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Thread: Why so Expensive?

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    Smile Why so Expensive?

    This is probably a dumb question but I have to know. Why are Guided hunts so expensive? I will admitt, I'm from the south and I never really heard about guides before untill I got to Alaska. I'm use to buying a hunting license and going in the field and sitting in a tree stand for deer. I know that it is probably not that easy up here but I was looking and even for a deer hunt in Alaska it would still be more than 3 months pay. And I don't even want to talk about a grizzly bear or sheep hunt prices. I know for some people its probably easy to pay for a hunt, but just wondering why its so pricey. I am in the Military and I would not trade my job for nothing in the world but money don't grow on trees. I've been studing the Regulation book and doing my homework for two years now and no hunting yet, so I'm hoping this year it will all pay off. Thanks for the website, it has tons of valuble information, and also thanks to the members for the reply's of wisdom since I've been a member.

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    Default expense

    I'm not a guide, and I'm sure there are better people on this board to answer the question, but i think it is mostly due to trying to make a living on a few hunts a year. The season for each animal is only so long and most hunts last at least 6 days if not 12 or more so you only get so many clients per year and so many species to guide for and alot of the species are open season at the same time. Add in the cost of fuel and airplanes and equipment and advertising just to get a client to find you and it adds up to not making a whole lot of money. I know a few guides and none of them are rich and most have at least part time jobs going to "work" instead of being outdoors and doing something they love which is why they became a guide in the first place.
    Justin
    Justin

  3. #3
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Some answers-

    For starters, welcome to Outdoors Directory!

    You seem discouraged; rest assured, you have discovered what many of us have grown accustomed to; the fact that Alaska is by far the most expensive place to hunt in the United States. Doesn't matter if you go guided or non-guided, it just plain costs more to hunt here. Cost of living is higher in general, and access to most of the state is very expensive, because our road system is limited. Even for a non-guided fly-out hunt you're looking at realistic numbers of around $3,000 by the time you pay your pilot, new gear, food, meat and trophy processing and incidentals. It's not cheap.

    There are ways of making an Alaska hunt cheaper, and I'd be happy to assist you with that at no cost to you. Just drop me a private message and we'll get together. You're local in ANC, so it shouldn't be too hard even to meet for coffee somewhere.

    GUIDED HUNT COSTS

    As to the costs of guided hunts, there are lots of answers to that. For starters, you need to understand that most guides are not making a lot on their hunts. In my case, I'm doing well to walk away from a $9500 Dall sheep hunt with two grand in my pocket. That's if nothing goes wrong, nothing breaks, there is no extra charter flying, etc. If you look at your own annual salary working for Uncle Sam, you can figure how many hunts I'd have to do just to survive (and I don't get to shop on base, either!) It's really tough for most of us to make any money at this, and that's why most of the guides I know have a "real" job they do when they're not guiding. That brings up the question, "if it's so expensive, why guide at all?" For me the answer is that it's another excuse to get out there, and at the same time to meet folks I would never otherwise know. Most of them are fine folks, and it has been a privilege to spend some time with them in the field.

    TRYING TO BREAK EVEN

    On the surface it seems like all you'd have to do is pick up some food and jump in an airplane. But it's not that simple. The State of Alaska requires an insurance policy worth a million dollars, whether I take one client or ten. That's gonna cost me around $2000, but that's just the beginning. Air charter expenses are about $2000 per person, guide wages are another $2000, and then you have amortized gear costs, replacement gear, food, land use permits, advertising costs, administrative costs, etc, etc. Like I said, if I walk away with 2K in my pocket, I'm doing well. According to the Federal government, the poverty level in Alaska for a family of four is $25,000. So I have to net 25K just to be broke. That's 11 hunters at a net profit of 2K each. Then I pray that nothing goes wrong- no extra flights, no bear-shredded tents, no injuries, etc. But now I have another problem- time. If I'm lucky I can squeeze in two bear hunts in the spring. That leaves me nine hunters to go. Sheep season starts on August 10, and since most hunts run ten days, I can do two or at the most three hunts before moose season opens on September 1 (season dates are hypothetical, depending on the area). Now I have six hunters left, if I do back-to-back hunts without leaving the field (remember, each time I leave, I drop two grand for flying in and out). Six hunters to go, and now it's time to hunt moose and bear. I can maybe do three hunts in September, but the timing usually won't work out to do four. Then we can chase bears for probably the first half of October- that's two hunts. I'm still one guy short just to make the poverty line. With this scenario I have essentially been out in the field for just over three weeks in the spring (most hunts run ten days, but I need to be there before and after the hunters for setup and tear-down), and nine or ten weeks in the fall. Oh wait, who's going to meet my hunters when they arrive in town, go through their gear to make sure they don't bring extra gear they don't need (so we don't have more airplane loads), and run them around to get licenses and tags, and incidentals they forgot, plus take them out to dinner? You guessed it, my free slave laborer, my wife. Or I could fly back in to meet them (another two grand). If I don't come in, they might be upset at me and our hunt gets off to a bad start.

    PREMIUM HUNT COSTS AND ETHICAL BOUNDARIES

    Having said all that, there are a handful of folks out there charging premium prices for hunts. Mostly these are big-money operations and I believe a small number of these guys are wealthy. I can assure you that these operators don't get big and expensive without consistently producing large animals for their clients. I personally know at least one such operator does that by crossing some ethical boundaries some of us won't cross. He has airplanes in the air every day locating game. When they find something to shoot, they look for a place close by to land, then they drop a "guide" and a "hunter" (I use the quotes because in my view this is neither guiding or hunting), and they go in and shoot the animal. Yes, all that airplane work is expensive, but they own their own aircraft, and they fly them themselves, at considerable savings over chartering. Having thus helped another "hunter" shoot a big animal, they now have more nice photos to show next spring at the outdoor shows, and the cycle starts again.

    PERPETUATING THE CYCLE

    From a hunter's perspective, the average blue collar worker out there may never go on a guided hunt because it's just too darn expensive! I know I couldn't afford to go on one of my own hunts for this reason. But for those who can, the first thing they look at is success rates, in most cases. So, are you gonna go with the guy who charges $9500 and is running around 50% (I think this is the average), or are you gonna kick in a few thousand more and go with the big name guy who is hitting something around 80-90%? You're not gonna know what the reasons are for the higher success rate, and you may not even care. You will pay close to $14,000 for such a moose hunt, and close to 20K for bear, but as the saying goes, "you get what you pay for". Yes, you certainly do. But ultimately only you can decide for yourself if you're willing to hunt like that.

    THERE ARE SOME REAL HUNTS STILL OUT THERE

    Thankfully there are still a lot of guys and gals out there who like to do it the old fashioned way- a real hunt where you actually look for animals once you're on the ground. Animals hunted this way are, in my opinion, hunted in true fair chase fashion. This is not a new idea, by the way, nor do I take any credit for it. The first time I read open criticism of aerial spotting was in Chuck Keim's account of Hal Waugh's guiding career in, "Alaska Game Trails With A Master Guide", which is, regrettably, out of print. You can find a used copy at the link just posted. Hal Waugh was an early champion of fair chase hunting, back before those words became a marketing slogan and lost their meaning.

    CONCLUSIONS

    Sorry for taking a critical tone at the end here; it bothers me that some are making so much money from what I consider to be highly offensive activities that are passed off as hunting. I realize that taking such a stand won't make me popular, and certainly won't make me rich. But sometimes you have to take a stand anyway. Ultimately these things call for personal judgments and standards. But it's a good thing for us to voice our views on this stuff in hopes that the next generation will have a solid framework under them. Anyway, I guess I share your frustration at the high costs of this, and wish it were different. But it isn't. Everything costs more, but few of us are seeing it trickling down into our paychecks.

    In conclusion I will say again that there are cheaper ways to do this, and I'd like to repeat my offer to assist you in any way I can. Drop me a line.

    Best Regards,

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
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  4. #4
    Member Hunt'N'Photos's Avatar
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    Default What he said!

    I have nothing to add to that. Well stated Michael! Welcome to the board!
    US Air Force - retired and Wildlife photographer

    To follow my photography adventures check out my facebook page

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    Default Agree

    Well Said.

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    If no clients showed up to pay for those hunts because the price was too high guide/businessmen would find innovative new approaches to provide a product that clients would pay for. That level has not been reached. Guides add more services, better accommodations, better equipment, better locations, more convenience, better food, etc. to attract clients to their camps. These services are driven by market demand. Until demand ceases to support the current level of supply, there's nothing to force an adjustment in price. Business 101.

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    Default Land and Shoot

    PREMIUM HUNT COSTS AND ETHICAL BOUNDARIES

    He has airplanes in the air every day locating game. When they find something to shoot, they look for a place close by to land, then they drop a "guide" and a "hunter" (I use the quotes because in my view this is neither guiding or hunting), and they go in and shoot the animal.

    -Mike[/QUOTE]

    Mike, That was a good detailed outline of costs to carry out a hunt in AK.
    I beleive you intentionally left some words out of this statement to give your point some added punch. Many who read this will interpret your statement as land and shoot same day which is illegal. I personally don't beleive this happens much today. For the most part it has been not a regular practice in the guided hunt industry since 1970. In reality, The guide and hunter are moved to where a bull was last seen (still the landing may be miles away). The hunting will begin the next day. Most fly in hunters (maybe even you) take advantage of the birds eye veiw of the area they will be hunting and usually take advantage of the opportunity afforded by spotting a bull or ram from the air. It still takes alot of hunting and effort to be successful.

    Les

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    Default

    I can't add anymore than what Mike said. There are other options and every squadron on base has hunters you can get in with. Deer hunting in PWS, on Kodiak or down in the south east can be done a number of ways other than a guide. Boat based transporters, people with boats, off the road system or even fly out to one of the islands with deer. I went on my first Alaska hunts with guys on the squadron and in turn I took troops out on their first Alaska hunts. Good luck!

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    The original question, the only question, was why does it cost so much to hunt in Alaska. Answer: Alaska has the highest cost of operation.

    Simple answer, most hunting opportunity in Alaska is off of the road system....call it bush Alaska if you'd like.

    The cost of operating in bush Alaska is some of the highest cost in the world, currently I can go to my local store and buy some $8 per gallon milk, $5 for a loaf of bread, $7-8 for a pound of bacon, and on and on.....next I'll stop and fill my car up at the local gas station for some $7 per gallon car gas.

    Airplane gas is around $8 bucks. Since the days of the 9-11 terrorist attack airplane insurance has gone up 20% per year, every year, and that w/o a claim.
    Don't forget land-use permits, day-use fee's, general liability insurance, marketing, equipment maintance & replacement, supplies, labor-guide wages, marketing, and other expenses to operate the business.
    Last edited by Michael Strahan; 01-28-2007 at 19:45. Reason: Inflammatory comment

  10. #10
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    Smile Alaska is a costly place!

    As you can tell from the other posts Alaska is a VERY costly place to do business and pleasure! When you factor in the cost of maintaining an airplane, insurance and toss in the cost of fuel in the Bush you have the recipe for a costly adventure.

    Those of us who live in the Bush and face these costs daily get use to the added expense of living and playing out here. A friend of mine told me when I first moved up to Kotzebue that if you cant afford the toys you canít afford to live here. Boy was he right on!

    Keep in mind that you can cut corners on a hunt up here but the mistakes that follow for poor planning of for using cheap equipment can cost you your life! You just donít climb down from your tree stand, hike the Ĺ of a mile back to your truck and drive home for dinner! Most often you get what you pay for and that is the cost of playing in Alaska. Itís worth every penny!

    Walt
    Northwest Alaska Back Country Rentals
    Kotzebue Alaska
    Your best source for all of your backcountry equipment needs in NW Alaska
    www.northwestalaska.com

  11. #11
    Member BRWNBR's Avatar
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    Default

    Well i'll jump in here, i'm a small outfitt, do all my own guiding but might have a guide help me in my deer camp for a couple weeks. i do about 14 hunts a year and my wife has to work to make it thru the winter, i have two little ones, a small house, no toys and don't party, hunt for myself, take trips or vactations, no airplanes or boats or anything. i'm not a spender, and we still quilify for quiet a bit of state aid, like denali kid care and WIC.

    As mike pointed out, some big outfitts are making money, several guides i know are doing millions of dollars of business a year, so if they profit 20 percent, thats pretty good. the guide like me doing 100 g's a year profiting 30 percent ain't all that great. i'm in the field from april to december. And i'm going to agree with what mike said about some outfitts spending more time in the air finding game to land nearby and puruse the next day, only because i've seen this is several outfitts. Its not the norm, but it does happen.

    When a guide/outfitt becomes big, it has to produce alot more animals so they have to find them. smaller guiding outfitts don't need 15 moose, maybe only 2...much easier to find and won't require all the flying the burning of the fuel, still have all the same costs as the big outfitt though...

    As with any job, if someone has a pie....everyone wants a piece. guiding is the same way. i share the pie i make with alot of people and hopfully i get enough to keep and share with my family. we don't charge what we do to get rich, we charge what we do to try and stay afloat...
    yes we haev an off season, and yes i'm still doing work for the upcoming season, its a year round business with seasonal pay...but dang if the benifits are the best!! i wake up and smell tundra, i see sheep outa my tent, i camp near a river and listen to bears roaring in the moonlight, i hear the buck toe-stepping in the frosty grass, the bull moose grunting into a field and see the mt goat cliff hopping to saftey.
    I wake up and smell air...not the city, i'm in shape, top shape. and on top of all that i get to share what i do with a handfull of people every year that put their trust in me for their saftey and for their adventure, most become friends. neat experience to see a guys eyes when hes trying to look thru the scope at the first brown bear he's ever seen and knowing he's about to shoot it....living large...with little to show. its a great job, i wouldn't trade it for any 9-5 high paying pencil pushing gig....i'm good thanks.
    Www.blackriverhunting.com
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    Default cost of hunts

    I just returned from the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep convention in Salt Lake City. What makes me wonder is why does a 10 day mountain goat hunt in BC cost $6500 and a 14 day stone sheep hunt cost upwards to $32,000. I guess there are a limited number of stone permits and the number of hunters exceeds the number of permits. So one raises the price until supply equals demand. Economics 101. There are old time guides making money.

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Byron_Lamb View Post
    Mr. Strahan's long-winded letter of explanation as to why it cost so much for a guided Alaska hunt,.............> because airplanes are buzzing all day to spot game<.......... is simply not true. This is a narrow minded view point that not shared or accepted by any active Alaska guide/outfitter that I know.
    Byron - Did you even bother to read Mike's post? That was a small part of it, and he specifically said that it applies to only a "handful" of operators. His overall explanation was the same as yours - that there are numerous costs to consider and that these are high in Alaska.

    -Brian

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    Member BRWNBR's Avatar
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    supply and demand, stone sheep aren't avalible all over, same as brown bears and other sheep. goats are all over, ak, canada, and parts of the lower 48.
    moose are spendy cause of all the flying to get meat out.
    my goat hunts are cheaper than most in ak because i don't use a plane for any of it, still have a 100 percent succes rate without the chance of getting weathered in, so i charge less. i've had a few PWS outfitters tell me to raise my rates too...but im' a draw and their over the counter.

    If theres a market and someone will pay it...someone will charge it.
    Www.blackriverhunting.com
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    Default My $.02

    I'm an assistant guide

    I have no desire to become a registered guide and book my own clients........ going into this business today is a losing proposition IMO

    The reason guided hunts are so expensive if because there are huge operating costs most of which have been discussed here

    I enjoy the few weeks a year I spend out in the field with hunters and I make a daily wage which more or less offsets the time I spend away from my "real job".......on the other hand I get to "hunt" for free or at least see the country and the animals

    As far as spotting animals from the air, landing, and hunting them the next day........ I've never seen this done effectively.......by that I mean where it gives you better success than setting up in good habitat and hunting intelligently and dilligently.......landing in a valley where you know there are bull moose hanging around or in front of a caribou migration to me is just common sense

    land and shoot is illegal..........period

    now saying you can't or shouldn't land in a valley and set up a camp because you saw a bull moose a few miles away?...........that's absurd and unenforceable

  16. #16
    Member BRWNBR's Avatar
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    i've seen the fly and spot alot with spring bear, its common knowledge over in unit 16, half people web pages say it right in there, and moose up in the talkeetnas, when it used to be open. they'd fly find a bull and go find him the next day...it does work effectivly more than half the time. we'd keep our eyes open for planes doing the "moose roll" then we'd head over that way to hunt...crude but effective. it works for sheep as well, 8 outa ten times you'll find that same ram again from the ground. which i think is part of the reason for the new regs, which is great. again, i see it being a tough thing to enforce though.
    Www.blackriverhunting.com
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  17. #17

    Default AK Hunt Costs

    BigBertha,

    I'm a non-res now, so it costs me quite a bit to hunt AK - still well worth it in my opinion.

    Back in the 60s, I lived on the northeast side of Elmendorf AFB, out by the end of the airstrip - there used to be a railroad house out near the boundary between Elmendorf and Fort Rich. I killed more snowshoe rabbits and ptarmigan ON base (with a Crosman pump BB gun) than I did away from base....that is, until the MPs came and asked my parents to persuade me to stop...

    BUt hang in there! Elmendorf is a great staging point for a lot of Alasxka hunts, and there should be quite a few guys on Elmendorf or in Anchorage looking for a partner - so I think you'll find that you have plenty of opportunities without a guide if you keep asking on this Forum!

    And - pardon me for not saying earlier - we're indebted and thankful for your service to our Nation.

    Good luck,

    Michael

  18. #18
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    Default expensive?

    Guides are expensive? HA HA! Not as expensive as going on your own, often to new places, spending a little fortune each time and often not getting Mr Big.... or Ms Small.... A good guide does an incredible amount of work before the client arrives and (sometimes) makes it look easy when he/she does arrive. Those days of looking are spendy. Period. EOS. I wonder sometimes what Joe Average spends per pound of sheep meat he got by himself vs the guy who pays a guide $14,000 for his sheep. Or moose, if you buy your own boat, truck, etc. Guides are not making a killing from what I can tell. j

  19. #19

    Default Just my thoughts

    Wow, lots of interesting inputs, especially Mr. Strahan's. It is all supply and demand, if there were moose/brown bear/mtn goats/dall sheep in every section of the world, then it wouldn't be special to come up here would it? Alaska has something that only a few areas in the world have to offer. Then to top it off, this is some of the toughest ground to hunt. I worked for Alaska Trophy Hunts back in 91, it was an eye opening experience.

    I to am military, my first year up here I was discouraged because all I saw was cows/calves and fourwheelers. I did see lots of moose, but none with antlers---when I worked for the guide all I saw was monster moose---nothing under 60" and I only saw one other hunter the whole year---that would be a rarity nowadays. Then I hunted up in artic valley for black bear and shot a small 5' bear. I was happy---did it by myself and was only 15 minutes from base.

    I told my wife that we would save the money so I could be dropped off out in the bush, we saved every month so it didn't seem so bad---we went with Wright Air out of Fairbanks---$1K was the cost for a flight out to one of his areas. He was the only charter that would take me by myself. What a hunt, saw lots of moose, even after I shot mine on opening day, then the work started!!

    My time is short here as they are Rifting my year group for officers and are cutting 60% of us this year. Like I said there are black bear in artic valley and moose if you can get drawn----but be willing to bust your balls because unless you call him up to the trail you will want to shoot yourself for shooting one down in the valley. There are brown bear there as well---I have seen 5 of them, one which I could have shot---but for some reason they are protected there, oh well, just as fun to watch.

    You can do the Haul road for caribou with some friends---sharing the gas, just do me a favor and have the intestinal fortitude to bring back what you shoot---5 miles isn't that far---we hiked around it for 3-4 days and one day put 7 miles in, tundra sucks---but thats what makes alaska great, not everyone has the gumption to get out and do it.

    If you shoot a bow, join blacksheep on base, plenty of guys there that like to hunt and are willing to take you out once they get to know you. Bowhunter ed classes will get started in a couple of months down at rabbit creek.

    Lastly, life is all about what you want to do, you need to prioritize, if you want to hunt bad enough, then you make it top priority---you save every penny for it---realistically you wont be able to go on a guided hunt, but I gaurentee that you will be able hunt every weekend in the local area and do one drop off hunt out in the bush---just a matter of what your priorities are---if you are serious then PM me, I work in Services and my door is always open---my office gives the wildlife museum on base a run for its money

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    Default Thanks for the replys

    Thanks for all the input! I really didn't know I was going to generate this much talk off of a question but all of your inputs have been great.
    I self taught myself how to hunt when I was younger simply because no one in my family was really that interested in it. I spent hours reading books, magazines you name I read it and watched to learn what I had to do. The first year I finally got out there I took down both my Whitetails which at 14 years old tickeled me to death. I hunted in North Carolina until I joined the airforce in 2001!
    In 2002 I finally got to go hunting with my future father in law and I had the opportunity to actually live what he likes to call Elk Camp. A solid week of eating nothing but beanie weenies, cold oatmeal, and black coffee and I loved every minute of it. We walked miles on end with our guns and backpacks. No 4 wheelers nothing just our boots and our camo.
    Why am I explaining all this you might wonder, I'm just trying to get to the point that I like good ol fashioned hunting. Where you actually have to spot your game from the ground and take aim on it. None of this riding around in airplanes and then landing to shoot things. I guess thats just me but thats the way I like doing it. Good honest hunting.
    When we got orders up here to Ak. the reading began all over again. Now all I have to do is put my newfound skills to use.
    Thanks again everyone for their replys and I would love to get together with any of you and discuss hunting fishing or just the beauty of Alaska anytime. Just give me a holler.

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