September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Deer hunting can require big bucks, lots of dough

By Ron Johnson- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

With Wisconsin's gun deer season under way, I've had time while perched in my tree stand to reflect on my first time deer hunting. I was all of 16, and deer hunting was entirely new to me.
I borrowed a 20-gauge shotgun, bought a five-round box of rifled slugs and a hooded sweatshirt - red, because blaze orange was not required then - and headed to the woods. No deer were in danger - although I did see the white, waving tails of two does as they trotted and snickered away from the novice nimrod.
The lack of venison didn't matter much. I had probably less than $20 tied up in that hunt and still managed to have fun.
My direct investment this year isn't much, either. I plunked down my money for a license, but really didn't need to buy anything else but a few gallons of gas for Red Ranger. Rifle, ammo, knives, backpack, ladder stand, orange clothes and warm boots have all been accumulated over many deer seasons.
But what, I wondered, would the bill total if I needed to buy everything all at once? I have on my desk a "deer camp" flyer sent out by a large, outdoors sporting goods chain. I'm going to thumb through it and see what I find for 2013 deer hunting "necessities" and their costs.
I'll start out with a fun item: a rifle. I won't buy anything that's absolute top of the line, but I won't go totally el cheapo, either.
My choices range from $349 to $859. That's quite a spread, so I think I will choose a $549 rifle that comes with a three-to-nine power scope. There. I've saved money already by buying the package.
Since I'll be hiking steep hills, I can use a sling for the rifle. That will set me back $29.99.
Better include a case to protect the rifle. A hard shell runs $79.99.
Bullets would probably be a good idea, unless I simply want to drop my rifle or Thermos onto the head of any unsuspecting deer that wanders underneath my stand. That's not entirely a joke. While bow hunting, I have had deer right beneath me and well within Thermos jug range.
But today I think I'll buy a box of 20 rounds in .270 Winchester, to work in my newly purchased rifle. That, by the way, is the caliber I used on the nine-point buck I shot last year.
We'll add a box for $24.99 to our shopping cart. Better make that two boxes. Better to have too many bullets than not enough, and any unused ones won't spoil.
I've never used a range finder, but the interplay of sunlight and shadows in the hardwoods can fool even a well-trained eye when it comes to distances. Here's a digital model that "ranges moving targets" and retails for a mere $179.99.
At first glance, binoculars might seem like a frivolity. But since I have the old checkbook out anyway, here's a pair for $79.99. They're not my first choice, but I guess the $2,949.99 Swarovskis will just have to wait until next year.
If I wanted to hunt from the ground, I could shave a little more dough off the final tally. But I like the view of the world that a tree stand affords. I'll go with a 15.5-foot-high ladder stand for $129.99.
A good knife is another essential item. How about a series 113 skinning knife? What self-respecting whitetail wouldn't want to be sliced open with a $139.99 knife that boasts a genuine rosewood handle and polished brass guard?
Shopping for hunting clothes isn't especially enjoyable, but for a new hunter, it's necessary. I'll choose coveralls for $67.49 and a heavy coat for $89.99. Each is on sale and has a "microbrushed tricot shell backed by a polyurethane laminate." Whatever all that means is as clear to me as fog hanging over the Mississippi River. But I'm sure it matters immensely to the deer.
Gotta have a hat, and orange gloves, too. I'll go with the polar-weight fleece combo, whatever that is, for $14.99. I'm going to hunt several degrees of latitude south of any polar regions, but the description does make the stuff sound warm.
Good boots are a must for deer hunting. Opening morning here in southern Wisconsin could turn out to be a balmy 50 degrees or a bone-chilling 20 below. Last year was on the warmish side, but I've been out on opening days when my peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches froze into whole-grain bricks.
It looks as though halfway decent boots will run over a hundred bucks. I'll try the ones that fetch $139.99. If you think about it, that's only $13.99 a toe. I'm sure a frostbite-induced amputation runs much more than that.
Although I'll barely be out of sight of the farm buildings and will be hunting alone, I might as well invest in a pair of two-way radios. Here's a hunter's radio pack for $99.99 that has a range of up to 36 miles, along with nine levels of eVOX. Don't want to traipse off into the deer woods without my trusty eVOX.
I'll need a backpack to tote my gear in. Here's one for just $134.99 ($154.99 if I opt for something called "odor-blocking scent lock"). This pack, I'm assured, gives whisper-quiet performance, has big capacity and YKK water-resistant zippers.
Another item that might come in handy is a trail camera. Here's one that has an adjustable distance detection sensor and is only $129.99.
A grunt call to lure the bucks, along with genuine fake plastic rattling antlers are on my list, too. Their tally: $49.99. Might as well stow a bottle of doe scent in my coat pocket, for $8.99.
I think I'll pass on the blood trailing flashlight that costs $59.99. I'll also skip the commercial grade meat grinder and three attachments that total a paltry $925.95. I won't need a $22.99 butcher's saw, either, if I just let the guys at the locker take care of the meat.
It's tempting to spring for a four-wheel-drive ATV because - who walks while hunting these days? But I'll skip the noisy beast, along with a four-wheel-drive truck for hauling it. Right there is a savings of at least $38,000.
I could go on and on with my list of deer hunting necessities, but will stop here. Just need to add my Wisconsin resident license for $24 and I'm done shopping.
So, just what is my final bill for deer hunting? Drum roll, please.
Here's the final tally: $1,999.33.
But wait. There's more. Wisconsin sales tax adds $109.96, so the final tally is really $2,109.29.
Let's say I take a deer that weighs 191 pounds on the hoof. It will dress out to about 160 pounds. Of that, roughly 85 pounds will be lean meat.
Okay. How much has this deer cost me per pound of meat? Why, a mere $24.81.
If I'd sprung for the truck and ATV, I would have shot the price all the way up to $496.46 a pound. Thank heavens I'm not investing that many bucks to get a buck, or that much dough to bag a doe.
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