Make no mistake about it, there is a lot of public hunting land out there that anyone can use for almost every game species. That is a viable option for hunting on the cheap and a great place for training, especially for the younger folk.
There are also many types of hunting opportunities that are the do-it-yourself types, where you essentially pay a fee and have access to private hunting lands that are either stocked with game or are adjacent to mountain ranges and government lands that game comes too.
If you do your research and homework, you may be able to take a decent sized animal and there is the chance of bagging a real trophy. But, and just like on public hunting grounds, the word "chance" is the key word.
The reality of hunting is that, if you want to go for trophies, and you want consistent results, guided hunts are the only way to go.
When you take a hunt with an outfitter guiding the way, you know that you are going to be in on one of the best hunts of your life. Now, you may not break world records with a trophy, but you can just about bet that you will get a trophy every time you hunt. Of course there are never any guarantees here either, but in most cases, you'll bag the animal you went after, and it might very well be trophy size that will fit nicely on your wall.
Doing the Work Prior to the Hunt
If you've ever spent time trying to take down a prized animal, you know that there is a lot of time spent scouting and tracking before you ever have a gun in your hand. For most of us with busy schedules, it's difficult to find that time. For outfitters, this is their job. The good ones have done the leg work, put in the miles, know where the animals are, and know how to get you to them. So if time is money, the investment in a guided hunt is well worth it.
This may be the biggest reason why it always pays to make guided hunts the center of your schedule. Consistency. Trophy or no trophy, what you can be guaranteed is that you'll have consistent results every time you go out. Guides can take you where few people have gone before, and you'll see scenery and game unlike anything that you can imagine.
Does that mean you couldn't find these places on your own? Of course not, but from a consistent standpoint, a guide will take you places where you stand the best chance of taking the animal you choose, and they also give you the best chance to get a trophy.
This just doesn't happen on a one-time deal either. Even if you schedule with an outfitter year after year, you are still going to get consistent hunts that will knock your socks off.
Peace of Mind
Every outfitter is in business to make a hunt for you exactly the way you want it. They have to because many outfitters work by word of mouth and internet recommendations. Outfitters take care of all the details, so all you have to do is concentrate on a good time being out in the wild.
Not that it won't be challenging of its own accord, but if all you need to do is bring the basics and let them do the rest, the hunt itself may be the trophy, regardless of anything that you'll get to take. And that's a lot of peace of mind.