Getting Around - Part II
As I said in the last issue, with all the possible travel obstacles and conditions that can either slow you down, or outright stop you, from proceeding any farther, I use other transportation modes besides the pickup. I've also had the opportunity to use and evaluate a few others. All seem to have both their good points and drawbacks. I realize my preferences won't be agreed with by everyone, but I'll take a shot at explaining my findings.

I use a Honda 4-wheeler a lot. It starts good, is dependable, and is decent on gas. I ran 46 miles on it the other day, and had to switch it over to reserve to make it the last quarter mile to the pickup and trailer. It's not as smooth riding as some I've used, but not bad. I have it outfitted with a drop basket and a big front rack, so it will carry quite a bit of gear. During the fur season I use several tarp straps to hold my catch in place. Equipment rides OK on smooth ground, but I like to keep it in my backpack or other carrier to keep it from bouncing out and getting lost.

Using the Honda to get close to my locations in rough country saves time. And, like one friend of mine commented when we were talking about cat trapping locations one day, "It's easier to walk down and around, rather than up." The 4-wheelers are easy to step off, so checking, setting, and maintaining equipment is easy. Reading sign from the seat of a wheeler is a close second to being on foot, although I prefer to be on foot when the tracking gets tough. Most ranchers don't seem to mind the tracks left by an ORV either, with the possible exception of mud tracks. That's something you have to play by ear, and ask the landowner about.

On the down side, weather can be a problem. Even with a windshield, rain and snow can be a real pain to travel in for any length of time. Probably worse yet are our huge grasshoppers. Having one of them hit you in the face at 30 mph makes me wonder how bikers travel as fast as they do. A helmet and goggles are a wise choice.

The other limiting factor is distance. If you have a lot of 'dead heading' or back tracking, the 30 mph or other average speed you can travel might not be efficient, time-wise. Sure, they make machines that travel faster, but in my opinion, if you can travel that fast, why not just use the pickup? Cost is huge, too; I honestly think a 4-wheeler costs as much per mile to operate as a pickup. And, unless you can load it in the back of the pickup, you have to have a trailer. That adds to the expense in the form of tires, extra gas, and initial cost and licensing. But would I let these expenses keep me from having a good 4-wheeler as an option? No way!

I grew up in snowmobile country, and have run sleds to check under-ice beaver traps and canine sets since high school. Deep snow is the norm all over the northern states during most winters. Some years the sled doesn't get much use, as the snowfall might not amount to much. Sometimes tire chains, scoop shovels, and using your head will be all you need to maneuver.
But the last three years we've had bad winters, with plenty of snow and high wind. Road closures and drifts that can't be driven around change things dramatically. I use a Ski-Doo to venture into some of my winter trapping areas in bad conditions. I bought a good Otter Sled too, complete with factory hitch, and later bought the custom cover. The expense was quickly recovered in the form of more equipment being hauled to far-flung areas. I modified my Otter Sled slightly, to deal with a problem I encountered. I stretch several short tarp straps across it to support the cover. I found that in certain snow conditions, the snow thrown behind the snowmobile will quickly fill the Otter. I think mine will hold about 300 pounds of wet slush, at least that's what it feels like when I have to lift one end to empty it.

Like the wheeler, the snowmobile adds to the expense, but it can't be avoided at times. I know I'm not the only trapper who likes to explore areas without tracks of other people, and the sled has let me go into a lot of places that I would have had to totally write off without it, mainly due to lack of roads in them.

Whatever the choice I use in getting around for any given day, I try to keep it in good shape and ready to go. I went to 10-ply tires on my pickups many years ago, and will never use any other. I've traded several pickups that I never did let the spare down the entire time I owned them, since I never needed it. I usually have an extra spare anyway, just because having to wait around and have a tire shop fix a flat might cost you the good part of a morning. I tried bias ply tires for years, mainly because that's what some of my mentors used and advised me to try. It was hard to switch over to good, high dollar radials, but I'm glad I did.

Good sidewall ratings are what's most important in my area, and I try to get a minimum of 3-ply on them. Cactus, grease wood, and sharp rocks all take their toll on sidewalls. I also use a lot of what is referred to in my area as 'Cactus Juice', which is basically tire sealant of various kinds. The name says it all, and I run a lot of it even in new tires, both pickup and 4-wheeler. I've seen the cactus stuck in my tires when I get new ones, and the stuff is worth it. I always ask what amount they recommend, and use 50% more. This little preventive measure has saved me a pile of money over the years.

Past experiences have helped me narrow down what I use today. I've had some long walks out over the years, and have spent many nights stuck in spots that I should have known better than to try to navigate. I've been rescued by friends with pickups, snowmobiles, and even once an airplane. I've also been on the other end of it, and have been met by a smiling face or two that were glad to see me show up. We work and play hard out there, and sometimes venture into places that others might not. I guess that's what keeps it all interesting, and I've got the "gotta see what's over the next hill" bug as bad as anybody. Every day you have to deal with the challenge of getting around.