Average Joe: Homecourt Advantage

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Average Joe: Homecourt Advantage

While I understand that everyone experiences life differently, I do feel that if you’re reading this, we’re probably in a similar place in life. I mean, we’re just trying to do it all, right? What’s the point of working so hard if I can’t have the life that I want? 

The details might vary from person to person, but in general, life for us Average Joes is simple; cultivate a great home life, be the best parent you can be, kick ass at work, and finally, experience some adventure throughout the year. 

Unfortunately, (and my pile of “too small” Dad shorts can attest to this) we can’t have our cake and eat it too. Something along the line has to give, sacrifices have to be made. I know this is certainly the case for me. I’m an ambitious guy, I am trying to find the balance between climbing the ladder at work, and wanting to spend more quality time with my family; oh, and there’s also wanting to buy a house, save for retirement, and make sure that I can provide a better future for my kids, (I'm not even mentioning my addiction to buying gear). So what do I sacrifice? Well, my grandiose ideas of adventure in far away places.

With time and money being the biggest limiting factors in pretty much all our lives, I’ve managed to carve out a little niche of happiness and balance in mine. How do I do it? I hunt my home state. 

Non-resident license and tag fees can be some of the larger, somewhat required expenses in hunting. Take Arizona for example. For me to hunt elk as a resident, I pay a total of $205.00 for my hunt/fish combo license and Elk tag ($57.00 for the license, $148.00 for the tag). If I were a non-resident, that total would jump up to $825.00 ($160.00 for the license, and $665.00 for the tag). That amount does not include travel and lodging.

Obviously, it’s easier to justify the cost of in-state tags, but that’s not exactly the limiting factor for me. Granted, that kind of price tag would warrant a conversation with the wife, and it might not go in my favor, but if push came to shove, I can make the finances work. The bigger issue is sacrificing my time with my kids and family. It’s tough for me to want to take money and time away from them solely for my enjoyment and entertainment. 

I realize that this is not exactly ideal, but focusing just on your home state has its benefits. First of all, it’s easier to take your kids with you. Boom. This is like three birds with one stone, you’re maximizing time with your kids, giving them incredibly lasting, and beneficial life experiences, and you’re getting them out of their mother’s hair for a day or two, (I don’t think I need to explain the benefits of a well rested and refreshed wife).

Secondly, while I understand the appeal and pull towards experiencing new landscapes and the animals therein, becoming super familiar with one particular spot, at least for me, makes hunting infinitely more enjoyable and enriching. My dad and I have hunted the same patch of dirt for going on 30 years now. The knowledge we have of the area is vast and of course comes in handy when chasing game in there. But it’s watching the place change over time, and the idea of adding more memories on top of the foundation already built, that makes every trip into that place special. I absolutely love hearing my kid talk about how it’s now his favorite spot to go. 

It’s also easier to scout and gain that helpful knowledge of an area. I love being able to spend the months leading up to a hunt in that spot watching and taking inventory of what’s in the area, where they’re traveling to and from, and just learning the place. I’m always somewhere in between a trophy hunter and an opportunist. I would love to be patient and wait for a more mature animal, but I don’t always have that luxury. Hunting out of state, I lose the ability to really scout. This affects how confident I am going into the hunt as well as the expectations I have for success. If I am able to scout and have an idea of what’s in the area, I know whether or not it’s feasible to wait for a certain class of animal.

Conversely, there’s no reason why you can’t explore your state even further. Hell, I’ve barely scratched the surface of just the central units here in Arizona. I’ve hunted the same unit so much in my life, but there is still so much of it that I have not seen. I understand this is a little bit more applicable for the western states, but this can still apply in the east and midwest. 

I spent 4 years living in Eastern North Carolina. There is not a lot of public land out there, but there is some. There are also a lot of private leases and hunting clubs. Out there, your quality of hunt is pretty closely tied to how much you’re willing to spend. I was in graduate school and had limited funds so I spent the bulk of my time on North Carolina’s public game lands. I explored several in my time out east and picked up an incredible amount of knowledge. My point is that even back east you can try a new hunting club, or find a different lease, explore a refuge, or a different public hunting area. And, if all else fails, you can always work on improving what you have. I’ve always admired how some landowners will work their land to cultivate a good deer herd. That level of ecological knowledge is extremely impressive to me.

Lastly, hunting your home state allows you to take those savings, both in time and money, and put them towards your family. This seems pretty obvious, I know, but it manifests in different ways. Imagine the PTO you’ll save not having to add two or more days of travel to your week of hunting. Or, you take that $1500 you were going to spend on a CO elk hunt and you can invest it in gear that will make it easier or more comfortable to take your family out in the field. 

When you’re an Average Joe, you have to have some creative problem-solving skills. You have to be able to stretch and allocate your money and time to achieve multiple goals at once. Sure, that may lead to some sacrifice for some, but in general, I believe it will lead to a wealth of life experience and memories that I know I will look back upon fondly.


Joe Mannino

A photographer and avid outdoorsman living and working in Arizona, Joe received his BFA in Photography at Arizona State University before moving to North Carolina to pursue his Master’s Degree in photo at East Carolina University. Joe’s personal work is a visual representation of his life and experiences as a hunter. Professionally, Joe works as a freelance photographer and has photographed brands such as Swarovski Optik, Browning, Mathews, Wilderness Athlete, and Outdoorsmans. Joe also works in sales and customer service at Outdoorsmans and teaches photography at Chandler-Gilbert Community College.

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