Is Hunting Becoming Too Expensive or Too Inaccessible?

Hunter iStock-1146672827
Is hunting becoming too expensive or too inaccessible for the average Joe? IMG iStock 1146672827

U.S.A. -( In days of centuries past, hunting once was reserved for the nobility. In Europe, royal forests, off-limits to the average peasant were protected by law, and the only way to hunt game was to take it at the risk of one’s life. It even became perfectly legal in some instances for landowners to shoot poachers dead, and in England getting caught hunting in the King’s protected forest lands was punishable by death by hanging. One of the promises of the New World was that it was teeming with wildlife, and for many years it seemed as though it was a resource without end, but trapping, market hunting, and the policies of wiping out the bison to help starve Native American tribes on the plains as a military tactic almost caused the extinction of many game species. At the dawn of the 20th Century, the Lacey Act was passed, which made it illegal to take game in one state to sell in another. Various states had their game laws passed establishing hunting seasons and bag limits, thereby ensuring that there would be animals to hunt for future generations.

A nobleman hunting on horseback, pretty typical of the sport of hunting in Europe at one time. 

Fast forward to 2021, and while hunting, as popular as ever in many places, seems to have gotten away from being the sport that used to belong to the common man. In many states, public land has gotten to be the only place many hunters can even attempt to try and take any game, as private land, once belonging to farmers or those who had an open mind to allowing hunters who acquired permission to use it have been replaced by those who have moved from more urban settings or are just being bought as more and more industrial expansion swallows up what used to be open spaces. Those who have moved from the cities have no desire in many cases to allow anyone to hunt on their land, and posted signs that once used to be rarely seen, are now in so many places on every fence post or tree for miles and miles.

Hunting on larger pieces of land is getting harder every year. IMG David Lapell

Here in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, hiking on state-owned land is extremely popular and as such has resulted in the overuse of many trails, which makes it extremely hard for hunters to use the land together. In 2020, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation had to put out a public statement, aimed at those hiking on state land, that they needed to share it with those who wanted to use it during hunting season. I can tell you that there are public lands that I have hunted on previously that became so overrun during deer season, that it was nearly impossible to safely be on them with the number of hunters crammed onto them.

Even smaller pieces of public land like this are getting harder to use without being overrun by other hunters and hikers. IMG David Lapell

For those thinking of taking a trip out of state to hunt for elk, moose, or even large whitetail, the cost of one of those hunts has gotten to the point that most hunters, again the common man looking to simply fill the freezer for the winter, hasn’t got a chance of actually being able to go on one of the many hunts he or she sees on the outdoor channels, that often too many times make it look so easy to do. Even if you were to travel across the country on your own without a guide to bring you to the best place to bag that big game, you would need airfare, a hotel and then you would need to process and find a way to get all that meat back home. When so many are struggling just to make ends meet at all, it’s not surprising why so many hunters get turned off watching outdoor shows where the host travels to some of the nicest hunting spots in North America or even the world while they are struggling to make their car payment and hoping they can get a few days off to get into the woods this coming season.

A doe taken with a Springfield 1903 surplus military rifle. IMG David Lapell

On top of all the ever-shrinking land problem, trying to find the time and place to hunt, most new hunters think they have to have the very best gear, top of the line in every respect to even be able to take that whitetail they’ve seen a couple of times out scouting. There almost seems to be no encouragement to those getting into the sport telling them that there’s nothing wrong with buying a used rifle instead of a new one that only costs a few hundred dollars, or that instead of the top-of-the-line scent reduction clothing and state of the art camouflage, that they can get by with a pair of woodland pattern BDU’s from the local Army-Navy surplus store. If you look at so many advertisements and articles out there, it would seem that unless you spend at least a thousand dollars on the rifle and a couple hundred more on the scope, your chances of bagging that animal are about as good as a snowball lasting through the day in Hades. The point has been to try and get new people interested in hunting, not scare them off with sticker shock and discouragement.

There is no reason for any hunter to spend so much money on a gun, especially their first gun. To this day, I have never killed a deer with a gun that I bought brand new and in fact, most are older than I am. A few years ago, I shot a small whitetail doe with a sporterized Swedish M96 Mauser that I picked up for only a couple hundred dollars. That deer didn’t know that it hadn’t been shot by a gun that wasn’t new or wasn’t state of the art and it sure didn’t change the way the meat tasted that helped my family get through the winter. The first gun I ever owned that I bought when I was 18 years old was a surplus British Enfield .303 that I paid a whopping seventy-five dollars for. It shot straight well out to distances past 150 yards with those open sights. For almost twenty years now I’ve been shooting the same Remington Model 33 single-shot .22 LR with an old Weaver 3-6 scope on it. Sure, there are better, more modern, flashier rifles out there, but this one works, and I paid a hundred dollars for it and twenty for the scope that’s on it now. That gun is pushing ninety years of age with no signs of slowing down.


Vintage rimfire rifles like this Winchester are still viable for harvesting small game. IMG David Lapell

Hunting was once only a sport for the rich and powerful. A sport of kings and nobles, where the average man was kept away, his only recourse to break the law and risk life and limb. Now we live in different times, but in more than one state, the land to hunt on is getting less and less easy to find, the land being bought up and those who have it are not about to give out permission for hunters anymore in so many instances. The cost to book a hunt at a ranch is quickly turning for many to be a once in a lifetime affair, certainly not what the average, everyday meat hunter is looking for or could ever possibly afford when he’s trying to pay bills and put money away for their kid’s college fund.

On top of that throw in the constant bombardment of the mentality that you need the latest and greatest hunting gear along with the most expensive gun on the rack and new hunters can get discouraged quickly, scaring them away from a sport where new blood is desperately needed. We need to get back to the roots and traditions of hunting, remember that while there are so many hunting shows where it seems that antler size rules the day, there are still millions who do it because they want to put the meat away for the winter to help feed their families. It’s not just a hobby for a lot of hunters, in some cases it’s a necessity and in any case, it shouldn’t break the bank or makes it impossible to be enjoyed.

DEC Reminds Outdoor Enthusiasts to Share the Woods Safely This Season – NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation

About David LaPell

David LaPell has been a Corrections Officer with the local Sheriff’s Department for thirteen years. A collector of antique and vintage firearms for over twenty years and an avid hunter. David has been writing articles about firearms, hunting, and western history for ten years. In addition to having a passion for vintage guns, he is also a fan of old trucks and has written articles on those as well.

David LaPell


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I tried reading the hunting regulations for Florida but not being a lawyer I could not figure out how and when and where I could hunt public lands.

They are so convoluted with what part of what plot on what day with what stamp or tag for what group of hunters that it is impossible and ANY hunting group you tried to ask about it ignored you because they all jealously guard their little patch of land.


I agree. When I have to pay someone to figure out what units to hunt, figure out if it’s over the counter or draw, I lose interest real fast.


and I believe that is exactly what they want and why they make it like they do.

The Crimson Pirate

I have the same issue in Pennsylvania. I moved here in 2002 from Texas. Prior to moving here I had hunted in Texas since I was a teenager and it was always simple and easy to understand. I have tried many times to figure out the regulations in PA and decipher what I could hunt, with what, when, and where. I have never been able to figure it out. That really sours me on trying. When I ask hunters here for help or guidance I get “Just get a license and go hunt!” Sometimes I get replies more rude and… Read more »


In my opinion, they are achieving their goal and what you are saying proves it. They are using another form of gun control.


Reading the Game Commissions rules is a nightmare, you have to be sure you live in or outside certain counties or city or townships, and that when hunting you don’t cross into an area that you can’t use the gun your using for hunting!!!!!! MM44Mag your right another way of gun control, Lived and hunted in Pa fo years!!!!!!!!!


I get what you’re saying as a PA hunter. Which is exactly why I get my doe licenses in different WMUs. I’m in 5A but also near 5B & 5C. So get your doe license in as early as possible to the date they give. You could get 2 or more depending on how many they sell for said WMU. You just need to know where you’re going to hunt.


florida is confusing because of the overlap of state and federal parks even fishing can be a pia fishing in international waters catch tuna cross us waters customs stops you calls fish and game ,or season for one thing in florida waters and federal is different having a gps record is almost required to prove you are in the right, the only thing with hunting hogs is having friends who own land. I hunt on sugar farms am friends with one owner, he allows hunting when no one is in an area, as do most of the large farms, the… Read more »


I would GLADLY sign a piece of paper granting access/permission to hunt someone’s land! It sounds to me like you have a Holy Grail situation!

Matt in Oklahoma

My state is pretty good however there are some that are terrible. My favorite is the farmers crying to the media bout hogs then when you call them they want $500 a pop to help them solve their problem.


Exactly! Well, I guess you’re going to lose your crop then buddy! Have fun with that! They don’t realize that there are those of us that would do it for FREE! AND take VERY good care of their land while doing so!

Ryben Flynn

They should pay YOU to get rid of them.


Yes, no and maybe.

There are places and states that very expensive to hunt.

Especially when one is a non resident.

There are lot s of states that have huge amounts of public land.

Resident tags are cheap and over the counter in some of them.

For some it is cheap to hunt for other it is expensive to hunt.


I hope you feel blessed because you are. Probably live in a mostly republican state.


I hear a lot of hunter’s talking about the price of being able to buy the equipment to go hunting, but the real issue is being able to find areas to go hunting! I stopped hunting because of a safety problem, todays hunters are a safety bunch, but there are a few that have the mentality of shoot first and then see what you shot, not good but I was lucky twice from that, I’m not taking that chance again!!!!! I still have the interest in my guns and shooting, but I will not go back into the field to… Read more »


So try archery hunting. You’ll find the weather nicer. Better chance at a trophy buck if that’s what your into. Or you can fill tags quickly. lol You could get run over by a bus tomorrow. You could get shot in a robbery too. I refuse to stop doing something I enjoy because of a little fear. If that was the case I wouldn’t have been a steel erector, joined the military, rappelled, race motorcycles, etc. C’mon Man live life, be a little venturous.


I didn’t read your article nor do I need to. It is more than just to expensive and there are too few places to hunt but it has become to dam political. Many years ago laws were to be written to where a 6th grader could understand them because after the 6th grade most children went to work on the farm to support the family and didn’t get to go on to a higher education. Now days you need a law degree to understand where you can and can’t hunt, what the zone lines are, if you can hunt only… Read more »


And the mid west sucks also. When I was young, one could go to virtually any farm and ask to hunt and be given permission even though the landowner didn’t know you. Now, the family farm is becoming a thing of the past with corporate farms totaling sometimes hundreds of thousands of acres, managed for crops with NO consideration for the wildlife. Not only is it impossible to get permission, there isn’t any small game to hunt if you did! The future of hunting in the mid west is bleak at best. And, as previously stated, those with property that… Read more »


my last deer was taken w/a 1917 S & W .455 cal refitted to 45 LC cal. revolver. using a 230grn. silver tip hollow point 30 yrd..the old girl was sent to S&W for new lock work & shoots just fine. i probably should retire it, but that was a nice buck.


Hunting is definitely getting out of hand in terms of expenses and available areas to hunt in many states. Furthermore, the hunting public has supported outdoor supply houses and ammo distributers for many decades, but as soon as they get the chance to gouge with higher prices for products, especially ammo, they do it and take full advantage of the ones who kept them in business through the lean years. This is absolutely wrong and demonstrates a contempt for their long time customer base.


What do you mean by “absolutely wrong?”

Do you believe the current pricing is illegal, or should be illegal, or do you just think the companies are making bad decisions?

People in the construction trades are charging a lot in my area right now – do you believe that is “absolutely wrong?”


Absolutely irritating?


Hunting started out as a necessity, then transitioned, in some countries as a, “rich man’s sport”. We, here in the USA are experiencing hunting, and shooting in general, becoming more and more a rich man’s sport. That being said, damn near everything in the USA these days is becoming less and less affordable for most working class Americans. Capitalism is supposed to work on a supply and demand principle and it does most of the time, but too often we see greed as being the driving factor more than just profit and that’s where it goes wrong. In war time… Read more »


Do you believe ammo pricing should be regulated by the government?


I have a strong suspicion that the same people who are fine with government control of markets when it benefits them and price controls for things they want are the same people who are fine with some arms control as long as it doesn’t inconvenience them too much, effect the things they like and/or use, or only applies to certain people they can view as less than themselves.

Butters, Fudds, and these “soft socialists” as I call them for lack of a better term are largely incapable of seeing things that do not have a direct impact on their lives.


They usually don’t complete their thought:

  • Do they want the retailers to voluntarily charge less than the market price? If so, their inventory will be sold-out almost immediately – largely to people who will take advantage of the arbitrage opportunity and resell it (at the market price); or
  • Do they want to grow the size and power of the government even more and have price controls? If so, do they want the government to control the prices of other goods and services? Have they studied history to see what happens under these types of socialistic policies?

They would be equally outraged if the shelves were bare. They want to have their cake and eat it, too, so to speak. They really have no understanding of supply and demand and have been conditioned to believe that some sort of external force is needed to achieve the outcome they want. They just fail to see that any artificial external force will lead to scarcity and/or increased government.


Hey fellas let me know when those new 5 million gun owners are done hoarding. lol


What do you think been doing ?



I don’t understand your question. Can you please reword it?

Ryben Flynn

“Is Hunting Becoming Too Expensive or Too Inaccessible?” In south Carolina it is both. When I turned 64 I applied for and paid $9 for a Senior Lifetime Hunting and Fishing License with all Permits and endorsements. State Hunting Big Game Permit WMA Permit (Wildlife Management Area) State Waterfowl Permit Freshwater and Saltwater Fishing Set Hook Permit 5 Turkey and 5 Deer Tags free if I ask for them online with SCDNR. And it is useless for the most part. I could fish in the Atlantic off a pier or in a river, but I do not have any fishing… Read more »


In the People’s Republik of Virginia, hunting is still fairly accessible. There is abundant public land, but you practically stand shoulder to shoulder with the next hunter during deer season. Dove season is hilarious to watch on opening day! Small game is practically nonexistent on every piece of public land I have attempted to hunt on. It is hard trying to take my 10yo Son out to introduce him to the sport. Being retired Navy, I can hunt on our local bases. There is a modest charge for the permit, which I am happy to pay. That ensures only those… Read more »


The Sportsmen definitely need to be paying attention to many more things than just hunting season dates now. Their voices NEED to be involved because decisions at Public Levels and in Game & Fish Commissions is being done with outside input. CO and other western states have lost Trapping, Spring Bear Hunts, Hounds, had forced Wolf re-introduction and many many opportunities lost because they have not went to meetings, raised their voices or got involved with the process and allowed louder unreasonable voices to get heard over our hunting and sports community. Hunters have imposed their own taxation and its… Read more »


Another good option is archery hunting if you’re wanting meat. I found more people are willing to let you hunt on their land. At least in my area of Pa/Md]. I usually acquire more meat, if not hunting antlers.