E-Bikes for Deer Hunting

E-bikes (electric-powered mountain bikes) offer the latest deer hunting transportation — while also creating less noise and scent.

E-Bikes for Deer Hunting

My initial taste of an e-bike’s capabilities, riding a QuietKat between booths during set up at an Archery Trade Association (ATA) Show, convinced me I’d discovered the solution to many of my immediate whitetail hunting problems. My most pressing dilemma, bowhunting ultra-sensitive whitetails in northern Idaho public land mountainous big woods, was covertly getting in and out of distant stands situated atop high ridges or inside echo-filled canyon heads without alerting every buck within miles to my arrival via a puttering and stinky ATV. I also envisioned simpler preseason trail camera runs with cooling wind in my face, minimal disturbance at established sites and a complete elimination of frustrating ATV trailers or loading ramps.  

On the single private ranch/farm I have access to — 5,500 acres of prime half-farm half-timber habitat — the landowner understandably locks access gates and allows only foot traffic after his roads turn wet and sloppy. Of course, these are standard conditions during the peak of our November whitetail rut, northern Idaho receiving a third of its annual precipitation during that month.

This restriction obviously includes full-sized vehicles, and even nimble ATVs. But I was pretty certain a feathery, low-impact e-bike would prove exempt. I could see it on my mind’s eye: park the truck, scoot the e-bike beneath the property gate and then buzz in; nice!

But these are somewhat exceptional circumstances inherent of vast western habitats most whitetail hunters aren’t faced with in other parts of the country. That said, I would discover when given the opportunity to test-drive an e-bike for a full season (an awesome BakCou Mule), I found it just as handy on smaller properties, or while stealthily accessing Texas blind sites in country well intersected by oil-field and wind-turbine tracks.

The author has discovered the many advantages to using an e-bike on big game hunts, even those taking place in the mountainous terrain of northern Idaho.
The author has discovered the many advantages to using an e-bike on big game hunts, even those taking place in the mountainous terrain of northern Idaho.

E-Bike Advantages

Today’s e-bikes are whisper quiet and scent free, easy to handle during transport, agile enough to go places where ATVs would be barred, reliable and comfortable to ride, while also making it easy to tote hunting gear.

Stealth is the e-bike’s most obvious selling point. The electric motors powering e-bikes create only a soft hum at full power, with nearly zero noise created while peddling. The crunch of gravel or snapping twigs beneath the oversized tires is normally the only clue of your passage. It’s common, particularly under the cover of darkness, to ride within 20 yards of curious deer while following the tongue of an e-bike’s integral headlight (which I cover with red tail light-repair tape to make it invisible to cervid eyes). Stashing an e-bike is no more difficult than tipping it into tall weeds.

Unlike combustion engines, e-bikes emit no exhaust fumes or oily surface scent, especially after a generous dousing of scent-eliminating spray. Whether deer hunting vast public lands like my situation in the inland Northwest or plying smaller parcels, an e-bike’s inherent stealth allows riding closer to stands without alerting game. Besides saving your legs, this also means arriving at stands fresher, not overheated and sweaty as is so often the case when hiking into distant stands. This is as true during early seasons and those 45-50-degree mornings as it is in November when swaddled in heavily-insulated togs to ward off freezing temperatures during all-day sits. Besides creating additional scent, getting sweated up can lead to chills ultimately resulting in packing it in early and wasting precious hunting time. 

ATVs are a pain to transport, involving trailers or loading ramps and sturdy ratchet straps. A 65- to 75-pound e-bike can be tossed into a pickup bed, or hung on a SUV bumper rack, and effortlessly loaded/unloaded solo due to their lightweight aluminum-alloy frames. When cutting across, say, a trampled cow pasture or CRP field, it’s easy to get off and walk them across treacherous washouts or around fallen trees. On several occasions I used my borrowed BakCou to access spots via defunct logging skids or established game trails after dragging it beneath livestock fences that would bring ATVs up short. Entire days were spent atop that comfortable e-bike, scouting new territory, delving into unexplored corners of properties off limits to ATVs.

If I happened to wander too far, draining the lithium battery (doubtful, as most units travel 25 to 40 miles per charge), or forgot to recharge the battery after a couple days of use, I had peddle-power backup. Smooth push-button, multi-gear shifting makes even peddling pleasant enough, to the point I used the electric motor only to assist on uphill pulls, greatly extending range. High-torque gearing will climb moderate hills, but e-bikes aren’t motorcycles, though an LCD power panel allows choosing various output levels (high output obviously draining batteries faster). On steep hills, peddle assist conserves battery juice and helps move things along. On steep downhill sections, front and rear hydraulic disk brakes keep matters under control. Most e-bikes include standard cargo racks over the rear wheel, which I’ve used to transport soft bow cases and packs, lashed on with bungee cords. Most companies also offer optional bow or rifle racks. Using BakCou’s gear cart I was able to transport treestands, ladder sections, extension saws and climbing gear into tight, remote spots. There would be no better way to tote a bulky 3-D deer decoy into a stand site. The BakCou gear cart and a little rope allowed me to remove whole deer from the field almost effortlessly, without the need to retrieve a truck or ATV — including my Idaho buck from a place that would normally have required quartering and a backpack.

Not only does an e-bike have the power to pull a trailer packed with a treestand and other gear, but you can also use it to haul out a tagged big game animal.
Not only does an e-bike have the power to pull a trailer packed with a treestand and other gear, but you can also use it to haul out a tagged big game animal.

E-Bike Details

If you’re able to ride a standard bicycle, then you can easily handle an e-bike. The cushion of oversized tires, air-shock forks and suspension seats makes riding comfortable, and absorbs the shock of ruts, washboard or rocks that might upset your balance. Those specially designed tires allow navigating across Deep South sand, Midwest mud, and within reason, Far North snow. 

An average e-bike includes top speeds of around 25 mph on level, improved-surface roads. While making such time allows you to catch a few more Zs each morning, it also leads to wind-chill while accessing stands. Be sure to pack a neck gaiter, good balaclava to protect face and ears, high-quality insulated/wind-proof gloves, and an extra jacket for rides into morning stands.

One e-bike question I’m frequently asked is if a 750- or 1,000-watt unit is best. If you spend all of your time in mountain terrain, the 1,000-watt unit is justified. Though, the BakCou Mule I put through the paces an entire season was a 750-watt model, and despite living in mountainous country and using it to haul out at least two whole deer and several chubby Texas hogs, I never found it lacking. I had to peddle up steep hills to make headway, certainly, but was otherwise able to cover ground just fine.            

           

E-Bike Approaches

One e-bike advantage I hadn’t considered is the ability to employ longer, more indirect routes while accessing stands to accommodate prevailing winds without wearing yourself out. Savvy entrance and exit strategies are an important part of keeping stands fresh and trophy bucks unaware of your intensions.

And scent aside, while I’ve witnessed many occasions when deer seemed downright unconcerned with the approach of my e-bike, I do my best to remain under cover while entering hot stands. For instance, I would never ride across an agricultural field deer are likely to be feeding in.

Where you stash your e-bike before climbing into a blind or stand obviously depends on available cover, prevailing winds and how sensitive deer are in your area. Several serious bowhunters tell me they park their e-bikes directly beneath their treestands. No me. I normally stash my e-bike 200-300 yards from the stand — still a major improvement to the mile hikes I once endured. On a recent Texas sit, my e-bike waited only 50 yards from the blind. A sounder of hard-hunted hogs arrived 15 minutes after I settled in, passing within 10 feet and downwind of that e-bike without concerns.

           

Rules of the Road      

Being a decidedly new development in outdoor recreation, e-bike land use regulations are hardly concrete and will no doubt remain in flux in coming years. This has created highly disparate rules state to state and among various land management agencies. Before purchasing an expensive e-bike, you should definitely look into the rules governing places you bowhunt most often. A good place to start when accessing public lands on an e-bike is the website www.peopleforbikes.org. This organization gathers up-to-date information on e-bike use on public lands in all 50 states.

Some states allow e-bike use on any lands where peddle-driven mountain bikes are also legal. Other states are more ambiguous, where e-bikes are perfectly legal in some National Forest areas but not others. Age restrictions and helmet laws may apply to other areas. Again, it’s always safest to check in with local land management entities before proceeding. When riding e-bikes on public lands, use commonsense, like adhering to established access trails and roads.

The only real drawback of e-bikes at this time is price, a solid hunting model retailing from $3,500 to $6,500. This is quite an investment, but still markedly less than the new ATVs so many hunters own today. I say they are worth every penny, providing an unsurpassed stealthy, scent- and trouble-free approach to deer hunting. E-bikes have certainly changed the way I approach whitetail hunting.

 

Sidebar: Hunt-Friendly E-Bikes

BakCou: BakCou’s Mule is powered by Bafang’s Ultra mid-drive motor, available in 750- and 1,000-watt configurations, and has precision sensors to record user data on crank torque, speed and pedal rotation, and ensure maximum battery efficiency. The 68-pound Mule has a 6061 aluminum-alloy frame (standard or Step Through design for smaller riders), aggressive Maxxis 26-by-4-inch tires, and provides a 300-pound load capacity. The 48v/17.4ah battery allows 40-mile range (without peddling); top speed is 25 mph. Available in Badlands, Kryptek or Kuiu Verde 2.0 camo, as well as matte desert tan and matte black. The Mule is capable of trimming down into all three classifications of e-bike laws, which is a big plus in the e-bike world. MSRP starting at $5,447. Contact: www.bakcou.com.

 

QuietKat: The QuietKat Apex is available in 1500-, 1000- and 750-watt mid-drive electric motor options with hydraulic disc brakes for control in steep terrain. The rechargeable lithium battery powers this e-bike for up to 58 miles; 1500W battery is 52v/17.5ah; 750/1000W battery is 48v/14.5ah. Top speed of 25 mph. Large (19-inch), medium (17-inch) and small (15-inch) frames are offered. The Apex has a 150mm GT air suspension fork, 26-by-4.5-inch Kenda Juggernaut tires, smooth nine-speed gearing and stainless-steel chain. The 71-pound e-bike has a 325-pound load rating. Available in Veil Caza Camo and midnight green finishes. MSRP starting at 4,999. Contact: www.quietkat.com.

 

Rambo: The Rambo Bushwacker 750 XPC is driven by a 750-watt mid-drive motor fueled by a 48v/14ah battery. It will carry you up to 38miles (without peddling) on a single charge; top speed is 19 mph. The 66-pound e-bike, 300-pound-rated e-bike is based on a 19-inch 6061 aluminum alloy frame covered in TrueTimber Viper Western Camo. It comes with an LCD showing trip distance battery level, power and speed; five-speed gearing; front and rear dual-piston hydraulic brakes; and Maxxis Minion FBF 26-by-4-inch tires. MSRP: $4,399. Contact: www.rambobikes.com.

 

Rogue Ridge: Powered by a mid-frame 1,000-watt motor with 48v/17ah battery, the Rogue Ridge RG1000 provides top speeds of 30 mph with a 30-mile range (without peddling) The 66-pound e-bike includes a 6061 aluminum-alloy frame and 350-pound capacity. All functions are controlled via full-color digital display. It also sports Mozo fork with 135mm hydraulic shocks, three-speed Gates gear system, powerful hydraulic brakes and Kenda 26-by-4-inch tube tires. MSRP: $4,497. Contact: www.rogueridge.com.

Top-notch e-bikes for hunters include (top to bottom) the BakCou Mule, QuietKat Apex, Rambo Bushwacker and Rogue Ridge RG1000.
Top-notch e-bikes for hunters include (top to bottom) the BakCou Mule, QuietKat Apex, Rambo Bushwacker and Rogue Ridge RG1000.
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