Breakdown of Costs
First, you will have to get your licenses and tags. I will use Montana as the example, however, every state (or country) is different. To hunt Montana as a Non-Resident (meaning you do not live here or pay income tax here), you should plan on applying for tags early in the year. The application deadline is March 15th, so do not wait until the last minute. In Montana, the cost of the Elk/Deer Combo license is currently $959.
Now that you have applied for your license, it’s time to select an outfitter. Even if you are an experienced hunter, if you have never hunted true backcountry, I heartily recommend hiring an outfitter for your first backcountry hunt. They take care of all the little things, so you don’t have to plan the logistics of food, lodging, transportation, packing game out of the mountains, etc. They also are very educated as to where the game is and how to get to them.
The cost of a rifle hunt with the outfitter, who I prefer working with, is $3700/person for a 7-day fully outfitted hunt. This price is actually one of the best value hunts in the state of Montana. Some outfitters are cheaper (in more ways than one), but usually you will find they are shorter duration hunts.
Now, let’s assume that you harvest a fine 6×6 trophy bull on your first backcountry hunt. This is not likely, but we’ll go ahead and be optimistic. You have just made a great shot on a magnificent bull, your guide has done all the dirty work and packed it out of the mountains to the lodge for you. After the adrenaline wears down, you start thinking, “Now what am I going to do with this thing?”. There are three costs to consider when it comes to getting this fine bull elk home: meat processing, taxidermy, and shipping of both the trophy and the meat.
Meat processing will probably run you anywhere from $200 – $475 depending on how you have it cut. Basic cuts are going to be the least expensive, but sometimes a variety of sausages, pepper sticks, and jerky are worth the extra cost. And you better make room in that freezer at home because an old bull elk can yield as much as 270 pounds of meat. 200 – 250 pounds is a more realistic figure you could expect to deal with though.