Featured photo: Amy Hatfield
There’s a thread on the forum Cattle Today called “What’s the worst you’ve ever stuck one?” On it, a cattle farmer from Arkansas recounts an experience that’s not too unlike the experiences of many hunters trying to get food plots in this spring: “Well I managed to bury the tractor to the running boards yesterday,” he wrote.
His problem, initially at least, was time. He was short on it and that’s pretty much everybody’s situation, so already this Arkansas farmer should have your attention. He had a pasture about to be overrun with weeds and he also had 100-plus acres of hay that needed cutting. “The logic (I never said it was good logic),” he said, “was to bush hog while it was wet and we obviously couldn’t cut hay and then hit the ground running as soon as the hay fields dried up. Two tractors. One pulling a 15-foot Hog.”
For hunters, the time crunch comes from different pressure points. A lot of guys are trying to cram in tractor time on their hunting lease or property in between work obligations and travel, stuff like Little League Baseball games and getting the yard up to par for the wife. So, when it comes to land management, they’ve got to hit the ground running too.
But that plan is sort of shot to hell when the tractor is bogged up to the rims in mud. Here are ways to avoid such muddled events and tips to get unstuck if you don’t.
1. When your tires are spinning, but you ain’t stuck. Yet.
As soon as your tractor tires first start to spin, raise your implement and engage the differential lock, if the tractor has one. If the area is small, you may be able to drive through it with your implement raised and go on about your work. You want to avoid stopping if you can.
However, let’s say the area is big and the mud is too deep. Maybe there are soft spots galore and there’s no way you’re driving through. If this is the case, John Deere’s Tip Notebook recommends stopping the tractor and raising the implement, but instead of continuing on, put the tractor in reverse. “With the throttle about one-fourth open, slowly engage the clutch and try to back out of the wet spot. If this fails, stop. Continuing to spin the rear wheels will dig the tractor in deeper.”
2. When it’s time to dig.
If reverse doesn’t work, then it’s time to dig the mud away from the tires. At this point, you should know you are much closer to not getting out of this thing without help. Start the process of acceptance and get your mind right while digging.
Dig the mud away from the tires — front and back — enough so you can get the tractor to move in reverse. If you can get it to move a bit, you might pick up some momentum. You might also place boards behind the wheels to provide a solid base and try backing out that way.
If none of this works, you know what’s next.
3. Don’t be afraid to make the call of shame.
How much hope will you put into your next great idea? “Well, if I try this, it might do that,” you might think. No, no, no! This will not result in that and you will stretch the amount of time you’re out of operation because you’re too proud to call your buddy. Make the call! You need a pull.
4. Make sure not to call your panty-waisted buddy who drives a Saab.
It’s fair to say that if you’re reading Grand View Outdoors you probably don’t have any buddies that drive Saabs, but you might have buddies who drive very large, four-wheel drive trucks that they’ve never actually put into four-wheel drive.
It’s OK. It’s not their fault. They want to live the life of a mudder, they just don’t have the time or access. Instead, you want the buddy who drives a beat-up diesel. He’s always got a few back-up bottles of motor oil rolling around in his truck bed, the cab smells like a mixture of dirt and grease and he uses a roll of duct tape for a cup holder. He’s your ticket out of this mess.
5. Stay away from chintzy chains.
Don’t assume any chain, rope, strap or cable is strong enough. RealAgriculture.com recommends leaving that pile of old chains in the shop behind. Instead, you want to know a chain’s rating or, in the case of a strap, read the tag that comes with it: “The pulling equipment may need to be rated 1 or 1.5 times the weight of the stuck equipment, depending on resistance factors. Always inspect the strap for fraying, and chains for stretched or broken links.”
6. Don’t be the Over-The-Top Guy.
Don’t be the guy who drags out two chains and three straps from the back of his pickup truck thinking that will make things better. It won’t. Usually, the attachment points are the weakest link, so keeping these at two is best. You always want to attach to a tow hook or the frame. Attach to the lower drawbar on the pulling tractor, not the three-point hitch. And remember, a strap is at full strength when it’s flat, so no knots.
7. Never saddle a dead horse.
This is a little something to help you remember how to correctly use a cable’s clips or clamps to hold the looped ends together. You want to tighten the bolts down toward the “live” or pulling cable, RealAgriculture.com says. “The U-bolt can squeeze and compromise the strands, and it’s better to have this happen on the ‘dead’ section than on the wires that are part of the pulling section.”
8. Check your tailpipe, son.
This one is easy, but also easy to forget. Before you fire the engine and start pulling, make sure you clear the tailpipe of any mud. The last thing you want is a jammed pipe and exhaust fumes that aren’t vented.
Did you know that Purdue University Extension has published a 96-page guide on getting tractors unstuck? Fascinating. The guide, “Extracting Stuck Equipment Safely” can be found here. While many incidents involving stuck tractors and other equipment can be frustrating and even funny in the retelling, it’s worth noting that extracting stuck equipment is not routine and can cause serious injury or even death if done incorrectly. Every situation is different and must be treated that way.
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