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How to Choose the Right Tires for Hunting & Off-Road Use

Having the right tires on your hunting rig can contribute to hunt success. Understanding functional differences can help you make the right choice.

How to Choose the Right Tires for Hunting & Off-Road Use

Falken Tires’ Wildpeak A/T4W

Tires suitable for off-road use can be categorized into three main groups: All-Terrain, Mud-Terrain, and Rugged-Terrain. All-Terrain (A/T) tires are the most prevalent, and suitable for use on most terrain traveled by outdoors enthusiasts from coast to coast, including pavement. Mud-Terrain (M/T) tires are tough, with aggressive tread blocks for off-road grip, and large void spacing to clear mud and rocks. These are at home in sticky Georgia clay and Mississippi mud, as well as rocky trails like those found in the desert southwest. Rugged-Terrain (R/T) tires are a comparatively new category and somewhat of a hybrid, falling between All-Terrain and Mud-Terrain in terms of aggressiveness, durability, and longevity. Here’s a look at how each of these has performed for me.

Whitetail Hunt in Iowa with All-Terrain Tires

This was the eighth day of a seven-day whitetail hunt, and I was still hoping for a chance at one of those dream bucks that made southern Iowa famous. It took several years to draw this archery tag, now burning a hole in my pocket as I turned off the highway in the darkness, following my outfitter and buddy Chris across the farm we would hunt. We parked just off the muddy dirt road at the edge of a cornfield, and Chris escorted me up a heavily timbered ridge to hang my stand. He then moved on to his setup, about 600 yards down the ridge, and soon we were ready for the events of the day to unfold.

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The decision to drive rather than fly to this hunt from my home in Arizona was an easy one – as I planned to bring home one of those corn-fed Iowa whitetails and visit with friends en route. Total roundtrip distance would be nearly 4000 miles, including daily commutes from home base to the farms we would hunt. Thus, my more economical compact truck, shod with All-Terrain tires, was the practical choice over my full-size, gas-guzzling rig with more aggressive tires. Along with hunting gear, I took a hitch-mounted rack for additional cargo capacity.

All-Terrain tires, like Falken Tires’ Wildpeak A/T4W, were perfect for this hunt, even though 99% of the driving was on pavement. The mildly aggressive tread provided traction on graveled back roads, as well as muddy farm roads, soggy fields, and mowed field edges. Notched tread blocks with voids at the tire edges, and additional void spacing throughout, afford superior handling and control on these surfaces – unquestionably better than highway tires with less aggressive, ribbed tread design.

At about 7:30, I caught the unmistakable sound of deer moving through fallen leaves. A doe blew out of the creek bottom and up the ridge toward me, with a buck hot on her tail. Chest heaving, nostrils flaring and neck bulging, he stopped just 7 yards away to stare at the large lump in the adjacent tree. After a lengthy standoff, he relaxed and moved toward the doe up the slope. As the buck’s eye disappeared behind a small tree, I drew and turned 90 degrees to line up a shot. He bolted with my movement but locked up with my best billy goat vocalization. It was a steep quartering shot, but the sound of success was unmistakable, as my arrow sliced through his body. Recovery of the stunning, narrow-racked, 19-point non-typical buck was just 20 yards.

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Mule Deer Hunt in New Mexico with Mud-Terrain Tires

This was my first time hunting northwestern New Mexico, so I did some homework before venturing into that big, rocky country. On my initial scouting trip over Labor Day weekend, I noticed that service trucks were all carrying tire chains as they traveled dirt roads through gas and oil leases in the rugged, colorful canyons like those to the west in Arizona. Turns out, with the slightest amount of moisture, this clay-laden soil turns into nearly impassible snot.

On returning for the hunt a month later with a 24-foot travel trailer in tow, I found the area was parched, with bottomless sandy washes difficult to negotiate. Near the end of the week-long hunt, a storm moved through, and I learned the next morning what those tire chains were all about! I needed a full set of Mud-Terrain tires – like Falken Tires’ Wildpeak M/T – but had just two for “spares.” It was difficult to move about, even after mounting the two spares on the front axle of my 4x4 suburban to facilitate both traction and steering. But there was a silver lining…

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Pausing at the crossing of a saturated wash, afraid to proceed, I parked and set out on foot. Shortly, I came across tracks from two mature bucks and decided to follow. I could tell that one buck was larger than the other – not from the size of their tracks which were similar, but because one set sank much deeper in the damp soil than the other. An hour into the stalk, I jumped the bucks off a sandstone bluff. The crosshairs atop my muzzleloader settled quickly on a fleeting buck’s back, but I did not shoot. In that instant, I guessed that the 24-inch buck was the smaller of the two and passed on the iffy shot opportunity.

After blowing off the bluff, tracks showed the bucks had run 400 yards across a flat, and then halfway up the next ridge before settling into a long-striding walk through the trees. I backed out, retreating to the truck for some food, scent control treatment, and dry boots. Returning two hours later, I followed their tracks down the ridge, to the head of that mile-long canyon. Creeping along in the thick oak and juniper cover just an hour before dark, I caught movement and dropped to one knee. I could see eyes, nose, antler bases, and about a foot of neck, as the buck stood in his bed just 60 yards away. Ka-boom! The smoky blast blocked my view, but I heard no movement.


I crashed through the brush to see what happened, anxious for a clear view … one that I will never forget. Laying in the sand across the small wash was my first Boone & Crockett buck! The 30-inch wide, symmetrical 4x4 was massive – well over 300 pounds. With the dark approaching rapidly, I hightailed it back to the truck for my camera and tripod, frame pack, and flashlight. With those front-mounted mud tires I was able to drive into that canyon, within 500 yards of the downed buck. It took four roundtrips to pack the animal and gear to the truck, slogging through muck, sand, and brush in the dark. It was brutal, and the task was finally finished around 11:00 PM. I gave thanks for the successful outcome, and for those two Mud-Terrain tires! They saved me 7 to 8 miles of laborious trudging.

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Mule Deer Hunt in Arizona with Rugged-Terrain Tires

It took sixteen long years to draw a tag to hunt the legendary “Arizona Strip” north of the Grand Canyon, considered by many to be the mule deer Holy Grail. With 1.25 million acres of lowland sagebrush steppe, pinyon-juniper chaparral, and high-elevation pine-oak woodland to search for a bragging-sized buck, I hired an outfitter for this mid-November hunt. The harsh, rocky terrain is notorious for eating tires, so guides use the toughest tires they can find. The area is so vast that hunters may travel hundreds of miles daily, in search of a mature buck – through rock, sand, and flour-like silt that turns to bog quickly with moisture, at elevations from 2000 to 8000 feet. This is the ideal application for hybrid, Rugged-Terrain tires like Falken Tires’ new Wildpeak R/T.

Falken Tires’ Wildpeak R/T
Falken Tires’ Wildpeak R/T

This would be the first test for my new hunting rig, factory-fitted for off-road use with good ground clearance and long-travel suspension. After adding LED lighting, a set of Rugged-Terrain tires, and an extra spare, we were ready for a scouting trip. The drive from home was 330 miles of pavement followed by 70 miles of dirt to reach the middle of the vast hunt unit. From rock crawling along sometimes impassable, sidewall-busting trails to blasting through hundred-yard stretches of foot-deep silt, the tires performed flawlessly. Averaging nearly 21 miles per gallon on pavement and 17 mpg overall, fuel economy was remarkable considering the amount of 4-wheel-drive usage and aggressiveness of the tires.

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The hunt was much like my scouting trip. With low deer density, we covered hundreds of miles in search of a monster muley. Several big bucks were located but most were 3-year-olds, and I passed on each one. Like most strip hunters, I hoped to find one of the 200-inch giants that made this area famous, despite the persistent drought and grim antler growth forecast. Although disappointing to my guide Parker Fails and outfitter Clay Bundy as it may have been, I was determined to take a fully “mature” buck… or nothing.

Day 7 dawned, and I held the only unfilled tag in camp. We planned to hunt a big mountain at the edge of the home range of a massive old buck. Nicknamed “Balboa” for his obviously broken nose observed on trail camera photos, he was at least 9 years old and a true giant. There was only one problem – nobody had ever laid eyes on him in daylight! We climbed at first light and glassed, and repositioned and glassed, finally reaching a large sage and cedar-filled bowl near the top. Moving into the thick cedars at a snail’s pace we bumped does, and then caught antler flashing, followed by the appearance of a wide, square frame moving toward us. Parker quietly exclaimed, “Shoot him!” and a few seconds later I did, as he raced through a small opening in the trees 45 yards away. Recovery of the giant, 8-year-old buck was just 20 yards. It wasn’t Balboa, but I was not disappointed!

Choose the Right Tire

Falken Tires’ Wildpeak A/T4W
Falken Tires’ Wildpeak A/T4W

Obviously, tires can make or break a hunt. Falken Tires designed their Wildpeak family of premium off-road tires to meet the demands of virtually any outdoor adventure, from mild to extreme, with three different options. If you use your daily driver for casual off-road excursions on weekends, All-Terrain tires should meet your needs. Falken’s Wildpeak A/T4W handles most weather conditions like rain and snow, and road conditions from wet and icy to muddy. For the hardcore off-road enthusiast, there is no better choice than the Wildpeak M/T. Designed for harsh conditions, mud, rocks, and snow, these tough, aggressive tires provide better traction and control on a variety of loose, unpredictable surfaces. If you spend as much time off-road as possible but don’t want the aggressiveness of a mud tire, the Falken Wildpeak R/T may be just what you need. R/T stands for Rugged-Terrain, featuring capable off-road design and performance, while maintaining suitability for regular highway use.

The Falken Tires Wildpeak family of off-road tires covers all the bases.

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