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bruce_ventura

Advice sought: Hunting 4WD Vehicle

31 posts in this topic

I've finally warmed up the wife about us getting a 4WD for hunting/camping on local National Forest roads and Wilderness Unlimited ranches. I don't need a rock crawler, just a reliable 4x4 that can navigate narrow or steep, rutted dirt roads and carry 2 adults + 2 children. The WU properties are usually 5,000-15,000 acre cattle ranches that require a 4WD to get into the really interesting areas. I prefer to use a mountain bike to get really far down narrow trails or abandoned roads. We currently have a 2005 crew cab, long bed 2WD Tacoma truck that we love to take on trips because we can stuff it full of camping gear, outdoor games, bikes, etc. I've considered trading in the 2WD Tacoma for a 4WD version. I think that size is too big for the properties I've been to because the roads are cut into steep mountain sides and there is often no place for miles to turn around a vehicle that long. So, we're leaning toward towing a Jeep Wrangler. When family camping, we would use the Jeep for exploring. When I go hunting solo I would leave the Tacoma home and drive the Jeep because I don't take nearly as much stuff as my wife packs for camping. The Tacoma has a nice camper shell, which I like to sleep in, but I'll give that up and sleep on the ground if I take the Jeep. I'm pretty busy and barely have enough free time to camp and hunt. I don't need another hobby and therefore prefer to leave vehicle maintenance to others. Hence, I'm leaning toward a late model Jeep, even if it costs more up front.I know that some of you have a lot of experience with 4WD vehicles. Here is what I'm thinking of getting. Please feel free to comment and offer alternatives: - Stock 1997-2001 Jeep TJ with 4L in-line 6 cyl and manual transmission. - City vehicle with up to 100,000 highway miles. - Air bags and rear seat are a must. - I'm leaning toward A/C. - I'll dress it up with extra lights, front towing rig and rear trailer hitch (for the mountain bike carrier). - Color: dark (black, green or blue; maybe white, but definitely not red or yellow). - Budget <$10,000 out the door.

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Just 1 comment, unless your a experienced 4x4'er manual Transmissions are a pain when hunting ( I was in W.U. for 8 years had alot on great times) Dave

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Thanks for that input. No, I am not experienced with 4x4 driving. I've had a couple of manual transmission street cars before. I've read that a manual transmission is preferred for off-road driving. I guess hunting is different because there is a lot if stop and go driving. Is that the problem?

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Absolutely go with automatic. You will be glad you did at least 99% of the time. I myself would consider a/c a must, especially this day in age. The first time you get back from a way back stand, even on a mild day, you will appreciate how much cold air can recharge the ole body. Another thing to consider is how many people do you usually hunt with and do you usually do the driving. If it is mostly just yourself or one other person, not so big a deal. But if you take 3-4 guys with you on a regular basis, you should think about something with extra doors. This really comes to play during bird season. Nothing like driving to your favorite spot, watching a nice huge covey run across the road on the way there, and trying to get a group of large grown men out of a two door truck from the back seat (experience talking). If for some reason you go with a truck and not the jeep route, long bed trucks allow much more space for carrying your (and your buddy's) stuff, but short beds turn much tighter and don't high center nearly as easy. I don't know how serious you get, or the roads you drive, but years of using trucks have taught me that I use the extra space all the time and need the extra turn radius and shorter wheel base very little of the time. Just something to consider.Noise. If the vehicle you buy has had something along the lines of a Flowmaster muffler put on it, cut it off and put on a stock, quiet muffler! It kills me to hear someone roll by near a good stand with a vehicle you can hear 2 miles away. You're driving a 4-wheel drive, not a hybrid, you don't need the extra one mpg.. You're also hunting, not racing, quiet is the key. On that note (pun intended) older diesels make lots of noise too. I had a 24 valve Cummins diesel I had to get rid of because it woke the dead.I hope any of this helps. I have gone through this several times. There is a lot to consider and it is a big purchase. There's nothing worse than buying something and being "stuck" with it also. Good luck with whatever you get, and happy hunting with it.

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Once you learn to 4 wheel you will find that it doesnt matter how big or small the vehicle is you will manage to go where you want with no problems. Obviously a bigger vehicle will be wider and you will scratch your paint.. But Ive not had any problems taking my long bed crew cab ford whereever I want. My father in laws little Nissan goes right along with us just fine.. Only issue I have is I dont like scratches.. Hubby doesnt have that problem with his truck... If you want to get into REALLY tight places.. get a quad... Use the truck to get you there, then use the quad to hunt..

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Thanks for that input. No, I am not experienced with 4x4 driving. I've had a couple of manual transmission street cars before. I've read that a manual transmission is preferred for off-road driving. I guess hunting is different because there is a lot if stop and go driving. Is that the problem?
Stopping and starting on a steep hill are a pain, starting up a real steep hill in the wrong gear can also get you in trouble, these days with hand brakes makes it a little eaiser but I have had to back down some steep stuff because i started in too high a gear and backing down a steep trail can be a rollover waiting to happen, you can't see where your going

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I like the Toyota FJ4. I just bought my 3rd Toyota. I just sold my old '86 Toyota pickup that has 325,000 miles on it. All those years and miles with no major repairs. We have a 2000 Camry and bought a Tundra which I love. I use the Tundra to tow our 8500 lb boat but if I didn't need a full size truck for towing I would've bought the FJ4. Plenty good for tent camping and hunting and a real 4WD drive vehicle. At least take a look. As far as learning the ropes with 4WD I don't see it as any big deal. Not exactly rocket surgery.

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theres at least 3 fatal rollovers and uncountable atv accidents in Idaho every deer season I bet their familes think its a big deal

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I just went thru this...talked to everyone, considered all options and ended up in a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Very happy w/ the decision. Small enough to squeeze thru narrow spots but big enough (and comfortable enough) for the family & gear. I was not gonna buy the Cherokee but the offroaders convinced me. Weight distribution makes it superior to a truck (w/ empty bed) in the soft stuff.

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And a darned nice vehicle it is, too. :signs1242cn:

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Having always owned trucks, was kind of curious what you guys with Cherokees, Suburbans, and Blazers do with your yotes, deer, and pigs to get them home without bleeding all over the inside and having that old dried blood smell?

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I just bought a cherokee XJ model and think the ride in it on or off road is more comfortable than any truck that I have owned( and I've had ranger up to my F-350 crew cab). you can pick them up for pretty cheap and are very capable off road. I have 4,000 bucks into mine after buying it lifting it and installing the winch and bumper. here's a picture of it so farpaintjeep.jpg I am putting the finishing touches on a roof rack and that is where I will put a deer for now, if I get a coyote worth skinning I will skin it in the field and put the fir in a tote in the back but most coyotes down this way aren't worth skinning. I will also build a rear bumper with 2 receivers in it and have a rack on that so I don't have to put deer on the roof. I hunt with someone that has a 4 door tacoma and like that truck also but for me and the money I wanted to spend it's the cherokee for me.

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I agree. I don't plan on hauling a lot of whole yotes around. Skin the nice ones (if any) and leave the rest. For deer I intend to use an insulated hitch box (or rack w/ a large cooler strapped to it).31ox5DWVN9L.jpg

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theres at least 3 fatal rollovers and uncountable atv accidents in Idaho every deer season I bet their familes think its a big deal
Oh, I'm sorry. I thought we were discussing 4WD vehicles.

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2 adults and 2 kids? I don't think you can get by with anything less than a crew cab full size pickup or a suburban. NB that I said crew cab, not extended cab. I bought my wife an 'extended cab' Chevy a few years ago, and then had to buy her a new crew cab when #2 kiddo came along. Those 4 door ext cabs are great for gear and tools you don't want outside, but tough to fit people into. Since her pickup is our family car it needs to be able to fit everyone comfortably. A sub isn't real useful for us, but I've always liked the amount of room inside. If you don't need a large bed for stuff I'd look at them. I really like the way the new chevy pickups ride. If I didn't have to carry around lots of heavy stuff, or tow anything heavy, I'd get a newer (01 up) chevy four door 1500. Lots of room and they are nice to drive. Really very decent milage as well.You might look around other areas as well. I'm looking at a pickup in Utah right now, around $3000 cheaper than anything comparable in OR or CA, well worth a day and half of driving.

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Weight distribution makes it superior to a truck (w/ empty bed) in the soft stuff.
Not if you've got lockers!!

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I currently drive a 2000 Jeep Cherokee XJ. It's a great off-road vehicle and my daily driver. Some of the things I DON'T like about it are:1. Pretty small, especially if I have more than myself and one other.2. Everything is inside (don't really want some nasty critter inside my rig, stinking and staining it up) and since you have to access the hatch when hunting a hitch cargo platform wouldn't really work if you loaded anything since it would block the hatch.3. Access while hunting. Pretty much everything is in the back (which is a pretty small storage area) and you have to open the hatch everytime to get stuff in/out which can be cumbersome and LOUD.4. VERY little room if I wanted to sleep inside (Even less in a wrangler)5. Have to find a place for a full-sized spare. Roof is the most out of the way.My next rig will be a 4wd full-sized CREW cab truck with a Snugtop/Shell (I previously had a 2wd F-150 Super-Crew and I LOVED it). It will be setup with tons of storage under a plywood base, then on-top of the plywood base there will be room for 2 people to sleep. Depending on the type of hunting I'm doing I also plan to either add a small rack to the top of the Shell or hitch platform in the back for animals.

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Bruce,I would consider a 4 WD, full size 4 door pick up with a short bed. That should get you and the family all around the WU properties without any problems, with plenty of room for family and gear. For years I had a F250 xtended cab and it worked well on the ranches with the exception of Spy Rock. There, smaller is better. I would also get one with automatic and the air conditioning.Now I tow my 77 Bronco or my buddies Jeep behind a short bed Ford F150 xtended cab, or his Suburban, kinda best of both worlds for us. I think using just a Wrangler for the whole family will get real small in a hurry.....go larger.Frank

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bruce if you're going to buy a Jeep TJ Wrangler, be prepared for a change in lifestyles. You'll either hate it later or love it even more. If you're stuck on buying a used Jeep, try to find a "Rubicon" model because they are built more for off roading than the standard Wrangler. They come with factory lockers front and rear and have better suspension. The axles are also heavier duty. But, I've never seen a "Rubicon" model stay in stock conditions for long or stay on the market for long either. Take it from me (owned 7 Jeep CJ's and Wranglers) I love every one of them and really love my current TJ. My wife and I hunt, fish and camp out of ours all the time but we don't have kids either. We carry any coyotes we kill, draped around the spare wheel or mounted on the hood tied to my shovel and axe carrier. On big hunts or long trips, we tow my old military trailer (with equally large tires) behind it. Camp like your forefathers did, on the ground or on a kot-or like my ancestors did, sleep on animal hydes. Good Luck!post-1942-1257396138_thumb.jpg

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- Budget <$10,000 out the door.
While the Rubicon is one of the finest factory vehicles made, I just don't think you can touch one for that price unless it's been through a train wreck.

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I own a Jeep Wrangler with "stuff" and with that said if I wanted a family camping rig that doubled as a hunting vehicle it would be something else. My rig is a rock crawler and does it very well, but for tougher trails such as the Rubicon it doesn't do much better or worse than any other built up rig. Like Fakawee, I tow a trailer behind mine when pinched for space. Four people on a camping trip in a Jeep Wrangler is pinched for space.If you have to have a Wrangler you can get a built rig for less than 10k. Hell you can find a built Toyota or most any other model for less than 10k. If you want something new or newer then the price goes up. Less than 10k for a 4 door Tacoma? You might have to hunt for that one I don't knowbut for a family camping rig it would be the cats meow.Lots of used 4wd rigs for salehere

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I love my old 86 toyota. Never been stuck, hauls all I ever need, and it's usually just me and my 8 year old son hunting, so plenty of room.

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Wow. The feedback here has been great! You've given me a lot more to think about. I'm back on the fence and am torn again between getting a second vehicle like a small 4WD Wrangler, or selling my 2WD Tacoma and buying a (used) 4WD Tacoma. Trading up to 4WD is cheaper, but not by a lot. Where I go hunting I'll always be on graded dirt or gravel roads. 4WD drive is only needed when the road is steep, which happens often enough that a 2WD vehicle can't access 1/3 to 2/3 of the ranch property. Some of the roads have a lot of brush growth that would scratch the hell out of any vehicle. If I trade up to a 4WDTacoma, I'll be scratching up my daily driver. I guess I'm leaning toward the Wrangler option, and towing it behind the 2WD Tacoma when I take the family camping. That gets around the limited space issue. I don't plan to tow the vehicle further than about 250 miles. I usually hunt alone, so interior space is less of an issue. I would just drive the Wrangler to the ranch and sleep on the ground.

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The best thing would be to buy a 4x4 as a second vehicle if you can swing it. When you break somthing off road you won't need to worry about how you'll get to work on monday. I would not go full size crew cab as suggested, I own an f-350 crew cab diesel long bed and love it for towing my boat and trailer and enen some hunting but you are really limited to where you can go in a big truck and it stands out in the desert so it limits you to where you can hide it on stand. I can take the XJ on motorcycle trail if i need to and if it gets scratched I just take a can of desert tan and paint a quick touch up.

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