Many are relics. Some are unreliable, others are gas guzzlers requiring constant care and attention. Hunters don’t mind. The hunting truck has a higher purpose. It’s a purpose fulfilled — not in spite of a truck’s material nature and often impractical existence — but because of it. The hunting truck is a tangible symbol connecting hunters to the intangible, inexplicable lure of hunting itself.
Outdoor writers, people in leadership positions at state and federal wildlife agencies and non-profit conservation groups, they work to sell the lure of hunting. Often, they wax poetic about “tradition” and “heritage” – words that, frankly, have been used so often they don’t mean anything to anybody anymore.
But the hunting truck, that’s the hunter’s footprint. It does what those tired, flat words fail to do.
Take, for instance, Tyler Twichell’s story. Twichell’s a young guy from Tucumcari, New Mexico. Earlier this year, he posted to Facebook that his old ’78 Chevy “decided to stall while out hunting ‘yotes last week.” He was crowd-sourcing, searching for a fix. So I messaged Twichell. I hoped he’d tell me about his truck and I was wondering if it was back up and running.
He replied. The truck was fine. An easy fix, he said. Then he took the time to write about the Chevy with a degree of heart and substance that illustrates how a hunter measures his hunting truck, what it stands for and how it’s valued.
Here’s what he wrote:
“I purchased her back in 2013 at age 19 so I could have a full-size, 4-wheel drive truck to take hunting, use for firewood hauling for my family, and to move my belongings to and from college. The previous owner was reluctant to sell the truck since he had owned it since the early 80s, but had no other choice due to nerve damage in his hands from diabetes, rendering him unable to operate the truck anymore. From then on out, I knew it was a very special truck after seeing the old man heartbroken as he watched his prized pickup drive off.
She got the name “Heavy Chevy” after the DMV would only register it as a commercial vehicle at the time due to its curb weight on the title. It’s powered by a 400-cubic inch small block Chevy motor, backed up by a 4-speed, sm465 transmission. Over the years and to this day, I have been constantly maintaining it to keep her running properly (complete new exhaust, camshaft, starter, carburetor, spark plug wires, etc), but I refuse to give up on her.
I cannot afford a new pickup that costs $40,000 or more, so this truck is here to stay. It started off its hunting expeditions by meandering through the old logging roads of the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York in pursuit of whitetail bucks. (Now) it resides on the high plains of Eastern New Mexico. I relocated here after college for work (hopefully to pursue mule deer and pronghorn antelope this fall if I can draw a tag!). I drive it for outdoor activities, and occasionally for fun. I have a company truck that I primarily drive.
So now the ’78 Heavy Chevy finds itself exploring the country, first in upstate New York and then the dusty paths of the Southwest. Each expedition a homage to the older man who was forced to give up his keys.
Cabinet Maker’s Wagoneer
This past summer another aging man — probably similar in many ways to the man who owned Twichell’s truck — stood in a dusty yard behind an old industrial warehouse in Augusta, Ga. Inside the warehouse was a small workshop where the man worked.
He was an 84-year-old cabinet maker and owner of a 1990 Jeep Wagoneer. I stood beside him, using his tailgate as a tabletop, writing a check for my family’s soon-to-be hunting vehicle. A vehicle I’d also use in the summer months to haul peaches to weekend farmer’s markets.
“Peaches?” he asked.
I told him my dad and brothers farmed peaches about 40 miles away in Edgefield County. An avid turkey hunter, he knew the county well. That’s where the National Wild Turkey Federation is headquartered. Their office complex features a large meeting room with magnificent, custom cabinets lining the walls. I knew those cabinets. I used to work there. You might guess who build them back in the 1970s? The 84-year-old cabinet maker.
He took the check and I saw his hands: a series of knots covered in sawdust. His wife thought he might die soon and wanted him to get rid of his collection of old cars beforehand. As he put it, she didn’t want to be stuck with them. He wasn’t sad. He chuckled about it and handed over the keys.
The Old Beast
Back in 2015, a guy named T.C. Worley produced a short documentary called “The Draw.” The film, which received three Telly Awards for its original account of bowhunting, had a few frames of footage featuring this fantastic, old Jeep. I emailed Worley and asked him if the hunter who was documented in the film would be willing to give up that Jeep.
Worley replied, “The Jeep – it’s actually mine 😉 I love the old beast.”
He did at least point me to an article he wrote about the Jeep for Gear Junkie:
“Our 1973 Jeep Commando, a constant work-in-progress, hasn’t always been an adventure-worthy vehicle. Old, worn and rusted parts have been replaced and updated by the dozens. On a rig this classic, anything could happen, but the time seemed right to go for it. Plus, I had new tires.”
If you’d like to checkout “The Draw,” here it is:
The Old Gal
The Old Gal is for sale and James Taylor from Texas thinks he’ll end up regretting it.
“I’m probably screwin’ up but I’m puttin’ the old gal on the market. Just an old hunting truck. Recently built 350 (new cam, lifters, intake, less than 10000 miles ago). She is 46 years old so she ain’t no purdy new truck with a bunch of recalls … she ain’t perfect!
Maybe Taylor doesn’t even buy this old truck and I never see the “For Sale” post if not for a buddy’s ranch. It had been overrun with feral hogs.
“I needed something other than my motorcycle to get me out (there),” he wrote. “It was just a rusty old piece of junk that worked.”
But over the years, the old hunting truck became Taylor’s daily driver and just “all around hot-rod truck.” He could take her to places he’d never take his wife’s car or his motorcycle.
“I’ve used it for hunting trips, camping, fishing and kept it around for a good-ole, dependable back-up,” he said. “I painted over the rust with a camo paint kit from Amazon for $36.”
The truck quickly became a project. And that probably marked the moment ownership was redefined for Taylor. One might say there’s an imaginary line between a casual truck owner and an invested truck owner. The casual owner only spends time with the vehicle when he or she is driving it, while an invested truck owner has busted a few knuckles under the hood.
Over the years, Taylor installed tool mounts in the truck bed to hold a high-lift jack, an axe, a shovel and a water jug. He rebuilt the motor, rewired the entire truck, replaced all the brakes and installed all modern lighting and a radio.
“I don’t know how many deer or hogs I’ve hauled out of the ranches over the years with it, but I’ve filled a lot of peoples’ freezers with fresh meat, including my own.”
The “For Sale” notice was posted on January 3. So had the old truck sold?
“Yesterday a young man bought (it) and is very happy with it,” Taylor said. “I’m sure he’ll do more work on it and build his own memories with that old hunting truck.”
The Old-Ass Hunting Truck
The Old-Ass Hunting Truck might be the best story of them all because it’s not a beloved truck. Maybe it’s beloved by the owner, but not by the owner’s girlfriend. It’s doubtful she believes this truck symbolizes anything – except maybe uselessness.
There is no photo of this hunting truck, no information on the make or the model. We only know its owner Scotty is a rodeo cowboy from Odessa, Texas, and his truck made an important run for chicken and dumplings.
Scotty remember the time u really wanted homemade chili and chicken and dumplings and sent me to the store in your old ass hunting truck to get stuff to make it but u failed to mention there was no parking break, fifth gear or really even third gear….oh wait that’s actually happening now! U owe me!
Photo Gallery: Old Hunting Trucks
Every hunting truck has a story. Here’s a gallery of hunting-truck photos posted to forums and other online pages. These are the trucks that couldn’t be traced back to their owners, so the stories remain unknown. But the photos themselves say a heckuva lot and, in most cases, that’s plenty enough.