Every region and style of hunting seems to call for a specific hunting rig. Most of Africa requires a Land Cruiser with a custom high-rack on the bed to be effective. Southern man seems to prefer his Bad Boy Buggy because it’s silent, has an abundance of molded cup holders, one of which can be used as an ashtray and can eliminate the need to walk almost completely. And Texans? Well if there was ever a Houston skyscraper tipped over and put on a chassis it would be some version of a Ford F-(insert status number ending in “50” here) with tinted windows, an AC unit that would cool a big city morgue and of course leather seats with camo seat covers. But up in Alaska, all that is just foolishness. It is the land of bogs and moose buggies. What is a Moose Buggy? It’s a truck that looks to be what Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids would have built if they liked moose meat and weren’t wasting their time building xylophones and trumpets out of medical waste.
Samantha Lavin, the official Dirty Lens Gymnast, is an absolute gold mine of info for this blog and she told me all about her dad, Papa Mike Lavin, and his elite world of Moose Buggies. So I called him.
Mike built the only Moose Buggy he will probably ever need in 1994 after he tired of his military surplus Weasel and all of its breakdowns. He built it inside three weeks, but as you can imagine, the labor of love took four years to fully customize. Every axe, shovel and much of the workings can be accessed, assembled and disassembled without tools. He created his own proprietary camo pattern and generally made this rig a chick magnet. A chick magnet that is irresistible to ladies who love moose stew.
The foundation for this monster meat wagon is a one-ton Chevy crew cab chassis that is long, strong and ready to get the friction on. The wheelbase is 161 inches. The engine is a 383 c.u. with a Qaudrajet 4 barrel. So his crew of guys, which totals four Moose Buggies, takes 150 gallons of fuel per buggy for their annual hunting trip. This of course requires a fuel trailer. My “damn I love being an American” moment while talking to Mike came when he called B.S. on some guys down on the Kenai Peninsula because they were running less fuel-efficient big blocks. He implied they weren’t using them for “extended trips” because they weren’t using the Moose Buggy equivalent of a Prius, the aforementioned 383. Poseurs. For perspective, Mike’s drive from the end of the road to their camp at an old trapper cabin is about 45 miles and takes them roughly six hours following hundred-year-old mining trails.
Why not just get a convoy of quads? Because buggies can cross deeper water and “Carry a hell of a load and uh doesn’t rain inside that thing.” “Wall tents, oil heaters, we got everything under the sun with us.” Speaking of “everything”, are you wondering which thunderstick a hard-core moose man like Lavin prefers? .375 Weatherby.
He’s done a great deal to make this buggy work well. The differential gears are low and he uses Lock Rite lockers. The tires are 18/4 by 16/1. He built the body using rectangular tubing and custom aluminum plates for toughness. The buggy is required to bust much brush and trees and a normal truck body would melt under the demands. You can see Mike’s rig is leading up the convoy. He sums it up well; “awful lot of places you can go with these things” Moose managing equipment includes a boom and winches front and back (No “side to side”. Sorry Eazy).
The drive from the trailers to their camp at an old trapper cabin is about 45 miles and takes them roughly six hours following hundred-year-old mining trails.
So young blood, you wanna’ be like Mike? Here’s his advice: “First use Rockwell axles.” We all have regrets in life, Mike’s is not using Rockwells. Wanna’ be the alpha-male in your buggy pack? Get an Air Ride seat from a truck. You’ll quickly establish dominance when you’re the only one in camp who can walk like a proper Homo Erectus after six hours of bouncing over bogs.
What drives his passion? “Sometimes I wonder that myself because it’s an awful lot of work. I just like to go on a trip. I get a moose that’s even better.”