About seven years ago I met a young lady who would later become my wife, in a college religion class. We fell in love, worked extremely well together and have created an amazing six-member family. This is important because, before her I had never hunted, rarely camped, and had a penchant for electronics and wasting money. Becoming a husband and father has curbed many of those issues and marrying into a family that camped and hunted their whole life was an eye opener.
My first few steps into becoming a (self-proclaimed) Prepper were unobtrusive and hardly noticeable. My father in law invited me to go dove hunting with the family, this was great I thought because I had shot skeet many times before and was relatively proficient at it. Needless to say, I barely hit my limit the first day, but became more proficient from there.
It was shortly after this experience that I was taken to the family's “Squirrel Camp”, this is a big gathering of about 4 to 5 families a year to readjust the local squirrel population. I had never really eaten game meat before but became fairly accustomed to it in the years to come as my father in law was an avid hunter and always put in for the standard Arizona game (i.e. mule deer, elk, and antelope).
Then I decided that I wanted to try my hand at big game and though I have only been drawn twice for anything larger than a squirrel I have yet to be fortunate enough to get anything (hopefully that will change with being drawn again this year).
But as my palate for non- processed meat became greater, I started wanting to hunt more and one thing became abundantly clear, not only can hunting be an enjoyable experience but it can easily make your grocery bill much lighter. Because my father in law is single now he always shares his bounty with us, which is a considerable help to a family of 6. As I started to realize how much money we were saving I started to add up the costs associated with hunting.
The first cost is your tool or weapon for taking a particular game.
For me the first weapon had to be a shotgun, in this case I started out with a Weatherby PA-08 which set me back $300, five years ago.
Over those five years we have had 10 dove seasons, 5 quail seasons, and 5 duck/geese seasons.
As for dove we NEVER leave without our limit (10) and we have averaged 20 dove hunts each year. I average 3 shots per dove throughout the season at a cost of $.75 averaged per dove. That is $150 per year for 200 primary sources of protein in a meal. Considering Cornish game hens in Arizona average $5 each, that is a savings of $850 a year
Quail is a bit more sporadic as it requires more work and time to get a limit so we only average 20 a year. Our cost is a bit higher as they flow low and fast and often in between bushes. My shot average is 4 per quail at a cost of $1 each for a total of $20 with a comparative savings of $80
Duck gets much more interesting as we typically average 2 shots at a cost of $2 per duck. I have averaged 10 a year for a total of $20, which in comparison to a whole chicken (only thing we have around here) would cost $150 for 10. That is a savings of $130
Geese have been easy to hit for a couple years here and we average 2 shots on them but typically only get 5 a year. At $2 each that’s $10 a year, with a comparison being against a small turkey which often costs $25 each. That is a savings of $115 for 5 birds.
Savings if we were to purchase the alternative: $1175
Savings after Weapon and ammo in a single year: $675 and each subsequent year after has been $975
Now I do not include time into the equation as we choose to do this and it does not interfere with work or family (mostly because the whole family goes). Now consider an average meal from the grocery store will often cost a single person in our household $4 each we save on average about $1 per meal per person or $6 a meal. This is a massive savings at the end of the year, when it’s averaged out. Every cent counts.
So here I am hunting for food at this point, mostly because I enjoy dollar cost averaging and think it’s silly to hunt for any other reason than to eat.
Now, here comes my second weapon:
A real tree camo Remington 597 .22LR with a Bushnell 3-9x40 scope on it. I chose this one, partly because the wife liked it, and partly because my pocketbook liked it. It cost $200 including the scope at a sale from our local Cabela's.
This is used to hunt squirrel and rabbit.
Fortunately I happen to be a decent shot with a .22 and have averaged 2 shots or less per kill. Now mind you these prices are before the unfortunate runs on ammo, and being as cheap as they was I bought 4 boxes of 50 every time I went to the store. So my costs have been and will be likely forever stuck at $.04 per round.
So with an average of 2 shots at $.08 a kill and an average of 10 between both rabbits and squirrel we are at $.80 a year for something (rabbit) that costs $15 for a whole one at the local Asian market. That is a massive savings of $149.20 a year.
Weapon cost: $200
Ammo cost: $.80
Food savings: $149.20
Savings after two years including purchase of firearm $99.60 and each year after being $149.80.
So after two years I have saved a considerable amount of money and have covered the costs of both firearms, now I can speculate on what large game with cost and save but until I know firsthand, I won’t bother.
Here comes the Accidental Prepper part. Having worked in prisons and having family being former military and police I have maintained the prison mantra of “Low trust, high suspicion”. This has caused me to be a bit obsessive on prices in regards to firearms, ammunition, precious metals, and other commodities. So a few years ago when I first started embracing subsistence hunting I began to dollar cost average ammunition and precious metals mostly and looked at firearms as a hedge against inflation/tyranny. The latter being more prevalent each day.
Now we (as a family) have taken dollar cost averaging to a new level, one way we do this is to avoid buying new items at all costs, with the main exceptions being undergarments and shoes.
One way we do this is by garage sale shopping, we have nearly eliminated back to school clothes costs by paying on average $1 per clothing item. We typically go to more upscale areas and buy what the rich would throw out or donate. We have in turn turned this into a side business for my wife who will buy baby clothes and set up a small portable store on the side of the road. Baby clothes are often extremely cheap at yard sales ($.25 on average) and she cleans them and sells them for $1, which doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that even after laundry costs we double our money at nearly no risk.
I on the other hand look for more manly items, i.e. camo, ammo, guns, and military surplus ("mil-surp") items. The latter of which is where I make most of my spending money and fun money. Mil-surp has huge resale potential as does ammo. I often buy 100s of rounds from little old ladies whose husbands passed and have no idea what to do with the stuff. I will typically buy all they have at a large discount for buying in bulk, then keep what I want and sell the rest.
The most impressive yard sale profit I made was on a small dagger, this dagger was a last minute pick up at a late yard sale. It was not even the reason I stopped as there was a desert camo boonie hat hanging on a rack and behind it was an original Luftwaffe (Nazi) airman’s dagger. While I despise the Nazis for everything they had done, I am not above selling a piece of history. So I ask about the hat and the lady wanted $5, I asked if she would throw in the dagger and she did. Turned out that it was worth a pretty penny and I eventually sold it for $500 to a local collector.
So while being a Prepper has kind of been in my blood from my thrifty parents, it’s not until you find out that if you’re smart you can do it for next to nothing if you get creative.