Why DIY?

I’ve always been a do-it-yourself kind of girl. I credit that largely to my parents; I can’t recall a single time when they had someone else do something they could do themselves. To this day, even into their late 60s, they still always have at least one home improvement project going on; maybe remodeling a room, building a shed, or landscaping a new section of their yard. My dad takes it even a step further; he makes muzzleloaders, bows, moccasins, and dozens of other items that he has used for his hobby of participating in mountain man rendezvous. So I suppose I come by my DIY tendencies naturally. I was taught to change my own oil, brakes, and clutch on my first car. I sewed some of my own clothes, made soap, candles, and potpourri, and canned my own food. I even had a DIY wedding; I did everything from the flowers and décor to the food.

When it comes to hunting, my DIY ways continue. My hunts are all on public land and I have never hired an outfitter or used the services of a guide. No doubt I would probably have larger antlers hanging on my wall if I hired a guide with access to a private ranch who could lead me to where the Big One’s live. But for me, at least, there is far more gratification and pride that comes with shooting a deer with an arrow that I “built from scratch” on a secluded patch of National Forest that I scouted out myself – even if that deer is only a little “forky” buck.

Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against guides or outfitters. They have a very important and practical role in the world of hunting. Several of my closest friends are or have been big game guides. And until recently my in-laws owned one of the largest outfitting operations in northern Idaho. I’m just saying that, for me, it’s more fun and rewarding to Do-It-Myself.

But there are other reasons besides simple self-reliance for someone to try the DIY route for their hunting: One of the most compelling reasons is financial!

Guided/Outfitted hunts are very expensive, and I admit that a tiny bit of my DIY attitude stems from the simple fact that I couldn’t afford to hire a guide to take me hunting even if I wanted to. In that respect I think I have a lot of company out there: Few people have $5,000 to spend on a five-day mule deer hunt, or twice that amount (or more!) for an elk hunt out west. Luckily, for someone willing to do a little research and isn’t afraid of physical exercise, it’s entirely possible to go on a DIY hunt out west for little more than the price of a license and gas for your truck. I know, because that’s how I do it!

My dedication to DIY doesn’t apply to just the actual conduct of the hunt itself: I also fletch my own arrows and reload my own ammunition. There’s no doubt that it would sure be easier and less time consuming to buy my arrows or ammo ready-to-shoot.

I recently stopped in to check out a new sporting goods store that opened in our area and was shocked to see that a box of premium ammo for my beloved .270 Winchester was selling for nearly $40 a box. Yikes, that $2 per cartridge! At those prices I couldn’t imagine doing much off-season shooting practice. Luckily I was only looking for reloading components. I checked out the store’s price on powder, primers, and bullets and then quickly crunched some numbers on my calculator. It showed that I could load my own for around $10 a box with standard soft-nose bullets and about $15 if I choose to use a super-premium bullet. Now that’s more like it! I would also have the advantage of being able to work up a load that my particular rifle liked rather than buying an expensive box of pre-loaded ammo and hoping for the best (Note: not all rifles shoot all ammunition equally well!).

The same DIY savings applies to arrows. Pre-made arrows with premium shafts can easily run $150 – $200 per dozen (excluding broadheads). But by buying the components myself I can build a dozen arrows just as good for roughly half the price. And, as a bonus, I can “customize” my arrows with colorful wraps and fletches to give them a truly personal touch that I can’t get from buying “ready-made”.

Loading ammo and fletching arrows is something that can easily be done in your living room while watching TV. I have a simple reloading bench made from a folding Black & Decker Workmate. This clever bench is solid enough for reloading, but folds neatly away like a TV tray when not in use.

Unfortunately, another important and gratifying aspect of DIY hunting isn’t quite so easy: processing your own game. If you can do it, great! The advantages are that you get to control the processing of your meat to make sure it stays cool and clean, you get to choose the cuts of meat you want without paying for ones you don’t (I’m not a big fan of roasts), and you can wrap the meat in portion sizes best suited for your family. And of course doing it yourself saves a lot of money over paying a professional meat processor, who may or may not do a good job, including not even giving you back the same animal you brought in (I’ve heard some real horror stories!).

On the other hand, if you live in an apartment building, or don’t have a garage or at least a very large kitchen it can be a challenge. There’s no doubt that butchering a deer can be messy business and might be a little too “gross” for sensitive members of the family. It also requires a meat grinder and a certain amount of skill with a knife, although – as with everything else related to hunting – this is also something that can be easily learned with practice.

There is a tremendous amount of self satisfaction that comes from being a DIY huntress. I encourage everyone to give it a try. You just might be surprised at how easy it is, how much money it can save you, and how much more pride you take it your accomplishments when you’ve “Done-It-Yourself.”

Jun 26, 2013 | Category: Blog, Conservation | Comments: none


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