April 08, 2016
By Mike Schoby
Whether you are spring turkey hunting, baiting bears, or heading out to the farm to put in food plots, it is often all too easy to get stuck in the soaked soil of spring — it doesn't take much mire, either.
All it takes is a small downpour, a muddy road, or a late season snow flurry and you are calling a buddy for help getting unstuck. Of course, you could add a winch to your vehicle (and it is something we do highly recommend), but it can be a costly investment for the very limited times you'll use it. But there are some pretty simple techniques and tools for getting unstuck that anyone can perform, and they don't break the bank, either.
These tools will make the job much easier, and some may help you get out without having to go through the endless ribbing for years to come that a cell phone call to the hunting buddy will bring.
If you hunt, sooner or later you are going to get stuck. It is a fact of life almost as guaranteed as death and taxes. While sometimes unavoidable, having the equipment and know-how to get yourself free can make the difference between a good day and a very bad one.
Barring using any tools, there are some basic techniques to get unstuck. To start with, if it is a case of tires just not getting traction, think creatively on how to solve this. An easy solution is to cut some tree boughs, pull some grass, or shovel some gravel from the roadside under the offending tire. Failing that, think about dropping the tire pressure.
This is a standard technique for offroaders in snow or sand and by doing so increases the tire's footprint where it meets the ground. Remember, if you do this you will need a means of re-inflating the tires once unstuck.
Tons of times when we get stuck afield, it is not that horrific. It is just a small amount of mud, sand, or snow causing the problem. Often, it is just enough where tires can't get purchase, but as they say, "stuck is stuck," and spinning tires will leave you as helpless as a vehicle buried up to the axles in mud. While pine bows, a bag of sand, or a broken-up bale of hay can all help out in these situations, sometimes you just can't find any good natural material.
Enter MaxTrax — think of them as traction in a box. Molded from UV-stabilized, flexible, engineering-grade reinforced nylon, these super lightweight, extremely aggressive, lugged plates nestle together until they are needed. When stuck, take them apart, insert them under the offending tires, and watch how easy it is to get back underway. For seriously stuck situations, multiple MaxTrax can be linked together.
Growing up in the rain-soaked Pacific Northwest, two things my father always carried in his hunting truck was a shovel and an axe. Neither was particularly high-tech, just extras from the garden shed, but both worked great when stuck. For years I have carried a folding trenching shovel as a backup in a vehicle, but if you have ever used one, you know they aren't very effective — or as my buddy likes to say: "At least it looks like you are trying to do something until someone can come pull you out with their truck."
Luckily, today there are better concepts on this old technique. Hi-Lift (yes, the fantastic jack company) just released possibly one of the best renditions of this standby: the Handle-All. Essentially, the Handle-All combines the breakdown storage functionality of a trenching shovel with either a short or full-sized handle and removable full-sized shovel head, axe head, pick head, and sledgehammer head, and the best part is that it all goes into a tiny bag the size of a bag of potato chips. This is a must-keep tool in the vehicle at all times!
Occasionally, we have found the need for a chainsaw in our truck's arsenal for light cutting work. This work ranges from cutting limbs to use for material wedged under the tires to cutting up full-sized trees blown down across an old road. While gas saws are good, you have to remember to keep a supply of mixed gas in the vehicle, which for everyday travel can become problematic.
It may leak, it definitely smells, and it will go bad if you leave it long enough. We discovered Oregon's new tool, the 40V MAX chainsaw, to be ideal. No pulling a cord, no smells, and little noise — the chainsaw is ready to cut the moment you pick it up. With a lithium-ion battery, it lasts and doesn't suffer from power fade. With a 14-inch bar and self-sharpening chain, it is more than adequate for most jobs occasionally encountered.
Quick Fist Clamps
As I mentioned, one of the most basic items for getting unstuck is keeping a good shovel in the vehicle. (In the winter it is a good idea to keep a regular shovel as well as a snow shovel.) But shovels (unless you get the Handle-All) tend to bounce around, rattle, bang into other gear, and generally make trouble, so many opt to leave them out. Solve the problem with some Quick Fist clamps.
These ingenious little clamps work great for securing a shovel to the inside of your pickup bed or SUV. Available in several sizes to fit anything from tools to fire extinguishers, they are a great (and inexpensive) way to keep stuff in the right place.
Yes, we know this "technique" requires calling a friend, but sometimes you have to suck up the ego and ask for help. Bubba Rope comes in several varieties from a lil' Bubba (½"x 20', breaking strength 7,400 pounds) ideal for light applications like ATV and UTV recovery to the monster Extreme Bubba (2"x30', breaking strength of 131,500 pounds) in case you need to free a tractor, semitruck, or move your mobile home.
We tested the standard Bubba (…ž"x20') with a breaking strength of 28,600 pounds and found it ideal for Jeeps, pickups, and SUVs. OK, I can hear you thinking now. "It's a rope. What makes it so special?"
Well, several things, actually. It is durable, double-braided nylon rope coated with urethane polymer to resist water, mud, snow, UV light, as well as abrasions. It also stretches, acting almost like a bungee cord, which reduces the shock imparted on stuck vehicles as well as using the stored kinetic energy to help recover vehicles.
All the end loops are commercial splices and come in a wide variety of colors. Bubba Rope comes in a heavy-duty nylon bag to keep the inside of your vehicle clean and organized when not in use.
The Essentials Gear Box.
Our editors have hand-picked these essential pieces of gear to make you a more successful hunter when you hit the game trails this season.