The many ways in which ebikes can be used for hunting and scouting are as diverse as the individual hunters themselves. From mountains to deserts to farms, ebikes provide advantages limited only by the imagination and the rules. In this article, we’ll look at the experience of my friend, Matt Teter, on his Once-In-A-Lifetime archery elk hunt in the unforgiving high desert of northwest Colorado.
In 2020, Matt drew one of 14 coveted resident archery elk licenses, which required 22 preference points to obtain. Colorado awards preference points to elk hunters who are unsuccessful in the limited license drawings. Hunting units require different numbers of preference points to draw, ranging from zero or one for low-demand units, up to 24 for a resident who wishes to rifle hunt in the most prized trophy units. These top-tier units hold trophy bulls and extremely low hunting pressure, making them highly desired and arguably worth the wait to acquire enough preference points. Colorado offers over-the-counter unlimited licenses for many hunting areas too, so a hunter can still hunt every year in an over-the counter (OTC) unit while collecting points. That is the good news. The bad news is that so many hunters chase these few high-demand units that the number of points required to draw a tag goes up by almost one point every year. Meaning, a hunter with 19 points may never catch up to what is called “point creep” for these units, because next year Matt’s unit will take 23 points.
Matt finally caught the “point creep” and began scouting for his hunt. This unit is dry, high desert and rough terrain, and because it is BLM (Bureau of Land Management) public land, ebikes are allowed virtually everywhere. ATVs and OHVs are very popular in these units among hunters, scouters, photographers, and people who simply want to see huge elk during the fall rutting period. But ATVs and OHVs have a known downside too- elk have learned that OHVs mean people, and when hearing them they often leave the area. When I hunted one of these units a few years ago, it was not uncommon to watch elk lift their heads and follow the sound of OHVs from nearly a mile away, then move away from the sound. If the OHV stopped, they often left in a hurry. But Matt, using his ebike, was able to approach his hunting areas without alarming the elk, while also saving himself many miles of trudging across the rugged landscape to try to catch up to the moving herds.
Not long ago, Matt was opposed to ebikes for a variety of reasons. He was as outspoken about his opposition as I am in my support, and we sometimes sparred, good-naturedly of course, on hunting forums when the topic of ebikes was brought up. Then one day Matt saw the light, purchased an ebike from John at Ebike Generation, and his hunting life changed. After his successful hunt concluded, I asked him a few questions about his ebike decision and how he utilized his Bakcou Mule on the hunt this year.
You were originally not an advocate of ebikes. What changed your mind?
“I had the opportunity to help a buddy pack a monster bull out in 2019. He and another friend both used e-bikes to haul their loads out. I hauled my load out on foot. Mind you, this was two 65-plus year old men with over 80 pounds of elk meat on their e-bikes. They made the round trip in about 1/4 of the time it took me on foot. I was sold after that.”
What was your first impression when you initially rode one?
“My first impression was “Why didn’t I buy one of these sooner?”
Do you use it for fitness training during the off-season? What is different about training with an ebike vs. a conventional bike?
“Yes, I put on nearly 300 miles on my e-bike before my elk hunt. Most of those miles were on the washboarded dirt county roads around my ranch. The biggest difference is how much farther you can ride on an e-bike for the same amount of spent energy. My typical 10-15 mile route includes several long fairly steep hills. Those hills are brutal for me on a conventional bike. The e-bike makes them a breeze.
The e-bike’s fat tires are also much more stable than a conventional bike on loose gravel roads.
Basically, the beauty of an e-bike for training is you can get as much or as little of a workout as you want. My wife is not as strong of a rider as I am, so we rarely rode together with conventional bikes. After she rode my e-bike, we had to buy her one, too. Now, we often ride together, because the e-bike’s higher power modes allow her to keep up easily.”
Tell us about how you utilized your bike this year during your Once-In-A-Lifetime elk hunt.
“I used my e-bike on at least 20 of the 28 days I hunted. Most hunts consisted of a 2-4 mile ride from camp on two-tracks before sunrise. Then I would hunt on foot from there. The e-bike allowed me to cover many miles in a fraction of the time it would have taken on foot. And most importantly, it allowed me to do it quietly, and with less effort than hiking.”
Do you believe you would have been as successful without the ebike, ie.. riding an ATV or other combustion vehicle in the terrain you were hunting?
“Not a chance. I routinely rode within easy rifle range of elk without alarming them in any way. Several times I watched the same herd of elk get spooked by ATVs and pickups that were over a mile away. The e-bike was a game changer for this hunt.”
What advice can you give to others who may be considering an ebike for hunting, but are hesitant to pull the trigger?
“My advice would be to call John at Ebike Generation and place an order, NOW!! You won’t regret it.”
Matt is not only a highly experienced bowhunter and former guide, but also an accomplished competitive 3-D target archer. Despite that, he still had to hunt hard for 28 days to find and harvest a bull worthy of waiting nearly a quarter of a century. This season presented a number of unique challenges in that area, including a severe drought that dried up many of the waterholes elk use. Sometimes they travel miles in between their bedding areas and waterholes, so a hunter must be prepared to cover many miles, and quickly, to find, then catch and ambush the herd. Without his ebike, it is very likely that he would not have been successful in killing a trophy most hunters only dream about.
Matt mentioned something about his wife that also applies to my ebike experience. My then-girlfriend, now-wife, is a very strong conventional mountain bike rider. Scary strong. When we first met she was skeptical at first, being somewhat of a purist. She is a woman who hikes to the top of glaciers and telemark skis back down the mountain, and can climb steep grades on her conventional mountain bike that I would never attempt. Where we live in the Colorado mountains, there are steep hills everywhere. On our first ride together, her on her very expensive mountain bike and me on my Rambo R750, she marveled at how I was able to easily climb pitches where she was toiling and grinding in her lowest gear. When I wanted to test myself and get a strong workout, I would switch the assist down to the lowest possible level, or even switch it off, and push myself as far as possible before kicking the assist back up to recover. Not only was it a great cardio workout, but also for my quads and glutes as well, and I was able to navigate routes which would have never been possible on my conventional bike.
After that ride I convinced her – reluctantly - to try mine, and her immediate reaction was the same as everyone who rides one for the first time – “WOW!”, with a huge smile. By that night we were comparing different models online, and within a couple weeks the box arrived. Since then, she has sold one of her expensive mountain bikes and keeps her other one only for our casual rides around town. She loves her ebike, and we go on long uphill-downhill mountain rides on rough roads and trails, as far as 24 miles, several times a week when I’m not off hunting somewhere.
Next week I’m headed to the hill country of Missouri to hunt whitetail deer on a friend’s farm. My Rambo will get plenty of use as I approach stand and ambush sites silently and quickly, slipping in and out in near-darkness without sweating up my hunting clothes and getting a subsequent chill when I settle in to hunt. I’ll report back on my experience in the next installment, but I’m certain the ebike will also be a game changer for this style of hunting. Wish me luck!
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