September 09, 2021
Technology is constantly evolving. This is true when it comes to the way we communicate with one another, the way we conduct business, the way we travel, and the list goes on and on.
Hunting is no exception. Innovations are continually changing how we participate in the sport—and often improving how we do so in the process.
One technological development that has caught the eye of many hunters is the e-bike. More specifically, hunters are interested in the purpose-built hunting e-bikes that can tackle tough terrain and travel a long way without causing a bunch of commotion.
These bikes feature long-lasting lithium-ion batteries, premium components, sturdy frames, rugged fat tires and powerful motors that make them highly capable tools for the hardcore hunter.
If there's one strike against these hunting e-bikes, it's that they can be a little expensive. Most quality models run from $2,000 to $8,000 or more, which is not an insignificant amount. This leaves many hunters wondering whether hunting e-bikes are worth the initial investment.
If you find yourself in this boat, consider the following reasons why an e-bike might help your hunting efforts.
1. THEY’RE QUIET
This past spring, I had a chance to use the 2021 QuietKat Apex hunting e-bike while hunting turkeys in Illinois. The first morning I hunted, I pedaled the Apex around an agricultural field edge before dawn, and when I rounded a corner, I saw four or five whitetails milling around in the field.
I kept on riding, and the whitetails continued eating and generally hanging out. They were completely unbothered at the sight and sound of the e-bike and its battery-powered electric motor.
This isn't to say that they might not have done the same thing if I'd been on an ATV or UTV, or if I'd just been walking in on foot. However, that usually hasn't been my experience. Most whitetails I've encountered associate gas-powered vehicles with trouble, and the same is often true of a hunter on foot.
A hunting e-bike allows you to travel to your stand, ground blind or hunting area with a reduced possibility of spooking nearby game animals with noise. If you're a run-and-gun-style hunter, it's also a stealthy way to scout large areas when searching for game.
2. THEY HANDLE TOUGH TERRAIN
Most hunting e-bike models have beefy fat tires with grippy tread and premium components that make shifting and breaking very easy, even under difficult conditions. However, what makes e-bikes truly special are their electric motors, which provide hunters with powered assistance.
Generally speaking, most hunting e-bikes feature three modes of operation: unassisted (meaning the rider powers the bike solely by pedaling), pedal-assisted (the bike's electric motor assists while the user pedals) and throttle-powered (the user engages a throttle, and the electric motor powers the bike without the user pedaling).
While hunting with QuietKat's Apex, I found myself using all three for various purposes, but the scenarios in which the e-bike's electric motor proved most essential were when I was tackling tough terrain.
It was early April when I hunted, and a spring rainstorm days before had turned many of the lowlands on the property into swampy messes. If you've ever pedaled a bicycle through water-logged grass, you know how strenuous that can be (if you haven't, consider yourself lucky).
It’s even worse if you have a bunch of gear loaded on your back (as I did). Thankfully, whenever I encountered this with the Apex e-bike, I simply gave myself a little power boost with the throttle, and skated right on through without issue.
A hunting e-bike's electric motor proves even more effective when used to tackle steep hills or mountainous terrain. In fact, this is what a lot of the purpose-built hunting e-bikes are designed to do. Most high-quality hunting e-bikes utilize a powerful mid-drive motor, which sits in the middle of the bike between the pedals and drives the crank.
This motor type directs power through the bike's gears, which results in improved torque and hill-climbing abilities over some other types. Really high-end hunting e-bikes may even utilize torque sensors, which increase supplied output based on how hard the user is pedaling (for instance very strenuously up a steep hill).
3. THEY GO FARTHER, FASTER
This is probably one of the most compelling reasons to consider a hunting e-bike. Today's e-bikes have benefitted greatly from recent advances in lithium-ion battery technology, which means they can provide more power and last much longer. Current e-bikes dramatically increase the distance you can cover—and the time it takes you to do so—versus walking on foot. For the hunter, this translates into many benefits.
If you want to hunt an area that's miles away from your entry point, you can get there quicker on an e-bike. On many public lands, oftentimes the farther away from an access point you can get, the better your hunting will be. Or, maybe you're hunting on private ground, and it just allows you to go to and from your stand more quickly and quietly. I doubt many of us would mind getting a few extra minutes of sleep each morning because it takes less time to reach our hunting stands.
For scouting, the benefits of traveling farther, faster are undeniable. Whether you're glassing wide swaths of land out West or setting or checking trail cameras on a large property in the Midwest, the South or the East, there are definite advantages to being able to do so faster—and in a minimally invasive way.
4. THEY'RE LIGHTWEIGHT AND PORTABLE
Now, before anyone challenges me on this, hunting e-bikes are not "lightweight" in the same way that regular bicycles are. In fact, most weigh in close to 70 pounds.
However, they are lightweight in comparison to other off-road vehicles. Many ATVs weigh around 10 times that much, and UTVs routinely weigh half a ton or more. Both of those vehicles require a truck and a trailer to move.
A heavy-duty bike rack—like some of those made by 1UP USA—attached to a 2-inch receiver hitch on your vehicle is all that's needed to transport a hunting-e-bike.
Their reduced weight and portability prove advantageous in the woods, too. While hunting with the Apex, there were a couple times in which I came across a downed tree on the path I was using. I simply got off the bike, lifted it up and over the obstruction and then kept pedaling. Try that with an ATV.
In some respects, the hunting e-bike is to the ATV or UTV what the canoe or kayak is to a large boat. When the occasion calls for it, it can be used to reach places the other can't.
5. THEY INCREASE CARRYING CAPACITY
A hunting e-bike is not a UTV. It can't haul you and three buddies, and all your gear, across miles of terrain. But, generally speaking, a single person on a hunting e-bike can carry more than an individual on foot. Most e-bikes tailored to hunting have 300-pound carrying capacities or more, and many manufacturers also make accessory cargo trailers, racks and bags that attach to their bikes.
These accessories are useful for toting gear like stands, weapons and blinds, among others. Some are also specifically designed for hauling out game. The bikes work great for getting game out of areas that ATVs or UTVs can't access, whether you're transporting a whole turkey, a field-dressed deer or quartered pieces of a big-game animal.
I've heard of Western hunters harvesting an animal in truly harsh terrain, packing it back to their bikes and then transporting it in stages back to vehicles or base camps. There's still some walking involved, but a few hundred yards is far better than hiking a few miles. An e-bike makes you more mobile while also allowing you to carry more equipment, or meat, than you might on foot.
6. THEY MINIMIZE SCENT
Some of the most common game animals, like the whitetailed deer, have a pretty good sense of smell. Often, animals—and especially whitetails—can use this ability to realize that an intrusion has taken place. Because they're gas powered, ATVs and UTVs naturally leave more scent behind than an individual on an electric-powered hunting e-bike. Riding an e-bike through an area also leaves less scent behind than your boots when you're walking.
Keep in mind, however, that where you store a hunting e-bike makes a difference. If it's resting against your garage wall right next to a gas can for your lawnmower, your e-bike might not be as scent-free as you would like. Some manufacturers either recommend storing in a place devoid of other scents or even storing it outside (securely) the day before your hunt.
7. THEY CAN ACCESS MORE PLACES
Earlier I hinted that the reduced weight and increased portability of e-bikes allowed them to access areas that an ATV can't. This is certainly true. However, they can also access some places that ATVs and UTVs can't simply because of regulations.
Many public hunting areas restrict motorized off-road vehicle access. While it varies drastically across the nation depending on the type of public land you're trying to access, and who manages it, many public-hunting grounds do allow e-bikes where similar non-motorized vehicles are allowed.
And, in the past year or two, there's even been a larger effort at the federal level to expand e-bike access on federal public lands. You still want to closely examine the regulations and policies anywhere you intend to use a hunting e-bike on public land, but if you find that they are allowed, it can really expand your opportunities in areas where most hunters may be walking.
8. THEY MAKE THINGS EASIER
Some may initially recoil at seeing the above words. "Easier," they might say. "Well, hunting is supposed to be hard work."
Let me explain. An e-bike allows physically fit hunters to conserve energy and reach farther areas that they might not be able to before. Also, if you've ever made a long walk to your stand on a cold day while wearing a bunch of clothing and carrying gear, you've probably experienced the misfortune of going from hot and sweaty to shivering cold in short order. An e-bike helps with this—and the absence of sweat helps with scent considerations, too.
For older hunters or hunters with mobility issues, however, using an e-bike may mean simply being able to make it to and hunt their normal stands. Or it may mean being able to hunt at all. With its electric motor either assisting while the user pedals or powering the bike completely with the throttle, these hunters can continue hunting when it might otherwise have been impossible. Incidentally, if you get injured while afield, using an e-bike's throttle to get you back out again is also much easier than limping along on foot—especially an injured one.
The decision to buy a hunting e-bike is one that should be fully evaluated. It's a significant purchase (though many manufacturers offer payment plans), and not one to be taken lightly. However, if you do buy a hunting e-bike, you'll quickly experience some of the benefits discussed above, and probably many others I haven't detailed.
Some people have conflicting ideas about how technology changes the sport of hunting, but it's hard to deny the advantages that e-bikes provide hunters. Purpose-built hunting e-bikes are useful tools to expand and improve your hunting capabilities. As a bonus, they're also a lot of fun.