When I was 14 years old I read ‘Diet for a Small Planet‘ and on Thanksgiving decided I was going to become a vegetarian, much to the chagrin of my old man. After 35 years of harassment, I’m still a vegetarian, although for somewhat different reasons (personal health and the environment). I have shot deer and other critters when I had to, but I would not say I am a die-hard hunter. Usually, when I shoot something I have a good cry and ask it for forgiveness as it dies. I have to say that I feel fine eating anything that I’m willing to kill and I have a whole lot more respect for hunters than I do for the sheeple lined up at the supermarket to buy their factory-farmed .99$\lb meat. This article is about how most hunters by and large are missing out on the greatest invention for hunting since the gun, the electric bike.
I grew up shooting guns, some of my earliest memories were plinking beer cans with a .22 when I was probably 6 or 7 years old. My old man was an officer in the Army for 20 years and served in Korea and Vietnam. He didn’t want anyone in our family to be afraid of guns, so we practiced. When I was a little older I learned to shoot rifles and shotguns and now as an adult, I own a few guns mostly for home defense. I wouldn’t say that guns ‘speak to me’, I still feel pretty unsettled using them (as I think everyone should). I own a 370fps carbon fiber Crosman Centerpoint Sniper 370 Crossbow that will put a carbon arrow through 8 phonebooks at 80 yards. That is a weapon that I feel very comfortable with. Silent and deadly.
I ride ebikes in the woods almost every single day. During hunting season I only ride at night with a headlamp because where I live I don’t trust that I won’t get shot if I ride during the day. I’ve tried a bunch of headlamps and the one I’ve standardized on is this one from Amazon for $15. It fits over my helmet and it is insanely bright and seems to run forever. I bring an extra headlamp in case it fails, but I’ve given up on handlebar-mounted lights because I want the light to go where I look not where the bike is pointing.
When I am riding in the daytime I frequently see deer or turkeys. Sometimes I have a bit of fun and try to chase after them to see if I can keep up with them. It’s not uncommon that I am able to get within pistol range and stay there for a short time. The BBSHD ebikes I generally ride are nearly silent. I can ride by someone on the trail with it in PAS 2 and they won’t even know that I’m on an ebike. The BBSHD uses a nylon primary reduction gear which makes the entire drive unit insanely quiet. There is noise from the tires running over sticks and leaves, but the bike itself is nearly silent. For a rundown on how noisy different ebike motors are, check out this article. Some motors like the 3000W Cyclone are amazingly powerful, but far too loud to use for a hunting ebike.
The reality is that the critters in the forest just don’t hear you coming. Ebikes give hunters an unfair advantage because they can cover vast differences, ride on incredibly narrow and windy trails and then drag the carcass out on a tarp when the kill is made. It also allows you to track a wounded deer at high speeds so you don’t lose it. The only disadvantage of hunting with an ebike is the initial investment. I find it crazy that hunters won’t think twice about dropping $7000+ on a noisy gas-powered ATV that will only scare their game away instead of buying a $2000-3500 ebike that will be completely silent and costs pennies a day to operate with almost not maintenance costs. Imagine how fast you can go out and collect the memory cards from your wildlife cameras on an ebike. Something that would normally take you 1/2 day on foot you could probably do it in just an hour, and without scaring away game.
I’ve heard countless emails from hunters everywhere in the world that say that their ebike is the best investment they have ever made. It has revolutionized the way they have hunted and given them a mad advantage over other hunters.
Are ebikes legal on your public lands?
In NYS the DEC has made it abundantly clear that ebikes are not legal on any of the trails. It’s unlikely that this will change. On a national level ebikes are now legal in all national parks, but if you want to ride over 20mph you have to be pedaling (although you can always clown pedal). The laws vary from state to state so my advice is to check your local laws before you throw down fat cash for any ebike. My experience is that if you’re riding an ebike on doubletrack trails no one is really going to care whether it is legal or not. Pedal bikers can get ornery when they see electric bikes on their windy singletrack trails, but they just don’t seem to care about the doubletracks.
What kind of ebike should you get?
In deep snow, it works best to have a fat-tired ebike and ride it in the center of the snowmobile trails. There can be incredibly deep snow, but you can still ride well on the packed snow of snowmobile trails. I think for hunting the best ebike to have is something like the KHS 3000 which runs about $3500 here with the ludicrous controller and throw a beefy cargo rack on the rear. I owned this bike for over a year (review here) and I really loved it. The fat tires will work well in mud and snow and this bike with a Ludicrous controller can easily drag a deer out of the woods. If you’re planning on going more than about 15 miles with it I would get a second battery to switch out in case you drain down the first one. When moving around in deep snow, you will consume an insane amount of power. There are lots of ebikes on the market that are designed for hunting, and a hub motor will work if you’re not riding it in snow or trying to tow a deer with it. When towing you will want to attach the tow bar as low as you can on the bike to keep it from pulling wheelies, especially if you are dragging the deer on a tarp and not in a trailer.
There are lots of ebikes on the market that are specialized for hunters. The most important feature of any ebike you chose is going to be power. If you but a ‘legal’ 750W ebike you’re going to struggle to carry yourself, all your gear and a several hundred lb deer through the woods. You can motorize pretty much any fatbike with the BBSHD which is available for about $1200 here with a ludicrous controller. If you run a BBSHD on a hunting ebike you’ll need to pair it with a 30T chainring (here for $45). I’ve tried over 50 different ebikes in the last 5 years and nothing holds a candle to the 2500W peak BBSHD with a ludicrous controller. It is frighteningly powerful and will easily carry all your gear, your big ass (yes, that ebike makes your ass look big), and a dead deer to boot with power to spare. Be aware you’ll burn through your battery pretty fast when doing it, so it makes sense to bring a spare or use a large 20Ah+ pack.
If you’re going to build your own ebike I recommend getting a Steel frame, the Surly frames or the Lurch from Bikes Direct are both good choices. My custom-build Phatter Phukker is built with a Ludicrous BBSHD, Snowshoe 2XL’s and an XL Lurch and I love it. If money is no object there is also the AWD Christini BBSHD or the Ultra Max pedal sensing Fat-E 5 both of which I have tested extensively (and I purchased an Ultra Max). There are hub motor 2WD fat bikes, but they suck in the snow because the tires spin at different rates and the front hub will just spin out.
Accessorize that hunting ebike
Two of the most common accessories for hunting ebikes are a trailer and gun or bow rack. I’ve messed around with cargo trailers and found that they work well on roads and doubletrack but not so much when going over rough terrain or singletrack. Unless you are hunting elk I think that dragging deer with a tarp and using racks on the ebike is probably the smarter move. If you have a hub motored ebike then you will not be able to drag large game on a tarp and will have to get a trailer. Fat bike trailers work better than the skinny tired ones and make sure the trailer you get is rated for the weight you want to carry.
If ebikes are viewed as cheaters when viewed by pedal bicyclists, then hunting with ebikes is doubly so. For hundreds of thousands of years humans evolved as hunters using every advantage they could get. If electric bikes are a huge advantage and are easily available and legal to use, then why would you not use every advantage you can get? I know it’s hard to take advice from an old pink-haired vegetarian hippy who cries and asks for forgiveness when he kills anything bigger than a mosquito, but trust me when I say you won’t regret getting an ebike for hunting.
20 years ago I used to kayak Class 5 whitewater rivers with crazy 30 foot waterfalls with a quirky guy named Marty. When we asked him why he packed a pistol in his kayak on every run, he replied with his deep southern drawl;
“Cause you never know when you’re going to see something you wanna shoot”
Ride On. Right On?