Mountain Bike Hunting

The Pacific Northwest is home to hundreds of thousands of acres of managed forest lands, many of which are owned by private timber companies that were founded on the rich timber resources that blanket this region. This fertile land is also prime habitat and home to Roosevelt elk, black bear, Columbian black-tailed deer, cougars, and many other species pursued annually by hunters. State forest lands, BLM & DNR lands, and plain old private lands are intermixed throughout and can be pinpointed on various maps. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is the best resource for determining land ownership, but this information can also be obtained via state/county resources and by calling timber companies, provided you have adequate Lat/Lon or other description data available.

State lands are not gated but may not be well marked with signs. But they are open to the public so there’s no issue with hunting them. Timber company lands are usually easy to identify because most access points are gated, and these gates are painted different colors according to the company ownership. That fact isn’t too important because public access is usually permitted with limited regulation, such as no overnight camping, building fires, and the use of motorized vehicles behind the gates.  A key point to note – during the early bow seasons in Washington and Oregon wildfire potential increases and timber companies are quick to restrict all public access until adequate rains soak the forests.  Hefty fines are issued to those who don’t respect these restrictions.

To unlock the thousands upon thousands of available hunting lands, one must physically get to it. Enter the mountain bike.

Many veteran mountain bike bowhunters would likely agree that their bike is there most important piece of “gear” behind their bow. The reason is simple – the bike enables you to access prime hunting grounds much more efficiently than by walking. Horses can be used but they require a lot of overhead and hassle in comparison to silently unloading a bike and putting on the miles.

My hunting partner and I have used our bikes for many years to hunt Washington and Oregon’s coastal mountains. Over the years we’ve used various types of bow racks, lights, and basically continue to evolve our set-ups to serve our needs best. Several years ago, my partner Stan added pannier racks to his bike in order to not only carry more gear and meat, but also as a means to reduce his hunting pack weight by stowing game bags, etc in them. This way he had them if he got an elk down but wasn’t carrying them around day in and day out on his back. Instead he was able to keep his pack lean with essentials only, then return to his bike for field care tools.

The following is a description of my current bike set up. It works out pretty well but I am swapping out the tires this week for a tighter knob/tread pattern to further reduce punctures under load. Miles upon miles on sharp gravel roads is hell on tires, especially under heavy loads.

2006 Specialized Hardrock Comp hardtail. I don’t like rear suspension because I feel it robs energy that I want transferred to the ground when I pedal. I use conventional toe-clips to accommodate my hunting footwear. The tires are 2.20″ for extra load distribution. I also have TopPeak front fender to keep mud and water out of my face.
I use a Pack Rack bow rack mounted to my handlebars. I carry a couple sets of snubbers in case one breaks. I also invested in a VistaLite halogen lights with three nightstick Ni-MH 2200mAH batteries. I have a 5W and 10W on the bars and one more 5W light for my helmet or hat It attaches with Velcro and works really well. A bit pricey but well worth it. I also have a set of bar ends to change up my posture and leverage while riding long distances.
I have a $30 Planet Bike computer to track mileage, temperature, etc. It’s nice for planning purposes or figuring out ride times and taking notes.

I have a heavy duty Blackburn pannier rack and Axiom waterproof panniers. They are HUGE and can haul a lot of gear and meat!
Once filled, the top of the panniers and the rack itself become a great place to strap down your hunting pack or extra gear.
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About the Author

Tom Ryle

Tom Ryle

Tom Ryle's passion for bowhunting has fueled adventures spanning the United States, Canada, and South Africa. He is an official measurer for the Pope and Young Club, NMLRA, NW Big Game Inc., and Oregon Shed Hunters.