“How much does it cost to start Hunting?”

I recently had the chance to talk with someone that has never been hunting. Though he has interest in starting to hunt, he has absolutely no idea what to do, where to go, or what equipment he needs in order to do so. I began to realize just how lucky I was to have someone in my life that hunted in order to show me from a young age. The basics of what you need and how much it costs were questions that I never had to ask. During that conversation, he asked me “how much does it cost to start hunting?”. I did my best to give him a quick answer, but there isn’t a simple answer to that question unfortunately. I’m going to try and break down the numbers here while touching on the subject of meat hunters as well.how much does it cost to start hunting

The Bare Minimum Basics

Luckily, you can actually start hunting for pretty cheap in terms of the absolute bare minimum. The quick answer is a weapon and a license and/or tag. Here in Illinois where I live, a resident around $15.00 for a license and habitat stamp. A gun tag is $25 for an either sex tag that is good only for the county stated at the time of purchase. Illinois also requires you to where a blaze orange vest and hat. If you click on the photo, it will take you to Amazon where that combo sells for $9.16.

The most expensive portion of using a gun will be the gun itself. Gander Mountain has a Mossberg 500 on their website for$399.99 with two barrels. Let’s say you can site in the gun with 4 shots and kill a deer with the 5th. If that’s the case, you can kill a deer for around $500. Not bad, right?

In Illinois, hunters are also required to pass a hunter safety course. If you live in Illinois, Click here for options and courses. Illinois residents must also have a F.O.I.D. card in order to be in possession of a firearm. Click here to apply for one.

The Math for your first deer

If you are only considering hunting for the savings in meat cost, lets do some of the math. Depending on where you hunt, the average deer will be about 110 lbs field dressed. This would be an adult doe or younger buck. You can expect to roughly harvest 40 lbs of edible meat from a deer of that size. So, that would come out to 12.50 per lb for your first deer. All things considered, if you only harvest one deer, you wont be saving any money. However, each following deer will be far far less expensive. Also keep in mind that this does not include a butchering cost if you don’t plan on doing it yourself.

Each deer after

After that first deer, the only two things you need in order to shoot a second deer during the same season is another tag and box of slugs. On the expensive side we will say that’s another $50. Just by getting two instead of one, you have now taken you cost per pound of meat down to $6.88. For the next four deer( a box of slugs has 5 shells), you will spend $100 on tags. If you shoot the same size deer as the first, you now have 240 pounds of meat for a total cost of $650. That’s $2.71 per pound. Congratulations, you are now saving money in the first year over beef. Add in the cut of meat pricing difference and you are making out like a bandit if you shot 6 deer in your first season.

Each year, if you need a new box of slugs per year, will cost you $60 for 40 pounds of meat (one deer). That’s $1.50 per pound. Massive savings if you butcher it yourself. Usually the minimum charge for a butcher (in my area) in about $100. That would raise your cost to $4.00/lb. With that, you really aren’t saving money.

how much does it cost to start hunting?Other “necessary” items for higher budgets

The above scenario is with absolute bare essentials. For a more enjoyable and possible higher chance of success, it’s going to take a bit more than that. I’d also recommend some sort of camo, a grunt tube, a stand or ground blind.Depending on the brand you choose and what you get, the costs associated with starting this hobby can be pretty high.

For a bigger challenge and possibly less long run cost, the compound bow on the left is on sale for $350 on amazon right now. After that, you’ll need arrows, broadheads, and a release in order to legally shoot that bow at a deer. It’s a higher upfront cost but you can use the same broadheads and arrows for multiple harvests (many times). Also, archery tags are generally cheaper than gun tags.


If you are just looking to try out the sport of hunting, I highly suggest trying to find someone that is willing to allow you to borrow many of the items I’ve listed. If so, you can probably get away with spending as little as $60 for just the license and tag. As with any hobby, the amount you spend to enjoy it has a vary wide range. Some people stick with the bare minimum for their entire hunting career and there is nothing wrong with that at all. Others spend thousands of dollars each and every year on their hunting adventures.  There is nothing wrong with either approach. The choice is up to you and your budget.

If you are looking to save money on meat, this is not the answer unless you harvest at least two deer a year and butcher them yourself. Even then, it will take a couple of years before you are truly saving money due to the upfront costs associated with purchasing a weapon and becoming proficient with it.

If you are just looking for a new pastime that get you outdoors. Some to enjoy nature and everything it has to offer, then hunting is definitely something worth the money. Happy Hunting!

7 comments on “How Much Does it Cost to Start Hunting?

    • You can choose to do whatever you’d like! I only used beef as a comparison because that’s what most people buy and I’ve heard many people say they want to start hunting in order to save money on meat. I wasn’t at all trying to tell anyone they shouldn’t eat beef. It was more of a way of letting people know that unless you are doing the butchering yourself, starting to deer hunt is not a way to save money on meat. Plus, the overall goal of the article is to let people know what it costs to start deer hunting.
      I appreciate you taking the time to read the article!

    • How did you come to this conclusion?? Can you read the article and retain the information that was there without making assumptions? I’m legitimately confused and you just pissed me off. How

  • Nice article. You should post if it’s free or not to take a hunters safety course. That goes into the total startup as well.

    • Alex,

      Thanks for the comment! Unfortunately each state does things a little differently so it’s tough to say what the hunter’s safety class will cost. Here is Illinois, I know there are places that offer them for free and there are places that charge a fee.

      The same goes for the total startup cost. There is a very wide range of potential total cost depending on many different factors. The weapon you choose to use also has a wide range of costs. There are bows that cost around $350 all in (which does not include the arrows or a release) and then there are bows that will cost you over $1500 all in (again, not including arrows or a release). If you are looking to start out hunting with a gun, those too have a wide range of costs and what type of gun you choose will depend on what is legal to hunt with in your state. On top of that, each state has different costs for their license and permits, which are subject to change on a yearly basis.
      I’m sorry that I cannot give a specific answer on the total cost, but hopefully you still got something out of it. I appreciate you stopping in and taking the time to give me some feedback!


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