Does Venison Make Financial Sense?

Hunt for food - but also lots of other reasons.

So much more than “a pile of venison.”

I was young, newly married, and stupid, but please don’t draw connections between those three concurrent descriptions, as I’d like to one day be old, longtime married, and, well – I’ll settle for 2 out of 3.  But the incident in question did happen when I was new to having in-laws and being an adult.  We were having dinner with my in-laws and somehow the conversation turned to hunting.  I was defending my hobby with not such great results because I was trying to prove my point by using the argument that hunting provided meat at low cost for our family.  I figured this would appeal to the mom-in-law because her not very hard working son-in-law was short on cash, and this was my way of saying, “I may not know how to make much money, but I know how to save the little I have, by golly.”  My in-laws are not against hunting, but this angle was ridiculous to them and they called me on that assertion.  In the heat of the moment all I could see was an attack on hunting and I said things that I regret, but when I calmed down I realized, to my horror, they were right.

If you’re hunting simply for the reason of getting cheap food, stop it.  Or, as I frequently say to my three-year old son, stopitstopitstopit!  It doesn’t work that way, it never has in the modern era, and it never will.  Hunting is lots of things – cheap ain’t one of ‘em, Bubba.  It was this article  from Mark at Sole Adventure that pushed me down this road and brought the memories from that shameful dinner with my in-laws flooding back to me.  You really should just go over there and read the article, but for you lazy something or others – really, just read it – here’s a direct quote:

“ Is hunting for sustenance a legitimate pursuit?”

Hunt for Food

To hunt for food is nice, but this morsel of goodness is not an all encompassing reason to hunt. Photo: Mike from Flickr

My quick answer, now, is no, it doesn’t make sense to hunt for food.  That isn’t to say that a juicy elk tenderloin isn’t a wonderful benefit of having hunted and been successful, but if your sole purpose for hunting is to obtain food – I repeat, stop it!  We live in America – well, I live in America and I shouldn’t presume where you live – but here in America, food is not hard to obtain.  If it is, well, cut your internet subscription for starters.  Despite popular belief, healthy food is not even hard to obtain – expensive, yes, but not difficult otherwise.   So, in my estimation, to say, “I hunt for food,”  is a cheap way to lie to yourself.  It’s an automatic answer that someone who hasn’t examined one bit why they hunt might give.  Not that I’ve delved deep into the recesses of my heart to find the answer to this question either, but I can firmly say I do not hunt for food – and I say that as an unashamed meat hunter.


This terrible quality video clip proves that Jeff Foxworthy understands hunting is not cheap.

Of course the video above goes overboard, but the general idea is pretty accurate.  I consider myself on the conservative end of spenders – even when it comes to hunting. But, I would guess that I spend close to $500 every year – fuel excluded – on keeping my gear tuned, buying new gear, and licenses and tags alone.  Throw fuel in the mix and on a year that I kill on my first or second trip, that number still goes up a couple hundred bucks, but if the seasons go on a while before I tag an animal – fuel probably doubles the expense.  It is reasonable to say that a conservative spender like myself spends $1,000 on hunting every year.  If I’m lucky I’ll get an elk and a deer – let’s say 250 pounds of meat.*   The numbers say we’re talking about $4 per pound.  Not terrible – but keeping in mind I’m using very conservative numbers, and still…I can’t say that makes hunting for meat a good idea.  If you go to the grocery store and pay $4/pound for a slab of beef – you’re guaranteed a slab of beef.  There’s a very real chance that you can spend your $1,000 on hunting and come home with 0 pounds of meat.  It’s one reason why Mother Nature makes a poor businesswoman.

*You may notice I don’t like math, so my numbers are not perfect for practicality, but they’re perfect for not having to use a calculator.

Hunting for food is like playing baseball for the exercise.  They’re byproducts – that is all.  I don’t know anyone who plays baseball for the exercise alone – it’s a nice benefit, sure, but there is so much more to enjoy about playing baseball, and therein lies my beef with “hunting for food.”  If this is what you’re doing, you should stop doing that because there is so much more to hunting that you’re missing.  Food is a benefit – a really, really delicious benefit – but it isn’t what hunting is about.

Comments

7 Responses to “Does Venison Make Financial Sense?”

  1. Neil H on February 28th, 2013 11:55 pm

    I have to disagree, as well as agree.
     
    I started hunting again during hard economic times, and I calculated after a few years everything I’d spent including rifle, ammunition, cloths, tags, etc. I was hunting mostly deer and pigs, and I came in under $4 a pound. Yes, you can buy what can be called meat for that amount. Go buy some grass fed organic anything, though. Oh. That’s not $4 a pound! Plus, that expense covers recreation, which usually also costs money. If you love the outdoors, and don’t hunt, you’d probably do backpacking, or at least hiking. Then I started duck hunting. I stopped keeping track. Actually, I don’t want to talk about it.

  2. Neil H on February 28th, 2013 11:57 pm

    I started hunting again during hard economic times, and I calculated after a few years everything I’d spent including rifle, ammunition, cloths, tags, etc. I was hunting mostly deer and pigs, and I came in under $4 a pound. Yes, you can buy what can be called meat for that amount. Go buy some grass fed organic anything, though. Oh. That’s not $4 a pound! Plus, that expense covers recreation, which usually also costs money. If you love the outdoors, and don’t hunt, you’d probably do backpacking, or at least hiking. So that’s good, right?
     
    Then I started duck hunting. I stopped keeping track. Actually, I don’t want to talk about it.

  3. tsorenson on March 1st, 2013 3:16 pm

    @Neil H Perhaps my title is misleading…it’s what I get for trying to pander to traffic. :)  I just find it interesting that as much as I love the meat – and I do LOVE it – it’s not why I hunt. If it was, I’d be missing so much more that is awesome about hunting.
     
    You’re right, though – you can spend pretty much whatever you want on hunting.  We’ll forget the duck hunting topic ever came up, then?  decoys, dogs, dog food, kennels, boats…yowzers, I’m not helping am I? :)

  4. Matt Thatcher on March 1st, 2013 10:39 pm

    True on so many levels Tom. I’ve discussed this topic with many people and they just don’t understand. The only people that I can imagine come out on top are ones that own large properties and can hunt local animal populations right outside their front doors. For me, it is about the experience and the meat is a bonus. A kill does not define a successful hunt in the least bit.
     
    Although, that Foxworthy clip is hilarious!

  5. Neil H on March 1st, 2013 10:40 pm

    @tsorenson  I haven’t even come close to boat or dog and I’m in the weeds. I have little experience and no local mentor, so I ponied up for a couple of guided hunts to learn from. It’s a friend of mine, and I’ve gotten to sit in for free once in a while too so I feel like I should throw a little in the pot. It’s pretty expensive, until you think what you would pay for the boat, the trained dog, the decoys, and access to habitat…   either one isn’t exactly an efficient conversion of money into food.Fortunately, the newly purchased shotgun opens up other doors. Turkey is coming up, that’s just ammo and a call- and gas, always gas. I’m in San Francisco, so my closest hunting is 45 minutes away.And then of course pigs, which I haven’t had all that much luck at lately. I haven’t gotten a pig in a year, in spit of about 10 days in. However, about 6 of those days are on a property that hasn’t had much sign in a couple years. I’d done really well there for a few years before, but frankly i go up just to clear my head and watch the deer, coyotes, and foxes, and hope the odd straggler or lone boar is moving though. There is indeed a quality to hunting that doesn’t necessarily involve meat in the freezer.

  6. Neil H on March 1st, 2013 10:42 pm

    @tsorenson 
      I haven’t even come close to boat or dog and I’m in the weeds. I have little experience and no local mentor, so I ponied up for a couple of guided hunts to learn from. It’s a friend of mine, and I’ve gotten to sit in for free once in a while too so I feel like I should throw a little in the pot. It’s pretty expensive, until you think what you would pay for the boat, the trained dog, the decoys, and access to habitat…   either one isn’t exactly an efficient conversion of money into food.Fortunately, the newly purchased shotgun opens up other doors. Turkey is coming up, that’s just ammo and a call- and gas, always gas. I’m in San Francisco, so my closest hunting is 45 minutes away.And then of course pigs, which I haven’t had all that much luck at lately. I haven’t gotten a pig in a year, in spit of about 10 days in. However, about 6 of those days are on a property that hasn’t had much sign in a couple years. I’d done really well there for a few years before, but frankly i go up just to clear my head and watch the deer, coyotes, and foxes, and hope the odd straggler or lone boar is moving though. There is indeed a quality to hunting that doesn’t necessarily involve meat in the freezer.

  7. tsorenson on March 4th, 2013 10:44 am

    @Matt Thatcher Since having a family, I sometimes have to fight this.  I put an incredible importance on getting something because we all love the meat – and it helps me justify being away from my family…but, honestly – I hunt for meat?  No – I hunt because I love everything about it…and the meat is included in that.

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