The average hunter used to never have to concern his or herself with the prices of guided hunts. Most hunters hunt by themselves for themselves so whatever guides and outfitters did generally had no effect on regular hunters. That is not the case anymore. As guided hunt prices took off even more, the race to lease private property started an entire boom itself. 

Every whitetail hunter knows that the days of knocking on doors for permission to hunt are over. Oh, there might be some exceptions but not in any place where trophy bucks are found. The high prices of guided hunts have directly affected the value of trophy hunting land. In fact, the case can easily be made that having a prime lease in a prime hunting county in the right state could actually be considered another form of trophy.

Pike County, Illinois is a great example. When people have a lease in Pike County, it is a status symbol and everyone knows that harvesting a trophy buck is only a matter of time. It is situations like this that have inflated all costs associated with trophy deer hunting. If a guy can’t get permission to hunt anywhere, he won’t hunt. It’s that simple, and I don’t think all of these industry professionals realize this. I also don’t think they want to realize this. Hunting is becoming a rich man’s sport.  

What happens when all the private hunting land is leased up by people with money? There used to be around 25 million deer hunters in the country, but some recent estimates have placed the current number of deer hunters at half that total. 

I know more than one outfitter whose sole reason for starting a guide business was so they could afford to be able to hunt on private land thanks to revenue from clients. The cost of leases is still on the rise in both the west and the east. When we start seeing our favorite Outdoor Channel personalities going on $15,000.00 mule deer hunts and going on $50,000.00 sheep hunts in Mexico, we might be entertained but we should all be scratching our head. 

Eventually the high-priced hunting bubble will burst like every inflated market eventually does, and when that happens, maybe average folks can get back in the trophy deer hunting game.

For questions or comments, Chad Dolbeare can be contacted at