How To

Backcountry Hunting on Fat Tire Bikes

By now you have heard the talk. Are fat-tire bikes made for hunting the next big thing? Time will tell. (Photo courtesy FELT Bikes.)

By now you have heard the talk. Are fat-tire bikes made for hunting the next big thing? Time will tell. (Photo courtesy FELT Bikes.)

Having been around the business of bowhunting for more than 40 years, I have seen some products, ideas and concepts come and go. A lot of them. Some of these things become important parts of bowhunting success for many archers, some find a small niche and move along with the growth of the industry, and, of course, some are relegated to the ash-heap of history.  The ones that survive seem to be products that fill a need.

Mountain bikes have occupied a small niche in bowhunting for many years, but they have never gone mainstream. These bikes are not made for hunting and therefore must be modified, and their use is limited to certain terrains. That said, the growth in popularity of fat tire bikes has been quite remarkable, and I suppose it was only a matter of time before they made a serious move at the hunting market.

As these fat tire bikes have showed up at hunting shows over the last year, I have viewed them more with curiosity than anything, but I as I considered how they might fit into my bowhunting, I am about to take the plunge. I bowhunt whitetails on public land in several states each year, and that often involves getting way back into a property to get away from the crowds. For example, I have found a location where I have killed a couple of mature bucks on public land in Kansas, but it’s a walk of more than 1.5 miles. That’s a long haul before daylight and after dark. Once I shoot a big buck back in there, the distance seems to become even longer.

As I thought about this location and several others I have hunted, I began to realize that most of the properties I hunt have a network of access roads that are used by the DNR, and sometimes by farmers who have agreements to plant crops on the property. On that 1.5-mile trek, more than a mile of it could easily be ridden on a bike.

Most public hunting areas used by DIY whitetail hunters have some access roads that make bike travel easy. (Photo courtesy Rambo Bikes.)

Most public hunting areas used by DIY whitetail hunters have some access roads that make bike travel easy. (Photo courtesy Rambo Bikes.)

The advantages of fat tire bikes are many. You can ride them over rough or muddy ground, even snow. They are geared for rough terrain and provide good traction and balance. They will ride right over small obstructions such as branches and rocks, obstacles that might trip up a normal mountain bike. These bikes are built to take the beating a hunter will dish out.

Three of the major players in the fat tire hunting bikes are Felt, Rambo and Cogburn. Each of these offers accessories that make the bike useful for hauling hunting gear. This includes racking, bow and gun holders, trailers, bags, lighting and fenders.

As time goes on, hunters may find more useful niches for the fat tire bikes in their specific styles of hunting. (Photo courtesy Rambo Bikes.)

As time goes on, hunters may find more useful niches for the fat tire bikes in their specific styles of hunting. (Photo courtesy Rambo Bikes.)

Rambo and Felt offer bikes with electric assist motors. The lithium ion batteries give you speeds of up to 20 mph and will travel 19 miles between charges on motor use alone. You can use the motor as a pedal assist if you like, which will give you even more distance on a battery. Sweating up a steep hill? Just switch on the motor for some assistance. There is some question about using the electric power on properties where no motorized vehicles are allowed, but a representative from Rambo told me the bike has been okayed by several state wildlife agencies.

A couple of issues I see with the use of the bikes: First of all, once I arrive at my treestand, I need to find a place to hide it so it doesn’t attract the attention of deer. Secondly, when I have a lot of gear to haul in and out, will the bike and trailer be able to handle it all? Will I be able to pull a deer out with the bike, or will it mean one more trip back and forth to my truck?

After using a bike for this upcoming season, I should have a lot better feel for how these questions will be answered. At this point, I can see all kinds of applications for them in scouting, checking game cameras, plus getting to and from a treestand. The advantage of being able to get around much more quickly could be huge.

Here are two more advantages I see: One is the reduction in scent impact when travelling in my hunting area. My boots are not touching the ground, and I will be moving faster, leaving less signs of my intrusion that might alarm deer. Secondly, I ride a bike quite a bit on trails through wooded areas near my home, and I see that deer react much differently to a person on a bike than they do to a person on foot. They don’t see a person sitting on a pair of wheels as nearly the threat that they perceive a person walking. I’m not sure how much that will be an advantage, but spooking deer while scouting and travelling to and from a hunting location could be reduced.

While my first reaction to the surge in fat tire bikes made for hunting was one of curiosity, that has turned to excitement for trying out this new mode of transportation. Will this be another of those trends that ends up as a bit of hunting history, or will they find a niche that offers long-lasting usefulness? Speaking as a DIY bowhunter, let’s hope it’s the latter.

Bikes built for hunters offer several accessories that make hauling gear much easier. (Photo courtesy Rambo Bikes.)

Bikes built for hunters offer several accessories that make hauling gear much easier. (Photo courtesy Rambo Bikes.)

Any views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of OutdoorHub. Comments on this article reflect the sole opinions of their writers.
  • S Earney

    I can see they would be useful in some of the places I hunt. However, most WMAs in Arkansas do not allow motorized access and the electric assist would likely not be permissible. Is Arkansas one of the states that do permit their use on public areas?

    • Steve P

      I bought an electric bike mainly for hunting purposes earlier this year. Due to the motor size of 750 watts, it is not considered a motorized vehicle like a motorcycle where I live in the Rocky Mountains. No idea what the regs are in other states. It is considered a bicycle and can therefore be used just about anywhere on public land. Great way to go when you are covering tens of thousands of acres. Going from a week to a day to cover one of the ranches I hunt.

  • Lawrence Wilson

    If you’re really all that worried about a 1 1/2 mile hike in on a maintained trail, you’re not all that much of a hunter anyway.

    • S Earney

      When turkey hunting odor is not an issue but for deer, predators, etc. using an electric bike would eliminate sweating, be quieter and reduce scent from boots verses walking. My walk ins are not bad but on public land the bike could get a hunter deeply in as well as reduce odor. However, In Arkansas I do not believe any motorized vehicle is allowed in our Ozark or Ouachita National Forests?