Turnkey cost poll for successful DIY elk hunters - All about the Benjamin's?


Nov 10, 2013
Man some of you spend a lot of money!

I buy one bow a decade or so the current one bought used on here = then fixed up. Glass is all pre 2010 except for my swaro 15’s again bought used. Camo is mostly solids I ware in all an outdoor activities. Tent and sleeping bag are about 15 years old the one before that my mom made from scratch after taking some measurements at REI… Yea you read that right. The one hunting rifle I own I and seldom use have had for 25+ years..

Tags I get for my wife and father from lifetime lo friends for free then just the tag cost so they still get points most years.. Honestly just hunt elk w fam or when I have extra time.

Since hunting elk is pretty easy I usually hunt from my house or a family member’s house eat the same meals I do day in and day out.

That’s one way I afford to be out 25+ nights a year in 10+ units scouting for Deer and inevitably turn up an elk to hunt = after I chase deer. As far as big elk in the past few years only one = my wife got was over 350” net on a free lo tag. This year was normal harvest as my 79 year old dad got a cow on a lo tag and I got a nice 5 point bull on a tag a friend gave me last minute (thanks again!!!!)

It’s all about life choices and how you get it done but for me elk hunting is pry one of if not the cheapest thing I do. Never figured out why folks even want new cars and fancy houses. I drive a 13 year old truck and live in a small house all that are both paid off… This give me time the most valuable thing any of us “own”..

Now don’t ask about winter activities as new sleds are getting to be 20k ea 😳😂…..


Mar 14, 2019
I'm only applying as a resident, but with that exception... "Yes" that's the plan.

I didn't mean to obsess over the costs, but because it's all hitting me at once (more or less) and since I am essentially starting from scratch (for reasons stated) it was foremost in my mind. I started with a number in my head and was really surprised at the actual cost.

It's my expectation that I'll land somewhere around the total cost that @prm lists above...easily more than double my first estimate, but as I learn more about what folks actually take for a spike camp-style hunt it makes a lot more sense.

Probably more than the final $$ number, the posters on this thread have helped me refine my list of needs vs wants. Most of the items are needs and the quality of that item is a want...if you know what I mean.

For elk experience I have zero...but for general backcountry and small-game hunting experience I have a lifetime. I'm looking at this first elk hunt as a total learning experience. Trust me...I won't be running and have no expectations. Others have suggested guides or day trips from a truck base-camp as a way to start and I see the sense in that advice...so much so that I will likely split up my time so I hunt 6-7 days backcountry and 6-7 days from the truck.

As for guides I'm a little wary after reading lots of stories about people that have bad experiences. Maybe that's just a way of rationalizing my DIY instincts. I understand that if I had a really good guide it greatly shorten the learning curve. Same way with a good hunting partner that had experience and wish I knew one...
You do not need a $675 pack, $1,000 binos or a $250 knife to kill elk or deer. I'd recommend you begin by truck camping and hiking in each day. You won't need a bunch of uber expensive ultralight camping gear and you'll be able to easily pick up and relocate if you cant find the animals. You'll also be able to get your meat out if you kill something. Packing out an elk and camp from 5 miles in seems easy until you try it.


Dec 20, 2017
The Rock
This is an interesting topic, because in my pov individuals that are entering the fray late in life get inundated with the commercial aspect of hunting and sometimes have a difficult time separating “wants” from “needs”.

Looking at my life experience as an example. I grew up in rural NM. We (4 brothers and dad)killed animals every year. I did not own a set of binoculars. Elk hunting in particular was meat procurement a lot of the time, with a need to kill 2+ cows a year to keep stocked. We did not even have the money to outfit ourselves fully in real tree camo from Walmart, so we used what we had available.


Now a days I have more disposable income. I carry 3-9k worth of optics alone on most hunts. We still kill 3-5 animals a year, but now we are able to be a bit more selective, stay out a bit longer, hunt a little deeper and be a bit more comfortable.


The bottom line is, a fish can be caught with any old line tossed into the water. To be consistently successful and to very marginally improve your odds, leader (material, length, diameter) hook type, knot selection, bait presentation all matter. But NOTHING matters if you are fishing in a spot where there are no fish and you have no knowledge of fish behavior.

My advice, don’t overthink it. Try to get with a good mentor. Buy what you can afford and build as you go. Lastly, just get out there. Too much analysis leads to paralysis.


Jan 29, 2022
I’m a tinkerer and a self proclaimed gear junkie… so I’ve spent a bit on it… but I can tell you what it could look like

Tag: 800ish
Weapon bow or rifle for a solid set up with scope or outfitted bow: 1400
Ammo/arrows: 200
Optics: basic bino and spotter 900
Pack: 150
Tent: 200
Bag: 150
Misc gear: 200
Boots: 200
Tech clothing: 300 (socks) outer shell maybe
This is a very rough estimate, without buying top end stuff and well under 5k

To be honest you can get most of you gear used and save a ton of money. From guys like me that want to upgrade every year. Mil surplus will get you started too. Don’t think that if you aren’t shooting at 5k rifle or the latest Hoyt or newest camo you won’t be successful, lots of guys killing things with hand me down equipment 15 year old bows all the time, and blue jeans, it just might not be as comfortable sometimes but that is half the fun of starting out.


Jul 15, 2020
Lenexa, KS
I have not killed 3 bulls but i did kill my first one last year after 5 years of trying. Here's roughly what i spent on hunting/shooting/scouting last year (fuel is estimated). I am going to do a better job of tracking food/fuel in '23.

CategorySUM of Expense
Grand Total$9,422.77
Last edited: