and he'll cover the rental truck, so only have to pay for the tag and food. Doing a ton e-scouting now. If anyone has resources on what to look for when e scouting I'd love to learn more about it!
If anyone is willing, I'd love to send them a few spots I had found and pick their brain on whether or not they think my logic behind them is good
Good luck on the e-scouting mission. I'm not much of an elk hunter, so I'll leave that advice to the pros. But for Colorado OTC, I would have a plan A,B,C,D,E,F and G, at least. And in many cases you will be avoiding pressure as much as finding elk. Fortunately, those elk will be trying to avoid the same pressure as well.
Thanks TKJ! I think I found some decent spots but I have a feeling that everyone is looking at them as well. Thinking my best bet may be some dark timber. I'll consider it a success if I'm able to put a stalk on one
4 hours drive from NYC will put you in Zone 7 of New York, more public land than you could hunt in ten years. Decent deer populations. Basically the area between Syracuse and Binghamton.
I have so many otc elk spots I can’t hunt em all.
Send me a PM and I’ll point you to a couple
You’ll never have more free time than you do while you’re in college. Go on a pronghorn or whitetail bow hunt, and camp out of your vehicle (free). It’ll be cheap this time but then you’ll be addicted to going on these hunts every year and that’s when it gets expensive…. Do it!
I shot a lot of turkeys and deer on public land near the university. Got lots of funny looks butchering a deer in a college parking lot. No way could I have afforded an out of state hunt in those days.
For me as a broke college student it was mostly deer hunting in Minnesota & neighboring states. Had an old 70 Chevy station wagon that I camped in a lot. Some of the best hunts were with buddies just going somewhere on a whim. Slept in pup tent countless nights. Classes were scheduled to allow more time for hunting, trapping & fishing. First big trip was to Idaho elk hunting. Hopped on a Greyhound bus & met a buddy out there where I killed a small bull. If there’s a will there’s a way. Good luck to you.
SCT - doesn't sound like you're broke then.
When I had no money during college, I small game and deer hunted when I was back home and I was very happy to do that. "Back in the day", we mostly just had small game to hunt in KY in the 80's. No doubt that those skills have benefited me no matter what or where I've hunted since then. If you have your priorities right, you'll have plenty of money to do bigger, out of state hunts after you get your degree(s). Good luck!
If you are a “broke college student,” I would suggest hunting a job.
Once you finish your education and become employed - then seek a hunt.
Always good to have your priorities in order. Just the opinion of a “once broke college student.”