Monday, April 22, 2024

Hunting Trucks, Mud, Sand, and Snow


It’s the eternal problem of bird hunters all over the country from September to February.  Not only can you not expect good roads, you should plan on mud, snow, sand, and rocks. 

Let’s go over some items I carry and a few things that are just part of the truck. 

First, 4-wheel drive. I know you could drive all over dirt and gravel from Montana to Arizona in your 2WD vehicle. I’ve done it. I had a 1989 F150 with a positraction rear end that went everywhere. Until it didn’t. I met a nice Georgia farmer with his tractor that day. Every truck I’ve had since then was 4WD. I use it every trip all over the country. Is AWD the same thing? No. I’m not an expert, but I’m assured 4WD is more flexible and locking hubs are important. 

Second, good tires. I have Michelin LTX AT/2E tires on my F250. I have put 60,000 on a set with plenty of tread left over. (They get rotated every oil change ).  I drive 1500 to 2000 miles, one way, to get into birds, it makes sense to have good, solid freeway tires. But, they need some good off-road tread, too. These tires do it for me. I would expect you may find a different set-up. One year, in North Dakota, I was stretching the mileage on my tires, and a farmer drove up, looked at my tires and commented how I’d probably end up in a ditch. He wasn’t wrong. You need good tread. 

Third, tow straps. I have two types. The wide, flat type, and the “snatch rope” type. Both are 30’ long and rated to over 30,000#. I also have an apparatus to hook the strap(s) to my receiver hitch.  I can pull someone, or they can pull me out. Mandatory equipment. 

Fourth, traction devices. I carry two sets of Go Treads.  12' long plastic ramps, basically, that will allow your wheels to have traction and get out of mud hole.  In addition, I carry Track Claws which strap on to the tire to get traction out of mud.  A while back, I bought some plastic chains that are easy to install in snow or mud.  They worked great. I no longer have them for two reasons.  The first is that (and this was my fault) when I was a trying to tow my camper over soft ground, the tires started spinning in the chains and became useless.  I'm positive if it was only my truck, they would have worked as advertised, however.  The second reason is more serious.  They have a shelf life on the compound used for the chains of 4 years.  They aren't cheap.  My first set, when I needed them in South Dakota muck, literally broke while installing them.  Useless to me. They were stored in my truck for 6 years.  I complained to the manufacturer and they sent me two new sets, and that's when I learned about the lifetime limit.  They are awesome, and they work.  For 4 years.  Recently, I've been searching "tire socks" for snow.  They seem to work.  I haven't used them, but I see a few issues.  They don't work in mud. Mud is the medium that is my nemesis.  Second, is they may tear and become useless.  There appears to be a limit on the uses before they need replacement.  Third, they are becoming more expensive and are approaching the cost of a set of chains.  Lastly, there are chains.  They work. A pain to put on and take off, but it's hard to find a problem with them- sometimes they are required, too.  

Fifth, Your Brain!  We all know when it's just plain stupid to drive on the two-track.  I am a classic example of impatience, and I don't want to lose a day in the field.  But, wisdom is creeping in over the years. Take a day off and/or remember that if it's frozen on the way in, it may be impassable on the way out.  Also, don't tear up the farm roads.  You don't have to live with the ruts.  

What am I forgetting? This is what I use, but I'm sure there are other items that would be a good idea to carry, or equip your truck with.  A winch, perhaps?  Leave your comments.  #abirdhuntersthoughts 

I am not sponsored by any of those products listed.