When the Editors at Guns.com asked me, if I had favorite hunting vehicle, and could I write an article about it I gave them an unequivocal, No.
The reason is, there is no perfect hunting vehicle that is going to suit everyone’s taste or cover their own unique checklist of requirements. The reason is, we all travel, traverse and hunt under a variety of different conditions. High mountain backwoods elk hunting requires a different travel mode than the guy out on the open plains wanting to do some long-range shooting at varmints from his portable shooting table. Same thing with the avid waterfowl hunter loaded up with portable blinds and dozens of decoys, versus the working stiff headed to their local pheasant club to chase some planted birds.
One thing that I can tell you, is that automotive technology continues to evolve at a head-spinning pace. Just because you own a 5-year old brand X pickup truck and think it can’t get any better than that…. Think again! Everything from the vehicle’s frame design, suspension systems, powerplants, steering systems, AWD (All Wheel Drive) components, and of course “creature comforts” have been improved for both on and off road driving.
Crossover vehicles, which is an automotive term for combining assets of the family car, and the need for some 4WD or AWD capabilities that hunters are going to need to be able to get off the beaten paths and paved roads, and travel with confidence on dirt roads and well groomed or maintained trails.
Up until recent times, a hunter often had to choose between a SUV (sport utility vehicle) or a family car. Often times the needs of families with kids, school, soccer, grocery shopping, etc. won out. I can remember when I was a kid, and Dad and I would take the family station wagon out on everything from upland birds to waterfowl and big game hunts. It got beat up on the dirt roads and trails we often negotiated and Mom was none too happy when we got home, as you can well imagine.
Today, there are a host of small to medium-sized crossovers that provide the weekday 9-5 commute attributes, which will transform into solid weekend and extended hunting trip vehicles.
For 2011, the redesigned Kia Sorento is one of my top picks. It’s a muscular looking mid-size crossover that is built on a wheelbase of 106.3 inches, a width of 74.2 inches and sports an overall length of 183.9 inches. For this year, it means it is a little bit longer than previous models and now has a center of gravity that has been lowered by 2-inches.
Heading off for a late-spring snow goose hunt our test vehicle came with a new 3.5 liter V6 engine that pops out an honest 276 horsepower and still gets 23 mpg on the highway. Its quiet at freeway speeds, handles well and has just about every electronic button, option and comfort that you or your hunting companions could ask for.
For gear storage, the Sorento can be ordered with an optional 3rd passenger seat. While it might be nice for hauling the kids back and forth to the shooting range, it’s not going to be comfortable for long trips. But, when the seats are folded down and it’s just you, your buddy and your gear… the Sorento offers 72.5 cubic feet of flat storage space. Plenty of room for rifles in hard cases, lots of ammo, decoys, camo and travel gear.
When we hit the back farm and ranch roads—rutted and muddy enough any 2WD vehicle would have bogged down and got stuck all we had to do was simply push a dashboard mounted AWD switch that locks in power to all the driving wheels. With AWD, we easily got to the fields where the birds thought they had sanctuary. They were wrong.
Sports Utility Vehicle
In a few words, a Sports Utility Vehicle or SUV is a major step up from the offerings in the Crossover Vehicle line. It rides, handles, drives and crawls through snow, mud, dirt and over rocks and ruts much more like an enclosed pickup truck.
Enter for 2011 the redesigned Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. A rough and tumble get-me-to-the-woods for my hunting adventure vehicle that loves playing and grinding in the dirt. Offered as either a 2 or 4-door model, the Rubicon has a wheelbase chassis of 116 inches, an overall length of 173 inches and a width of 73.9 inches. Sporting a full 10.2 inches of ground clearance, right from the factory, the Rubicon is ready to head for that secluded hunting spot and give both the novice and experienced off-roader the confidence that this is one tough hunting vehicle.
Under the hood the Rubicon still sports the 3.8 liter V6 that delivers 202 horsepower and is rated at 15 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the highway. For the new year, changes to the package—thank goodness—don’t seem to really have had much of an impact on performance. Rather, Jeep has simply decided to “gussy up” the Wrangler with a bunch of new electronic options, buttons and creature comforts. It ain’t bad, but the days of coming back from a hunting trip and simply using the garden hose to clean out all the dirt and debris are over.
Full Size Pickup Trucks
For some hunting adventures, especially those where you are going to be in a remote camp for a week or more, there is nothing that beats a full-size regular or crew cab pickup truck that sports 4-wheel drive and a thunderous V8 engine. After all, when you travel light, but like “light artillery,” it’s nice to have a full-size 8-foot cargo bed for the tents, cooking gear, sleeping bags, guns, ice chests and everything else you want to stuff in the back end.
For those looking for big and bad, the Chevrolet Silverado 2500 4×4 comes out on top. It doesn’t look a lot different from last year’s model, but here is where looks are deceiving. Under the skin are new bones with a fully boxed frame that adds to the truck’s rigidity and vehicle strength. Other upgrades have improved the ride—on and off the road—and increased the truck’s hauling and towing capacities.
Standard engine remains a big 6.0 liter V8, but new is an even bigger and badder 6.6 liter V8 diesel option with nearly 400 horsepower and a lot of low-end torque for rough riding, hauling or towing your hunting boat, travel/horse trailer, ATVs or other hunting toys.
So is there really a perfect hunting vehicle? Sure… it’s what best suits your needs. But the bottom line with any of these truck genres is new technologies are making it easier and a lot more fun to get out and enjoy your shooting or hunting adventures.