It is now the middle of June, 2019. Bow hunting season is only 10 weeks away in my state. Less than three months, To put that in perspective, New Years was more than six months ago, Six months have already flown by in 2019, the next three months will be gone in a flash. Opening day is fast approaching and you need to ask yourself, Is your truck ready?
With all of the other details you are keeping track of to get ready for deer season, what with gear checks, practice sessions and getting back into mountain climbing shape, it is easy to overlook the readiness of your vehicle.
Right now I still have some time to inspect my truck and address any mechanical issues I find and make an appointment to get all of the oils and fluids changed. Plus I can get any major issues fixed now instead of out on the trail where I will have to use bush craft 101 to make emergency repairs.
Not having resources at hand to make simple repairs can turn a simple fix into a major undertaking. Not to mention that taking time to fix your ride in the field will take precious hunting time away from what may be your only chance to hunt deer all year. Use this guide to be sure your truck is ready for bow hunting season.
Inspection and general maintenance.
Whether you do your own mechanic work and maintenance or you have a garage do it, before the season begins, someone needs to crawl around under your truck looking for anything that might become an issue. Your mechanic or you should keep in mind that off highway roads are rough and put a lot more stress on your vehicle than a trip to the grocery store.
Before you go on your hunting trip, you or your mechanic should go under your vehicle with a flashlight and inspect the left side of the car for loose bolts, leaky hoses, lines or containers. Check the shock mounts, exhaust hangers, each wheel and tire, the brakes, bearings, all connecting arms and linkages.
Go back up the right underside doing the same kind of inspection. Then go down one more trip down the middle of the vehicle, looking for any issues.
Once the underside is done, go up top and inspect the engine compartment for loose wires, battery hold downs and loose nuts or bolts. Check for soft or swollen hoses and leaks around the clamps. Check your accessory drive belts and steering linkages.
Check the upper shock mounts and look for leaks from the shocks. Perform the bounce test on each corner of your vehicle. If the car keeps bouncing more than 2 bounces, you may need new shocks.
Any loose or hanging wires should be tucked back in where they belong and secured.
You’re not finished yet.
After all that, you should have all routine maintenance performed, including engine oil and filter, transmission, power steering, and whatever needs changing. Top off the anti-freeze, washer fluid and replace your wiper blades. After all services are performed, check one more time for leaks.
Anything you take care of now is LESS likely to break on the back roads. No matter what, there is a truism that applies to vehicles. Sometime, some place, it’s gonna’ break. If you can keep that from happening while you are on your hunting trip it’s much better for you.
If you see anything cracked, loose or broken, Fix it now, on the nice flat driveway instead of when you are perched on a steep sideways tilted trail with no secure place to put your jack.
If your brakes are worn, fix them. If your emergency brake doesn’t work really, really well, fix it. Bad brakes and steep hills can quickly lead to disaster.
I know that running around trying to get all of this stuff done before deer season is a pain in the keister. However, you don’t want to have to pay for a tow truck to retrieve you from way out in the sticks. And you don’t want to have a buddy drag your home when your vehicle is dangerous to move.
How far do you want to walk home?
New parts are expensive. It’s just a fact of driving a car or truck that you will be buying new parts if you do regular routine maintenance. Ideally, if you will be driving far, far away from the repair shop, it is best to carry a few extra parts in your truck’s storage compartments. A new serpentine belt, spare radiator hoses, some fuses. Etc.
However, you can end up with a lot of expensive parts in the storage compartments. You will just have to weigh the cost of a few parts against a hundred mile tow truck bill. Besides, you can always rotate the parts from your truck box onto your truck when needed and always have spare parts with you.
If you are on a tight budget, be sure to hang on to any old serpentine belts that aren’t worn out but have been replaced for routine maintenance.
If you break a belt on the trail, you can fix it by using the old one and get it replaced with a new belt when you get back. It isn’t ideal, but it could get you back home.
Just remember, if you are driving around town and have a very short commute to the parts store or mechanic’s shop then you don’t need to worry much about carrying spare parts.
I live in the southwestern U.S. and I can find myself driving on back roads many miles from a cell tower or any houses where I might be able to make a phone call for a wrecker service or repair truck.
I’m pretty handy with a tool box and I know enough about mechanics to fix most things on my cars and trucks. That being said, when I’m ten or twenty miles from help, I’ll be stranded if I don’t have any parts to fix what breaks.
I once had to hike four miles to town, buy a bearing and some grease, get a ride back to my truck and swap out the bearing, just to get back home. I would have been a lot happier if I had been carrying a new bearing and some grease, but I never anticipated it burning out.
Now I get my bearings repacked at regular intervals. Before any big trip I also get my truck inspected or I do it myself if I have time.
Have what you need to fix it.
No parts are going to last the life of most cars and it is best to maintain everything as the manufacturer recommends. You can look in your owner’s manual to see what is best for your particular vehicle or your mechanic can tell you. You just can’t always have everything you need so you still need a plan to call for help or walk back to civilization.
Taking a weekend mechanics course at the local community college can also be a great investment. Especially if you often find yourself exploring back roads and trails far from civilization.
Those types of classes usually don’t cost too much and if you know next to nothing about your cars mechanics, a class might give you just enough knowledge to get home should the need for a backwoods, bush craft repair arise.
If you know how to replace them, then spare parts can save a hunting trip. It might cost a little extra to have some spare fuses, belts and even hoses in your truck box, but it really pays off if something goes wrong on the trails.
Essential tools and gear to keep in your truck
Must have items include:
A comprehensive first aid kit. HERE’S A LINK TO THE AMERICAN RED CROSS
If you take a red cross first aid course and carry a good first aid kit you can fix up a lot of minor injuries that might otherwise have ended your hunting trip.
Heaven forbid that a serious injury occurs, but with basic first aid knowledge and a good first aid kit, you can get yourself or an injured hunting partner back to civilization without bleeding to death. If worse comes to worst you can stabilize your injuries and signal for rescue or stabilize an injured hunter and go for help.
You should always carry at least one spare tire for your truck and if you haul a trailer you should have a spare for it as well. I like to carry at least two spares for my Truck and two for my Trailer.
I’ve had a few trips that I ended up having more than one flat tire. Long walks home will quickly teach you to be better prepared and ready for problems.
I have a lockable gear box on my trailer and in my truck. I carry the jack that came with the truck and a High-Lift jack in my truck box. In my trailer gear box I have a small floor jack and some blocks.
I also carry a big cross type 4-way lug wrench and wheel chocks in both my truck and trailer. I also have a lug nut key for the locking lug nuts.
With all of the jacks, spares, lug wrenches and blocks and wheel chocks I’m pretty much able to change out a flat almost anywhere, be it on an incline for slope or anywhere else.
Also make sure you have all the keys for all the locked boxes and other locks on your truck and trailer. If you have those locking lug nuts that require a special wrench, make extra sure you have them where you can find them easily in your vehicle.
I also carry a tire repair/plug kit, a couple of cans of fix a flat and a little battery powered air compressor in my truck. Yes I have actually had more than two flats on a trip. Luckily I wasn’t tooooo far from civilization on the last multi-flat trip.
When I was a youngster I learned how to fix a flat and a few other things by following my Dad around and watching and helping. He called it getting in the way but I called it helping.
As I grew up and actually became helpful, my Dad bought me a set of socket wrenches and then some assorted tools over the years. I started buying some tools when I got an after school job. When I got my first truck, he gave me a bunch of his old tools that helped complete my tool kit.
I learned my lesson about keeping a basic set of tools in my truck for roadside repairs when I had a clamp come loose on an old style fuel line and I didn’t even have a screw driver under the seat to tighten it with.
Luckily for me I was in town and I just walked to a pay phone and called my dad. He brought me some tools and I got my truck fixed right up. About a week later dad gave me a shiny red tool box designed to slip under the seat of your car or truck. I got the hint.
I have tool kits in all of my trucks and trailers. I like the sets in the plastic tool boxes with individual slots for each tool. It makes it easy to quickly check if there any tools missing. If a slot is empty then find the missing tool and put it back.
The reason I have tools in both the truck and the trailer is because they can be separated and you may want to fix something on the trailer while you are in camp and the truck and your hunting buddy went to town for parts.
You don’t want to leave the truck without tools if someone takes it to get parts or groceries. If you need to fix the trailer than you can keep working on it until the parts arrive.
Pliers. Needle nose, side cutters, and regular pliers.
Screw drivers, at least two sizes of regular and Phillips the more the better. Especially for teeny, tiny screws.
Make sure you have both metric and SAE in wrenches and sockets. Car companies and trailer companies are still mixing them on the same vehicle.
End wrenches in a reasonable assortment of common sizes can help you get a surprisingly large number of repairs accomplished in less than ideal conditions.
Again, a reasonable assortment of sockets and ratchets, extensions and deep and shallow sockets will make any mechanic job go better..
It is also handy to have a long heavy-duty breaker bar for stubborn bolts and nuts. Rust has a way of locking up everything.
A pry bar can help lift a heavy spare into place and move bent exhaust pipes or crumpled fenders if the need arises.
Sometimes bolts and clips rattle loose and fall off. You’ll probably never see them again. A small assortment of zip ties and wire like heavy bailing wire, tie wire and electrical wire can come in handy to make a limp-it-home repair.
Oil, anti-freeze, AT, PS fluids to replace whatever leaked out when the hose clamp loosened up or because you are hauling way too much junk and overheated the cooling system.
Use CAUTION with gas cans.
A CAUTION about extra fuel, never carry fuel in the passenger compartment or cab of any vehicle. I won’t even carry spare gas in a car trunk.
I recommend spending the money and buying really good gas cans and external gas can mounts for any spare gas you might feel the need to carry.
ALWAYS, ALWAYS use DOT approved containers. They are designed not to spill.
Know the limitations of your vehicle.
The latest fad is to haul a big trailer/camp trailer/ toy hauler combo behemoth out into the wilderness and spend a few days recreating. If you look at their tow rig, you will see numbers on the side like f-250, f-350, f-450 and 1500, 2500, 3500 and all kinds of indicators that the tow vehicle has more towing and carrying capacity than normal.
Trailers and overhead campers weigh a lot and when you fill them up with cooking gear, camping tables, chairs and all the attending four wheelers, motorcycles, buggies with fuel and tools. Those trailers and campers get really heavy. Now add in five or six hearty hunters and their gear and you have a massive amount of weight to move around.
Fortunately for me, my budget won’t accommodate a tractor/trailer lifestyle. I have a nice half ton truck and a small, tough gear trailer that I use to haul my hunting gear and me and my hunting partner into the wilderness.
Even with careful planning and gear selection it can be hard to fit everything into the vehicle and trailer for a longer hunt of a week or more.
Upgrade your truck for rough roads and heavy loads.
A lot of people will pile in and all go in the same truck, Full grown people can weigh 250 pounds and more quite easily. If you have five people and all of their gear plus all the other junk you want to take along, your truck will soon be over loaded.
Add to that a bunch of washboard roads, ruts, washed out trails and steep up and down climbing and you can easily see why a lot of hunting vehicles aren’t up to a hard hunting trip.
You might need to get a suspension upgrade. Not necessarily a suspension lift, although they are useful for really rugged trails. I’m talking about load increasing upgrades. A spring or shock upgrade can help keep your truck from dragging in the dirt when it is fully loaded down.
You can increase the load carrying capacity of your truck a little but it is still only going to be rated at a half ton if it came from the factory as a half-ton.
Unless you replace the suspension and drive train with heavier rated components, it will still be a half ton. Even then, unless you get a whole new heavy-duty frame, it will still just be a half ton.
If you need to carry way more than a half ton of stuff then you might consider getting a 3/4 ton or 1 ton truck. You can also get a tough little trailer to carry part of the load.
Trailers are a lot less expensive than a new truck. Yet again, the towing capacity of your truck will limit the weight of the trailer you can haul.
A good v-8 half ton truck can haul a pretty heavy trailer on pavement. However, on rough, steep, rocky back roads and trails, it is a different story.Once you get on steep grades and less than ideal road conditions, all that extra weight will stress the truck a lot.
If you plan on towing a trailer on your hunting trip, you should get a trailer towing package on your truck or at the very least get some upgrades to your engine cooling system, automatic transmission oil cooler, and a heavy-duty trailer hitch and ball.
You don’t ever want to look out the window and see your trailer racing past you. It makes for a terrible day.
Only carry what you need.
A good strategy to get a lot of gear to your hunting site is to take two trucks. You can split the load between them and it is nice to have another vehicle along if one of your breaks down and you have to go to town for parts or to get a tow truck. You can watch out for each other when you head out and head home
Usually, if I only have a weekend to hunt, I don’t even bother with the trailer. I pack a tent, sleeping bag, food and water and my daily hunting gear. Basics like a backpack and necessities and I go.
I’ll be home soon and I’m willing to put up with fewer niceties and comforts for two days. I just want to hunt hard, refuel with some good quick food and sleep. Next morning I’m up early and hunting hard again. I don’t spend a lot of time setting up a camp or lounging around.
I’ve found it essential to have a list of needs and wants and to stick to the list. If anything gets added it is after careful consideration. I also find that when I follow my list I don’t forget important things like, toilet paper, a can opener or my map and compass. .
Traveling light or heavy, just take it easy.
Big heavy loads need a lot of energy/horsepower to stop and start. The faster you move that heavy load the harder it hits bumps in the road and the more wear and tear your truck will absorb.
Too much abuse and the old truck is going to fall apart quickly, leaving you with a breakage or some other kind of failure. If you are like me then you really would rather be hunting instead of repairing your ride.
Drive slowly and preserve your truck. It’d one of the best ways to avoid having to make repairs. Take it easy and avoid breaking things.
You are going out to have a good hunt, by being safe and having fun. Don’t get in a hurry and wreck your rig. Getting to your camp a little later is better than breaking down and not getting there at all.
Whether you like to travel light or drag a trailer and camper for all your extra gear, it is most important to have your vehicle in excellent shape.
Remember this. The more preventive maintenance and preparing for breakdowns that you do before driving off into the wild the more you could save your hunting trip and keep from having a really long walk back to civilization.
If you have any questions or comments I would really, really like to hear from you. Please leave any comments and questions below in the comment section.
I hope you found this article helpful, Stay safe and have fun.