by Joe Gorman
It's been a few years since Shooter's Report has had a dedicated hunting truck. The last official one was a new, fifth-generation 1996 Ford Bronco. It had the classic 302 cubic inch engine, a 5-speed manual transmission, and bucket seats. It ran very well for its age, could get 21 mpg if driven at 65 mph. That vehicle provided 20 years of faithful service until it finally succumbed to the corrosive ice melt used on the roads in the Midwest.
In January of 2021, I decided that it was time for a new truck that could be a project to build up and used as a hunting and scouting vehicle. I purchased a new 2020 Ram 2500 4x4 Crew Cab Tradesman with the 6.4L Hemi engine and active noise cancellation. The only additional requirement I had for this truck was an actual lever to activate the 4-wheel drive. The Shooter's Report Ram came with the intermediate-size information screen, which is Apple Carplay compliant. The seats are adjusted manually and are neither heated nor cooled. If it didn't have carpet, it might be mistaken for a work truck, and that's just fine with me.
I picked up the new truck in Dallas, TX (long story) and drove home to Iowa. Within a week of getting the truck, my wife and I packed up the new truck with tools and headed to our oldest daughter's house in Norfolk, VA, to help with several projects she had started. On the way to her house, we ran into some serious snowstorms in the mountains of West Virginia. The Ram acquitted itself very well on the highway in the 4-wheel drive though the factory Firestone TransForce AT did not inspire confidence with snowy conditions.
As we made it home and pulled into our driveway, I knew there were a couple of changes to make the Ram more accommodating for traveling and hunting.
The first modification I made was to change out the factory Firestone TransForce AT tires for
We had the new Yokohama tires installed at the beginning of February, just in time for serious blizzards and ice.
The Yokohama Geolandars were much more capable in the snow and ice and provided much more confidence when the weather turned bad.
The Geolandars are very highly regarded, and I have found them to live up to their reputation.
They work well in snow and in mud in my experience, have a comfortable highway ride, and manage to get good mileage.
The ride height of the 2500 4x4 is tall enough that I had a little difficulty getting in and out of the truck (thank you, Ram, for installing convenient handles in the cab to help with this) . My wife is 5'2" and really challenged with climbing in and out of this tall truck. I installed N-Fab's Podium Nerf Steps, and our problems were over concerning easy ingress and egress from the truck N-Fab's Podium Nerf Steps are made from stainless steel and coated with a black texture coating. They are easy to clean and come with a 5-year factory warranty. They are solid under my full weight and were very straightforward to install.
By mid-March, we were scheduled to visit several properties in Texas, and we wanted to camp out of the truck in a topper. Even my wife was up for truck camping if I installed a topper. I contacted the helpful folks at Unicover Caps in Britt, IA. They have been making affordable fiberglass toppers for years, and their fiberglass toppers come with lifetime structure and paint warranties! I ordered a Safari Topper with optional heavy-duty roof racks for my Ram. This heavy-duty cab-high topper features an insulated roof and sliding darkened side windows with screens. It even has an LED light on the inside of the topper that has proven to be very helpful. Unicover contacted me when the topper was ready to be installed. We drove to their factory, and they quickly had me back on the road. The lines of the Safari made my Ram look like the Mopar version of a Suburban, and I find it to look very stylish.
The first night we camped in Texas, the night-time temps dipped into the low 30s, but we were warm and comfortable with ground mats and sleeping bags in the bed. It's also provided a safe, dry, secure space for me to transport valuable cargo (all my son's worldly possessions). We stayed in Colorado Springs for several days with his all gear until we could head home to Iowa (He had just graduated from the Air Force Academy).
We would travel back down to Texas two more times, and we again had great experiences camping in the Unicover Safari. The Safari model is a lot of topper for the money, and I consider its necessity for this truck's mission.
I loaded up the truck at the end of June and headed out to Western South Dakota for the first of several long-distance shoots. The weather in South Dakota can always go sideways quickly, and I wanted a canopy in case we ran into extreme sun or rain. There are damn few trees where we camp, so we have to make our shade from the sun. The soil of Western South Dakota can also quickly turn to gumbo mud after a moderate rain. Having both a sunshade and a 160" x 103 x 192" buffer between the end of the truck and where the mud starts would make an excellent addition to our camping gear. Luckily, I found Slumberjack's Road House Screen Tarp that makes a great sunshade and a rain shelter.
The Slumberjack Road House provides cinch straps that attach to a roof rack (the main reason I added one to the Safari), and the truck's rims feature a retractable screen room that we stowed. The tarp was very securely planted with the nylon cinch straps and the guys lines provided with the tarp. It also comes with two 10' steel poles and some solid steel ground stakes. We have encountered serious wind every time we camp in South Dakota, and on a couple of trips, I have lost very high-quality tents poles in heavy wind. With all the guy lines deployed and ground stakes hammered in, the Roadhouse withstood gusty winds and driving rain and made a day of solid drizzling rain tolerable. The Roadhouse allowed us to hang out in lawn chairs, stay dry, and plink at targets with our .22 rimfire rifles. The Roadhouse's seams and pole positions are reinforced and built to withstand serious weather. This is one of those products that cause you to wonder how you ever lived without it.
When it was time to pack up and head home, the soil was moist enough to turn to gumbo. I am convinced that I would not have made it up a rather steep hill we needed to climb if I had not replaced the TransForce ATs. The first year I went to this spot, we had substantial rain, and all the soil was utterly gumbo mud. Fortunately, I had a brand new set BF Goodrich Mud Terrains fitted, and we could climb out in 4-Low. On this trip, the Geolandars cut through the light mud and got us home. However, I may end up with the M/T Geolandars as I seem to find mud when others completely miss it.
Pulling into my driveway at the end of the trip, I had 17.6 mpg overall, including the time spent crossing South Dakota at 80mph on 1-90 and the time spent crawling along mud roads in the backcountry. I'm pretty happy about that. The Ram 2500 Crew Cab Tradesman provides reliable and comfortable transportation. She's sure-footed with the Geolandar A/Ts and easy to get in and out of with the N-Fab Podium step. The Safari topper gives me a tremendous amount of lockable storage, and I can camp comfortably out of my truck with this accessory. Stay tuned for more updates to the Ram.
|6.4 Liter Hemi||Specifications:|
|Displacement||392 cid 6.4L HEMI|
|Bore x Stroke (Inches)||103.9mm x 94.6mm|
|Horsepower||485 @ 6,400 rpm|
|Torque||475 foot pounds|
|Compression ratio||10.9 to 1|
|Head type||Aluminum, Hemispherical chamber|
|Block||Cast Iron w/ 4-Bolt powder metal caps|