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What to expect from an unguided hunt
Do-it-yourself hunts typically yield lower success rates because the hunter does not know the land, has done no or little pre-season scouting, might be unprepared or unable to take care of a downed animal, might not be as mobile as he needs to be to find game, and might lack the proper equipment and knowledge of hunting techniques that are effective in the area. Also, unguided hunts are more expensive than you might think at first by the time you add in the wear and tear on your vehicle and other transportation costs, your license, the time you're missing at work, etc.

On the positive side some unguided hunts offer excellent success rates at lower cost than similar guided hunts. Private ranches that offer trespass fee hunts, for example, often have good numbers of mule deer, whitetail deer and antelope.

The dream of every do-it-yourself bowhunter, a bull big enough to make the record book. Click on photo for bigger picture.

Inexperienced hunters have good odds for taking a representative antelope and a fair chance at a decent muley. We often can get you on good whitetail properties, but the best ranches for hunting elk are unavailable to self-guided hunters. That's because high-success trophy elk hunts on private land are so expensive that outfitters can afford to pay a landowner far more per hunter than a self-guided hunter will pay. Also, consider that elk hunting runs into different problems such as hunting methods and packing out 200 to 400 pounds of meat.

Unguided Alaska moose hunters are about half as successful as guided hunters because they don't have the mobility they need to find a mature bull, and they can't hunt far from the drop-off point because packing the meat is so difficult.

Unguided caribou hunts are usually successful, but guided hunters often have more mobility (motorized canoe or airplane at their disposal), which is important when caribou change migration patterns. A bush pilot cannot guarantee that caribou will move to the area where he drops you off, and even though 90 to 95 percent of his caribou hunters fill their tags, remember that you might be his next unlucky customer.

Do-it-yourself hunts on national forest land are typically low success; that is why we encourage hunters wanting to hunt on their own to look at private land trespass fees.


Rich LaRocco of Hunts.Net with a mule deer he took on a private ranch on a do-it-yourself hunt. He got this buck on the last day.

 Keep in mind that if you want to hunt trophy-class elk or deer on a private-land trespass permit, you can expect to pay almost as much as you'd pay for a guided hunt on public land. The better outfitters we know pay for their private hunting leases well over half the money they collect from hunters, and some pay as much as 75%. And if one outfitter won't pay the landowner, another will, especially if the ranch produces trophy-class game.

Consequently, there is very little private-land trophy hunting available to do-it-yourselfers. We have had good outfitters go out of business because they lost their leases and could not find another quality lease at a price that would allow them to charge a fair price and still make a profit. One of the best trophy outfitters we know operates exclusively on quality private land and once told us he made 18% profit on his hunts. Hunting clubs, private individuals and other outfitters are constantly offering more money to the ranchers from whom he leases hunting rights.

The bottom line: If a trophy unguided hunt becomes available, expect to pay a pretty penny, even without guiding, lodging and transportation. Still interested in unguided hunts? Well, we have a few, so click below.