Iowa Sportsman Top Ten Hunting Vehicles
By Ryan Woythaler
When Patrick asked me if I would be interested in doing a Top 10 hunting vehicles thread I jumped at the chance. Being a self proclaimed car enthusiast I thought this would be a really fun article to do. If only I had known then what I know now I might have told him to go pound sand. There have been sleepless nights about how to narrow it to only 10, what parameters to judge on, how to not inject personal bias, how to include one model year but not another, etc. And not only that, but attempt to do it without angering every Iowa Sportsman subscriber in the process because I didn’t include a certain vehicle.
It’s safe to say that if money were not an option a brand new 2015 (Insert truck of your choice here) tricked out with all the bells and whistles is no doubt going to do be everyone’s first choice.. So instead of including a 2015 truck and SUV from every major manufacturer I excluded all late model vehicles. Those lists are boring and can be found in any car magazine on the rack. I wanted a list of vehicles that had some style and some nostalgia, as well as having junk yard parts available for repairs. And for full disclosure I have not owned any of the vehicles in this list, I wanted to keep personal bias out of it. This list is based on hours of drooling at car shows, talking with car guys, riding along with people who have owned these vehicles and a whole lot of late nights on the internet. So here is my list, in no particular order, the top 10 hunting rigs I would like to have parked in my garage.
Chevy/GMC C/K 3rd Generation 73-87’
The 3rd generation Chevy’s brought us a whole new set of options that were previously reserved for luxury sedans such as power windows and locks. It also brought us the first version of what is commonly called “shift on the fly” four-wheel drive. With seven engine options ranging from an I6, V6, Small block V8, Big block V8, and diesel it’s easy to see why these square body trucks were so popular with the masses. They had something for everyone.
Jeep Cherokee 2nd Generation 95-01’
The Jeep Cherokee might not be as well known or recognized as the CJ or Wrangler but they are certainly popular with the hunters and fisherman. It’s hard to go to a public hunting parking lot without running into one of these 4 door Jeeps. What’s not to like about room for five people and their gear or a back seat that lays perfectly flat for storing large gear or taking a midday nap? Dana axles, an indestructible 4.0L I6 motor and Jeep legendary four wheel drive makes these excellent off-road drivers while looking good on the road as well.
Toyota Tacoma 1st Generation 95-05’
1st generation Tacoma’s have achieved an almost fairytale like status as indestructible. I’ve talked with multiple people over the years that all say the same thing; the body will rust away around you before that motor and transmission will give up. It’s not uncommon to see these trucks still being used as daily drivers with well over 250,000 miles. If you are thinking about buying one, don’t let the mileage deter you. Check for a solid frame and regular maintenance and you should be good to go.
Dodge Power Wagon W300
I don’t know what to say about the power wagon other than it is a beast of a truck. Originally designed for usage for the United States Armed forces they were offered to the civilian market once Dodge figured out they had appeal to people looking for a powerful truck like construction workers, haulers, fire departments and snow removal for municipalities. They came with both a front and rear power take off (PTO) for running auxiliary equipment, which made them very popular with farmers. While researching the power wagons I came across this quote. “Need to pull out King Kong’s molars? This would be your truck of choice.”
Chevy K5 Blazer 1st Generation 68-72’
Chevy was a little late to the game with a four wheel drive SUV but they hit it out of the park with the 1st generation K5 Blazers. With luxury options like an available automatic transmission and A/C coupled with a fully removable top it quickly made them just as popular on the beach as they were on the ranch. But don’t be fooled by the luxury options, with two available small block V8’s, a Dana 20 part time four wheel drive, and 8” of ground clearance these were no slouch on the trail.
Ford F-150 6th Generation 73-79’
When people think of a truck, the image of the iconic 6th generation F-150 probably pops into most peoples minds. In this guy’s opinion this is the epitome of the American truck. It borrows styling cues from the previous more classic generations but features designs that can still be seen in the late model F-150’s rolling off the assembly line today. When you mention things like available 302 Windsor or 351 Cleveland power plants to Ford guys they will usually drool a little bit, but the 460 big block was also an option in this half ton chassis which made melting the back tires off all too easy.
International Scout II 71-80’
The first International Scouts were designed to be a direct competitor to the Jeep because they were the only four wheel drive vehicle available to civilians at the time. The 2nd generation Scout II’s were a more refined off-road machine that came with Dana axles, Dana transfer case and a pedigree in racing. Jerry Boone used the Scout II to dominate the Baja 1000 race in Ensenada, Mexico. It is a 1000 mile race across the desert that tests the limits of man and machine. Hard to argue with that kind of performance.
Land Rover 90 Defender 83-90’
While the Land Rover Defender seems more at home on the African plains or the Australian outback than it does the rolling hills of Iowa there were still plenty of them modified to meet American car import standards and sold stateside. The Defenders took a major step forward in driver luxuries from the previous Land Rovers that were heavily used by militaries throughout the world that valued function over comfort. A short wheelbase means steep drive in angles are no sweat for this prowler and a four wheel drive system with two speed transfer gearbox and lockable center differential means if you get this thing stuck, you are deep in the middle of somewhere you shouldn’t be.
Jeep CJ7 76-86’
What would a list of hunting vehicles be without the timeless CJ Jeep? Probably one of the most recognized vehicles the world over. With a short wheel base, Quadra-Trac four wheel drive, and Dana axles and transfer case this is your ride if you need to scramble up a steep hillside or muddy trail to get to your hunting spot. The CJ’s and then the Wrangler have been in production for 70 years and they aren’t showing any signs of stopping anytime soon. A lot of aftermarket parts make customizing your Jeep to fit your needs pretty simple.
Family Sedan All Generations All Years
While big block motors, Dana axles, locking differentials, and high ground clearance are what we all think of when we talk hunting vehicle; the truth is really much different. The family sedan is, and probably always will be the most used hunting vehicle of all time. Depending on your age, your idea of the good ol’ days will differ, but what remains a constant is that when we were all young and aspiring hunters we were begging our parents to let us use the family car for our hunting adventures. The above trucks are my list of what we as a society have deemed as hunting vehicles, but I would bet dollars to doughnuts that more hunting trips have taken place in the family car or wagon. So in retrospect what makes a good hunting vehicle? In my opinion it’s one that runs and has four tires and a steering wheel. A hunting vehicle is whatever you have access to.