Prep your truck for a late season hunt
Most successful hunting stories that you hear start with preparation, even if it is not part of the story. I remember hearing a story from a friend that was on a backpack sheep hunt. He spent most of the story telling how he had spent months training in the gym and hours hiking in his boots to break them in.
Many people think that just preparing their clothes, getting their camping gear ready and sighting in their weapon is most of the preparation that they need. They think that the pickup that they plan on using is just fine as is, and ready to go. However, transport needs to be prepared just as much as everything else. It is what carries you into, through, and away from your hunt.
In the case of my friend, it was his boots and his body; in others, it is your truck.
Below are some ways that you can be 100% sure that your vehicle will successfully take you out afield and return home safely, too.
1. The basics (fluids and spares)
Before going on a trip, most people (hunters included) know to check the tires and make sure fluid levels are set, including engine oil, coolant or antifreeze, brake fluid, transmission fluid and differential fluid. However, what’s often overlooked is the fact that fluids have a shelf life. Coolant can lose its properties over time and should therefore be replaced every few years.
Other areas that get overlooked are spare tires. They get put under the truck or in the back, and are rarely checked. Nothing is more depressing than blowing a tire and having a flat spare. I know a few outfitters that will regularly run two spares, and have used both on one trip.
With most of these basic items, if you’re not confident handling them on your own, most reputable repair shops will be able to take care of you. Most good tire shops will have a used single tire that you will be able to pick up for a second spare, if you feel you need one.
2. Tire chains -- a 5-point checklist
Another item to consider when it comes to a late fall or winter hunt are tire chains. I have a set in my truck year round. With tire chains, the first thing is to make sure you know how to put them on; they won’t do you any good sitting in the back of the truck.
The other item that I carry with my chains are a set of leather gloves and a small piece of carpet or tarp. When it’s freezing cold, wet, snowy or muddy you will be happy that you have these. Finally, throw in some bungee cords and chain tensioners; they will keep your chains tight and also from smacking your fenders.
Jacking up your car is hard to do without a decent jack. The high-lift of farmer-style jacks are great and can be used for many different situations. With these styles of jacks, be careful where you place them on the truck, though. Many of the newer trucks have a lot of plastic and “tin” in the bumper. Using these jacks can cause damage. Double-check that they will work on your rig before you count on using it. There are some other styles of jacks that resemble a floor jack or shop jack that sit on a sled, so they won’t sink in the mud.
3. Starting a diesel in cold weather
For all you diesel drivers out there, with all the power and torque there comes some extra care and concern in the wintertime. When you are on a fourth season Colorado hunt you may not have an outlet to plug it in when it gets below zero outside.
There are some things you can do, though, to ensure that your truck will start every morning. If you are coming from a fair-weather state and headed to a cold-weather state, stop and pick up some anti-gel additive for your fuel. Also, before you take off for your hunt, have your batteries checked. With the dual battery setup that most diesels have, they will give you more than enough starting and cranking power if they are in good shape. With your batteries, make sure that your preheaters are working properly, whether it has glow plugs or an air preheater.
Here’s a trick: If it gets really cold out, cycle the key two or three times before you crank it over. What that does is allow the glow plugs to heat up a little more. Some hunters have put blankets and heaters under the hood to try and keep the heat in the engine. As a last resort, you can have a can of starting fluid in the truck, but be careful as this can cause some serious damage to modern diesels. Another option is to utilize mixed diesel fuel for the colder temperatures.
4. Don’t get stuck in the snow
Snow can be a scary thing when you’re out in the field and it creeps up on you.
Here’s what you need to keep in or on your truck so you don’t ever get stranded:
- A winch, or a come-a-long, which is a winch that you can crank with your hand. Along with that I have a winch pack, which includes a couple of tow straps, d-ring cleveses for attaching, gloves and the winch controller — don’t forget that.
- The good old shovel has a permanent place in my truck. You always underestimate how deep the snowdrift is, until your truck breaks through it and your best friend becomes that trusty shovel.
5. Emergency kit
I have a little kit or pack is in my truck anytime that I venture out in the late fall or winter. The first item is a couple of road flares; they are great for signalling if something were to happen, but they are also an awesome firestarter when nothing else seems to light up. I throw in a wool army surplus blanket along with a emergency blanket — those tinfoil looking ones. As a hunter, you probably already understand the insulating properties of wool, whether dry or wet, and the emergency blanket helps trap heat in.
I will also throw in some food or snacks. Typically it is an MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) or two, along with the heaters to cook them. They stay good forever and have enough in them for a couple of people to live on. Along with the food I will also have a couple bottles of water. The kit usually goes under my back seat and is in a waterproof bag. I haven’t had to use it yet, but there is something to say about peace of mind.
What’s in your truck?
These are just a few items and tips that I have learned over the years either from personal experiences or from kind people that were looking out for me. By no means is this a cure-all for every situation that you could face while out hunting, but it may give some ideas and reminders for you lucky hunters heading out on a late season hunt.
If you have other suggestions or tips that you have learned, we would love to hear them! Please let us know in the comments below.