Very helpful way to think about it, thank you!Whether the cost is considered "massive" boils down to what premium you place on your personal time. Not much sense to pay to learn to hunt polar bear but can absolutely make sense to learn to hunt a readily available animal and associated skills that can apply to most/all hunts.
You can drop $4-5K to go hunt desert mule deer. During that week you will likely learn a ton about glassing and get a lot of time practicing that skill; instant feedback. During that week you will likely get some time learning to track (ex: walking washes) as well as some times tracking; instant feedback. During that week you will likely learn about food sources, what is usually available when and what the deer prefers, etc; instant feedback. You can instantly apply what you've been taught to all future desert mule deer hunts as well as apply other skills learned to other hunts as well.
Or you can spend years listening to podcasts, reading posts on forums, watching Youtube videos, and having to wait until the next season to "implement" what you read/watched with only yourself to provide any kind of feedback.
It is a lot like shooting.
Say you are a brand new shooter and we'll apply the "DIY" philosophy espoused by some. You'll buy some random gun in some cartridge sold to you by some person at the counter. You'll buy some ammo and some scope being pushed by some guy at the counter. Then you'll go fire away and the years go buy. You'll likely to have gotten to a "fair" level but with a ton of bad habits.
Say you are a brand new shooter and we'll apply the "hunt with friends" philosophy espoused by some. You'll buy a rifle, scope, and ammo strongly influenced by you friends. May not be any better than the gun counter person. They'll teach you to shoot but you will likely learn their bad habits as well as develop some new ones. You'll likely reach a "fair" level quicker but still have a ton of bad habits.
Say you are brand new shooter and we'll apply the "go guided" philosophy espoused by some. You'll get interviewed as far as what you want the rifle/scope/ammo to achieve and a comprehensive answer will be given to you. You'll be told what will best serve you. You will be shown how to put everything together, how to zero a rifle, how to validate ballistics, etc. You will then be taught shooting fundamentals, gun safety, reading the wind, perform Kraft drills, possible discuss reloads, etc.; any bad habits are instantly broken and no new bad habits will be developed. You'll be ringing steel at extended distances by the end of the first day; you are already far ahead of the "DIY" and "hunt with friends" people. After five consecutive days at the range honing your skills, you are now a competent shooter with a game plan in place to become an adept shooter over a period of time.
That is the <potential> difference between going guided with the specific intent to learn and apply your newfound knowledge versus doing it solo or learning from friends.