A guy I’ve connected with on Twitter reached out a while back asking for some hunting ammo advice as he was in the process of loaning a rifle out to a friend for his friend’s first deer hunt. Later he followed up and informed me his buddy got his first deer. Good on him, I say. It’s always nice to bring somebody new into the fold. As we continued our conversation, we got to talking about the assorted fees and expenses that follow after a hunt. During this conversation, I realized it would have been nice to know what expenses follow a hunt before I got my first deer.
After the hunt expenses break down into two buckets: processing and taxidermy. Some people do their own meat butchering and processing. Others do their own taxidermy. While doing it yourself can save money, it does take some investment in equipment and time to do it. I assume most new hunters are like me and have neither the equipment nor skill (although that’s slowly changing) and will rely on others to provide those services.
Processing involves breaking down and butchering the deer to the point where it is ready to cook (or ready to eat in some cases). The processor that I use, Hudson Meat Market, breaks up their fees into cut fees and processing fees. Which cut fees apply depends on the state of the deer when it is dropped off and the processing fees depends on how you want your meat.
The cut fees include:
- $100 for field dressing
- $30 for skinning, and optionally:
- another $30 to save the hide for taxidermy
- or $50 for caping for a shoulder mount
- $1 per pound for boning
The processing fees vary a bit from as little as $0.75 per pound for ground meat up to as much as $8 per pound for Klein dry sausage.
Ok. Cool. There’s some info, but what can one expect the cost to be your first deer. Again it depends on it’s size but here is a break down of what I personally spent on processing on my harvests so far (all of which included a variety of different processing options like bacon-wrapped chop steaks, jalapeño sausage, chorizo, hamburger meat, etc):
- My first deer was what I would consider a typical whitetail doe size deer (although it turned out to be a small spike) and I spent about $280 in processing. I dropped this one off field dressed which resulted in a $30 skinning fee and $30 to save the hide for taxidermy (included in the $280 total). I don’t recall the the bone-in weight or I would supply it.
- My second deer was larger Axis buck. I dropped this one off quartered which saved me field dressing and skinning fees. The bone-in weight was 68 lbs and the processing cost was about $340.
- I dropped off the two small whitetail spikes from my most recent deer hunt. These were also skinned and quartered with a combined bone-in weight of 76 lbs. The processing cost was about $380.
From these experiences, I know budget about $200 to $250 per deer for processing.
Taxidermy expenses can add up quickly. I use Wildlife Designs Taxidermy mostly because they happen to be partnered with the processor I use. This makes it easy for me because all I have to do is drop off my deer with the processor and they send the bits I want to the taxidermist.
In terms of cost, one can expect to pay:
- $175 per soft tanned deer hide
- $225 per deer euro skull mount with a plaque
- $700 per deer shoulder mount
I ended up getting a euro mount for my first deer along with a tanned hide that is proudly displayed as decoration in my home. I currently tan all the hides from deers I harvest. The first hide of each species will continue to be displayed decoratively and additional ones will be turned into decorative pillows or other useful items. I suppose at some point I will no longer do that, but I may continue to as they may make nice gifts for family or friends. I suspect large bucks will end up as shoulder mounts until I run out of wall space.
From my limited hunting experience, I suggest that new deer hunters plan to spend somewhere between $800 to $1,300 after hunting their first deer. This will cover the processing and taxidermy fees including the skinning, tanning, and either a euro mount or shoulder mount to commemorate their first deer. Also, it’s good to keep in mind that every shot while deer hunting will result after the hunt expenses. How much depends on what one does with their deer. For me, given my current skill level, gear and what I do with my harvest, that translates to about $400 per trigger squeeze.