Hunting with the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

I seem to have become a magnet for snowstorms—or maybe it’s the long-term Wrangler that’s attracting them. First the entire northern Great Plains got slammed with a where-did-autumn-go blizzard just as Roseann and I headed for Alberta to teach a conservation seminar (even native Montanans were complaining), then the White Mountains in Arizona received two feet of snow just before I drove up for an elk hunt. The upside is, I’ve had excellent opportunities to get a feel for the Wrangler’s handling on icy and/or snowed-in roads.

Roseann and I try to eat as much wild game as possible, to minimize buying into America’s current industrialized and inhumane method of raising beef, pork, and other domesticated animals. So I was pleased to draw an elk tag this year, after two years of striking out. However, when I arrived in Springerville/Eagar in central Arizona’s mountains, I found the area I’ve hunted before totally snowed in and inaccessible. On my first try to get as far as possible up the Water Canyon Road toward the Big Lake area, I pulled out a stuck Toyota belonging to some local kids, then on the way down came upon a Ford pickup that had slid off the road and was within inches of tipping off the edge, held by a strap across the road to a tree.

So it wasn’t just my desertified imagination that conditions were iffy. Nevertheless, the Jeep felt secure in four high. It’s way more stable than my FJ40, thanks largely to nearly two feet of extra wheelbase. The BFG Mud-Terrains applied themselves well as Snow-Terrains. I’ve been genuinely impressed at the ability of the Wrangler to handle long freeway drives comfortably, while retaining four-wheel-drive capability unbeaten by anything else available in the U.S.

Although I snowshoed into the higher areas south of Eagar and found a few tracks, it became clear the elk had moved out. I found a lower wintering ground that was mostly clear of snow, and located several herds, almost all cows, matching my tag. Two days later—the last day of my season—I got close enough to one group of 12 to safely single out and kill a smallish one. It was very late in the day, so I had some work ahead. I field dressed the elk, stashed the quarters on a snow bank to cool (hoping the numerous coyotes, ravens, and bald eagles hanging around expectantly would leave them alone), loaded the backstraps (the choicest cuts) into my rucksack, left my Surefire Lumamax shining on low on the carcass as a locator, and walked the mile and a half back to the Jeep to retrieve the $12 plastic toboggan I’d bought for this eventuality. Two trips later, and 9:30 PM, I’d finished dragging everything out. So we have at least a year’s worth of all-natural elk meat in the freezer—I’m very satisfied.

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