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The Value of Drop Camps

Wild Idaho Outfitters Drop Camp There are three basic strategies for setting up a hunt out West: hunt from an outfitter’s fully-equipped camp with a guide; hunt from an outfitter’s drop camp without a guide; or, organize a full DIY hunt, using your own camp equipment. Drop camps sit smugly between the other two set-ups as far as pros and cons are concerned, and they just might provide you the best overall value of the three.

Cost is the primary consideration for most people who choose to hunt from a drop camp. Obviously, a drop-camp hunt costs considerably less than a fully-equipped, guided hunt, and they cost more than a full DIY hunt. The money you save on a DIY hunt over the cost of a drop-camp hunt is somewhat misleading however, as it does not take into account the initial cost of equipment. The outfitter absorbs the cost of the tents, stoves, cots, and tools for drop camps and guided hunts, whereas the DIY hunter must invest considerable funds in equipment from the get-go. Dividing the cost of the equipment by years of use is a difficult equation, though basically, the more years you use the equipment the more money you save in the long run.

Non-resident DIY hunters must also deal with transporting the camp equipment across country in a vehicle. A fully-equipped, 2-man camp plus hunting gear for 2 fills a pickup to the brim, if tightly packed. Throw in a couple of bulls on ice for the way home, and you’ll be loaded down to say the least. And, then there’s the task of transporting your camp and gear from the road into the backcountry. Without pack horses, you’ll be confined to setting up camp next to your truck. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though in theory the remoteness of a drop camp offers better hunting opportunity.

One often over-looked value of both drop-camp and DIY hunts is your feeling of accomplishment when you do tag a trophy. On a guided hunt, all of the scouting, most of the actual hunting, the field-dressing, and quite often the skinning and butchering are done by the guide and camp staff. When you’re the one who figured it all out, and you did it all on your own, it just plain feels better in the end.

Though hunting on your own may feel rewarding to some, cooking, washing dishes, and doing menial camp chores rarely feels rewarding to anyone. Having someone to take care of the camp chores while you focus solely on organizing your gear in the morning, and then having a hot meal to come back to in the evening are undeniably huge factors for choosing a guided hunt over a drop-camp or DIY hunt. Nevertheless, the independence to do things your way, and especially the freedom to make decisions on your own are important considerations to some individuals, like me for example. This includes decisions on what time to get up, which direction to head out of camp in the morning, or how long to wait before taking up a blood trail. Some hunters appreciate the freedom that an unguided hunt in remote country provides.

Before going full DIY however, you might consider how much you really enjoy packing meat. I’m capable of packing a buck out of the woods on my back, if it’s not more than a 2-1/2 hour walk. But not a bull elk! I might add that I consider hauling dead meat a rather unpleasant chore, especially if it’s much over an hour’s walk or if there’s considerable uphill slope. Drop-camp and guided hunts offer the outfitter’s services to get your meat out of the woods, either by man power or horseback, or both.

If you’ve never hunted out West, it might be advantageous to book a guided hunt from a fully-equipped camp for the first year or two, and then hunt on-your-own from a drop camp while you acquire the equipment and knowledge to go full DIY. If you’re already experienced at hunting, camping, and butchering, you could go directly to drop camps. We have clients that book drop camps year after year who are quite satisfied with their overall experience and success.

Drop-camps have a lot of advantages. They cost less than guided hunts, and don’t have the overhead of a DIY hunt. Drop camps give you access to remote country, and the means of getting your meat back to civilization. Perhaps the best value of a drop camp however, is the sense of freedom and fulfillment you get when you’re out in the wilderness on your own.

Good hunting,

Joe Cavanaugh

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