***Disclaimer: Be sure to obtain proper firearms training before using any firearm for any purpose, including upland bird hunting. We recommend taking a hunter’s education course through your state fish and game department before starting to hunt any game species. Also, make sure you have obtained all proper licenses and permits for wherever you intend to hunt. Finally, know that the land you are hunting on is legally accessible.***
The purpose of building an overlanding vehicle is to go overlanding. Correct? Well, yes, but equally true is the fact that there are many things you can enjoy doing in an overland vehicle that are not overlanding per se. This is because overlanding as an activity lends itself so well to many other outdoor activities for which the overland vehicle provides the ideal means of transportation and habitation.
That is why we are launching a new blog series in which we will occasionally feature an activity perfectly suited to pair with an overlanding vehicle.
Upland Hunting Overland-Style
Being that fall is here and the hunting season is underway across much of the U.S., for the first blog in this series, we decided to focus on what it looks like to use an overland vehicle to go upland bird hunting.
Hunting wild populations of upland game birds usually involves traveling to some extremely remote areas of public land. Whether you are hunting somewhere within the vast expanses of the American Great Plains, the high Alpine environment of the Northern Rockies, the rocky deserts of the Southwest, or in a tucked away woodland of the Appalachian mountains, upland bird hunting will take you on some epic adventures to spectacular places.
Upland Overlanding Means Bringing the Dogs
When upland bird hunting, it is customary to bring along a dog, or two–or three even–to help you find where the birds are hiding. Therefore, not only does your vehicle need to be capable of comfortably housing the people on board, it also has to provide shelter and accommodation for their canine companions.
Providing for hard-working hunting dogs means having adequate shelter, plenty of food, and lots of fresh water. Not to mention a fully stocked veterinary medical kit so you’re prepared for any run-ins the dogs might have with skunks, porcupines, snakes, barbed-wire fences and the like.
If you’re like most bird hunters we know, after miles of walking the mountains or prairie, your doggo will likely be curled up right beside you sleeping soundly on whatever sleep-system you have set up in your rig.
So here are the fundamental needs of dog care while upland bird hunting or really for any overland outing that will involve high-energy dogs that enjoy getting out on hikes, running the backroads, playing frisbee, or fetch in the lakes you’re sure to come across.
- Shelter: Just like us, dogs need shelter from the sun and heat, the rain/snow and cold, and a comfortable place to sleep and restore themselves at night.
- Water: Exercising dogs will need large quantities of clean, fresh water both in the field and in camp along with a means of serving it to them.
- Food: Like stocking your own food supplies for a trip, it is better to return home with leftover dog kibble than to run out in the field. Bring a large supply.
Storing Firearms and Ammunition
Most upland bird hunters use simple .20 gauge shotguns made for upland hunting. While most upland bird guns are built to take some abuse in the field, they are not built to bounce around in a truck bed over a corrugated road.
Some upland guns are, indeed, functional works of art and are cared for accordingly. When not in use, such firearms need to be properly stored for reasons of both safety and theft deterrence.
An overlanding vehicle featuring some kind of a drawer system provides the perfect place for securely storing firearms and ammunition.
A Comfortable Ride to the Cover
Being that you have people, dogs, and expensive firearms and ammunition riding along in your vehicle when you are traveling dozens or even hundreds of miles across rock-strewn, pot-holed, corrugated, bumpy roads, the benefits of a well-equipped overland vehicle really pay-off.
- Suspension: Increased ground clearance and a much more stable, softer ride. The better the system, the better the ride!
- Tires: Slightly larger tires mean a little more ground-clearance for those occasional obstacles, increased traction for when the miles of dirt roads turn to mud, and, perhaps most importantly, if the ability to air down is there, the option for a much softer ride. We trust General Tire for this part of the build!
- On-Board Air Compressor: Combined with slightly larger tires, an on-board air compressor provides you with the ability to air-down for a much softer ride into and out of your hunting area. Whether driving rocky forest service roads or hundreds of miles of unimproved county roads across the prairie, the ability to air-down and air back up once you’re back on pavement will make travel so much easier on you, your dogs, and your gear. The ARB Twin Air Compressor gets this job done!
Let’s Cook What We Hunt!
Providing your dogs are well-trained enough to do their job and you’re able to shoot well when and if an opportunity presents itself, rather than chicken from your on-board refrigerator, you might just have fresh grouse, partridge, or pheasant to fry up for dinner in camp that night!
What is better for hunters who enjoy celebrating their success by preparing a meal centered around fresh game meat than a fully-stocked overland galley?
- Powered Refrigeration: Whether storing your own food packed from home or game birds for reasons of cold storage till you return home, powered refrigeration provided by upland vehicles is a huge win for upland hunters. Not to mention when you reach for your favorite brew after the hunt, it’s cold! We use National Luna fridges in our builds, and we trust that they will keep our precious cargo cool and preserved!
- Cooking Capability: Whether a Cook Partner stove, a Skottle kit, or a grate to put over an open fire, an overland galley provides upland hunters with a comfortable means of cooking their birds fresh in the field. Even if preparing your birds feels like too much work after a hard hunt and you’d rather age them in your refrigerator for a few days, an overland cooking system gives hunters the ability to prepare a truly delicious and restorative meal once the boots are off and you’re hanging out in camp for the rest of the evening.
Need Some Shade? Apres-Hunt Shade and Camp Chairs for relaxing and lunch
Speaking of hanging out in camp, the customary awning featured on most overlanding vehicles provides hunters and their dogs with much needed shade on a hot day or with shelter from precipitation if cooking a meal or just wanting to relax in camp a bit.
Even though upland birds are hunted in the fall, September on the Great Plains (where many species of wild game birds are found) can be very hot, with temperatures even pushing into the 90s on occasion. After a morning hunt, to extend the awning, put on some flip-flops, and have some cold lunch in the shade is priceless.
Overlanders always come equipped with comfortable camp chairs so throw down a dog bed and it is easy to create a comfortable environment for you and your pooch to chill after a big hunt.
Sleep Systems and a Comfy Camp Beat the Local Motel
To find places to hunt wild upland birds takes work. It takes a lot of research and e-scouting, route planning and navigation, and effort to get to where the birds are.
It should be noted that hunting wild upland birds is not like going to your local game farm to “hunt” for pen-raised pheasant and chukar.
The situation is analogous to how fishing for stocked trout in a farm pond is not the equivalent of fishing for wild trout in Montana’s Madison River. In both cases, the latter is much harder than the former and far more rewarding.
This is why once you arrive in the country where the birds are to be found, it is preferable to stay awhile. Though there is often some kind of local lodging available within the region you’re hunting, it could be a long drive from the actual covers (places the birds are found), and many of these motels are crowded with other hunters and sometimes more than a little unsavory.
In contrast to the seedy motel, an upland hunter with an overland vehicle can find comfortable accommodations right where they’re parked. Added benefits include no pet fees and no need to eat a greasy hamburger at the only cafe in town–that is if it’s still open when you make it back to town!
The Need for Electric Power! (collars, etc.)
Upland bird dogs come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, types, and breeds. Regardless of their differences, it can be easy to lose them out in the wilds without an electronic tracking collar.
Many pointing breeds can be more than a quarter-mile away from the hunter while seeking game birds in the uplands. Once a pointer locates birds (which they do with their noses), they will go on “point,” which means they will stand there like a statue until you find them and attempt to flush the birds. Without some kind of tracking device, you may not find them.
All this to say that those electronic collars need to be charged daily, and what is better to charge them with than a power management system typically found in an overland vehicle? Something like a REDARC Redvision matched to a house battery, and a solar panel will supply hunters with the power they need to keep their tracking collars and all of their devices operating for days.
Go on an Upland Overland Adventure!
The concept of upland bird hunting for wild game birds is simple to understand but challenging to realize:
- Find a large expanse of publicly accessible land where there are thriving populations of wild game birds.
- Travel to the area, and set up a wild camp not too far from where you plan to hunt.
- Go hunting! This basically means heading out from camp with your dog for a several-mile hike across the countryside in the hopes of finding some game birds.
Of course, if you find said game, you still need to have the skills to make a decent shot in order to bring birds back to camp for supper. Be sure not to fret too much if you miss because the rewards of the experience will be there whether you succeed or fail. What’s better than having a cross-country hike with your beloved dog across miles of beautiful country, followed by a starry night in camp, only to do it all again the next day?
Perhaps the best part about upland bird hunting is that it provides an excuse each fall to load up your overlanding vehicle and head out for an adventure. Whether up into the rugged terrain of the snow-capped mountains or out into the vast open country of the prairie, memorable sights, sounds, and experiences surely await!