Hunting and rough terrain go hand in hand. Whether you hunt in the cornfields of the Midwest or the backcountry of the Rocky Mountains, off-road vehicles make life easier while in pursuit. ATVs and UTVs have been the primary types to corner the market for decades now, mostly for their comfortable ride and ability to haul heavy hunting gear. When hunters are fortunate enough to harvest an animal, they also make quick work of getting all that meat out of the field as quickly as possible. However, there's been a recent push in the last several years for fat tire electric bikes, or "e-bikes," as the off-road vehicle of choice for some hunters. Most of these bikes are not like your traditional mountain bike. They feature full suspensions, powerful electric motors, and drivetrains that allow manufacturers to mount heavy-duty all-terrain tires that can handle steep hills, mud, rocks, and just about anything else a hunter can think to throw at them.
These new bikes offer a generous load capacity, speeds of 20 mph or more, and ranges approaching or exceeding 50 miles on a single charge. In most instances, these new bikes can handle the same types of terrain as the best ATVs and UTVs. In fact, one can make an argument that electric bikes may be the off-road vehicle of the future for hunting. If you don't believe us, just consider some of the following reasons why e-bikes are becoming so popular.
Make no mistake, e-bikes are not cheap, at least not if you want to get a good one. The lithium-ion battery and powerful electric motor are usually a large part of those costs. When looking at brands like QuietKat or Rambo Bikes, you're looking at anywhere from $4,500 to $8,500 for a 1,000-watt bike. Models with a 500- or 750-watt motor are less expensive, but you're still looking at around $2,500 to $3,800 at a minimum for a bike like that.
However, if you start looking at comparative costs for a brand-new ATV or UTV, most of the time the e-bike is going to be way cheaper. Many ATVs start around the $7,900 mark but can run as high as $10,000 or $15,000. UTVs usually start around $11,000 minimum on the low end and can run as much as $30,000 depending on package and accessories. In most instances, the bike is going to be far cheaper, and many of them can be financed just like an ATV, making the bike a more attractive option for a hunter on a budget.
Another way e-bikes save money is through reduced cost of maintenance and fuel. As much as we love gas-powered off-road vehicles, they can be costly to change the oil, filters, and various other parts over the life of the vehicle. And with the price of gas soaring, going electric makes a little more sense.
Excellent Hauling Capabilities
Many of the best electric bikes on the market are now touting increased hauling capacities that are plenty enough for hunters to haul their heavy treestand, bows, firearms, and other gear. You won't be able to haul as much as an ATV or UTV, but many electric mountain bikes are now capable of hauling an extra 100 pounds or more of gear or meat in optional off-road cargo trailers. In most cases that's going to be more than enough for general gear collections.
Most of these bikes are also built with excellent storage racks and pannier cargo bags that fit over the fender or frame on the rear wheel. It's quite surprising how much you can haul with these bikes, and the manufacturers continue to improve on the capabilities of these vehicles every year.
As our Editor in Chief Eric Pickhartz found out a few years ago on a turkey hunt with QuietKat, many of these new electric bikes are extremely rugged and capable in extreme circumstances. Case in point, Eric got one of these bikes through a large puddle and it just kept trucking along. The fat tires and cushy suspension forks of these bikes allow them to tackle mud, grass, rocks, cornfield stubble, and even standing water (to a point). With the electric motor power backing you up, these bikes even make inclines fun and easy. Most bikes have excellent hill climbing capabilities.
Another big benefit to bikes over the ATVs and UTVs is the narrower profile of an electric bike. They allow you to get through narrow canyons, stands of trees, and thick brush where ATVs and UTVs must take the long way around. On a backcountry hunt, that can help you reach areas other hunters have never stepped foot, helping increase your odds of success.
The noise and scent factor
Perhaps the biggest reason for hunters to consider a bike over an ATV or UTV is how low impact their use is. Most ATVs and UTVs have gasoline engines which are extremely loud and prone to spooking game. With a bike you can slip in almost unnoticed thanks to the quiet electric whirr of the motor. It's also just nice to know you're not contributing to noise pollution problems in wild places. It helps to preserve the true wilderness experience.
Aside from just making your approach silent, electric bikes are great for containing scents that may spook deer and other big game. They allow you to make an approach to your stand without your boots touching the ground once between your truck and your treestand, making you a ghost in the woods. Even if game animals don't spook from the noise of an ATV or UTV, there's always the chance they'll alert on the smell of oil, gasoline, or exhaust fumes from these vehicles. That gives electric bikes a huge advantage for hunters pursuing especially wary animals.
Superior Transport and Storage
As much as we love ATVs and UTVs, transport and storage are two things we hate about them. While you can usually fit an ATV into a standard size 5x9 foot cargo trailer, a UTV often requires a larger, heavy-duty trailer for transport purposes. Every time you want to take one of these vehicles somewhere, you're forced to load it up and spend a ton of time strapping it down.
In addition to being a hassle to take one of these vehicles to your hunting spot, trailers are another expense that many people forget about when shopping for an off-road vehicle. And when they're not in use, most of the vehicles eat up a ton of valuable garage space, which can be a pain if you have a lot of toys already.
Electric bikes, by comparison, can be easily loaded onto a hitch bike rack or even thrown in the back of a pickup or SUV for transport to your hunting area. There are even some folding electric bikes that make transport even easier. The other huge benefit is that a bike takes up considerably less space when not in use. That makes them a great option for hunters who live in apartments, or who just don't have a lot of garage space.