A bitter cold chill in the air and crinkled leaves under foot signify the start of winter and the “beginning of the end” of extracurricular vehicle activity for many. But the fun is just starting for those who participate in hunting season. The beauty of a truck is its extreme versatility across a wide spectrum of enthusiasts, and what could be more useful than a properly outfitted hunting rig?
In talking with Kyle Fonseca, Store Manager at Truck Guys in Weymouth, Massachusetts, we learned that there are a lot of similarities among an off road, overlanding, and hunting rig. All three require a go anywhere, do anything kind of setup.
Hunters will want their trucks to have a layer of exterior and undercarriage protection. That means aftermarket suspension upgrades like a mild lift, shocks, steering/stabilizer components, helper springs, or even an upgraded driveshaft depending on the intended use. They’ll also want proper wheels and tires so that hunting rig can take on the odds and safely handle a variety of surfaces. Additionally, storage space must be as versatile as the truck itself. That way all of the essentials can be towed or hauled easily along the journey. And since many hunters utilize their trucks as a base camp, it has to be spacious and comfortable.
Fonseca offers some sound advice when prepping a vehicle for the hunt ahead, especially as it applies to the truck bed. The biggest challenge with building out a hunting rig is that every hunter is different, so what works for one isn’t going to work for another. In Fonseca’s experience, that couldn’t be more true.
Junk in the Trunk
Many guys turn to upfitting the truck bed first, but he admits there’s no cookie cutter checklist of aftermarket upgrades because, as we’ve already determined, hunter needs vary. For Fonseca, it’s about asking the right questions and giving customers plenty of options.
“It really depends on how much they’re looking to carry,” Fonseca said. He encourages customers to consider what is going to be hauled back before jumping into aftermarket purchases. “Certain things come down to height, in which case we can’t limit them with some kinds of products such as hard tonneau covers,” he said. But make no mistake, truck bed protection as a whole is critical for a hunting rig. Most of the gear and supplies for the trip will be stored in the rear of the truck. A tonneau cover can be used to protect those valuables from environmental elements, such as weather and wild animals. But as Fonseca mentioned, some covers will limit the functionality of the bed and even its ability to be used as a place for rest. So think it through, and choose wisely.
Capping It Off
The use of a cap on a hunting rig opens up many doors, and it should at least be considered. With a cap, hunters can store large totes of equipment without fear of running into space issues, not to mention safely secure canine companions while scoping out the land or during inclement weather.
“Some customers go to the max and they’re camping inside their vehicles and may be bringing animals with them. A cap is a little more versatile for that application and creates a safe, enclosed camping space,” added Fonseca.
For additional storage, many turn to the benefits of custom or solid, pre-made cargo management systems. BEDSLIDE or Cargo Ease systems give hunters the ability to take even more of their prized hunting possessions along for the ride without sacrificing functional space (or even sleeping arrangements with a product line like DECKED). And speaking of storage, a cap also gives hunters the option of an overhead rack to load up even more cargo.
Truck caps are a big investment, but their benefits are many. “We’re an A.R.E. dealer. We’ve had good luck with them, and they have great options that suit hunting needs,” said Fonseca. Features such as auxiliary lighting and mounting rails for a roof rack or roof-top tent (and AirBedz mattress, of course) are built right into the cap, which is a convenience in the eyes of customers. As Fonseca said though, it always comes back to listening to the customer and their intended use of the vehicle, so the hunting rig can be dressed properly—cap or no cap. “It really comes down to having a full conversation with the customer to find out what they’re looking to do,” he said.
Braving the Odds
The exterior of a truck must brave the odds. No different than a cap protecting the truck bed or a DECKED unit making sure things remain orderly inside. “It’s all in the application. If you have guys that are going to bring it out in the middle of the woods, they’re going to lift it, they’re going to put bigger wheels and tires on it, and they’re going to look into a brush guard (or bumpers),” said Fonseca.
Other essential exterior accessories include a roof rack (with a number of brand names able to do the job, such as Yakima, Thule, or Rhino Rack); 4×4 auxiliary lighting (X-Ray Vision, Rigid Industries, KC Hilites, and Vision-X are some of many); as well as dependable recovery products (WARN, TrailFX, Superwinch, Hi-Lift, or Smittybilt are a few trusted names) and fuel reserves to get you safely back home.
The season is here and the time has come. We hope this information inspires the build of a lifetime: the ultimate hunting rig. Make sure to share your build specs and pics with us in the comments section below!