We take the newest Defender bear hunting in Alberta
One thing we know by now is that BRP builds a quality off-road rig and since the release of this new Can-Am Defender series there have been plenty of smiling owners. I recently got to spend several days behind the wheel of the new Defender Mossy Oak Hunting Edition on a hunting trip in Canada, giving me insight into its comfort, seating, engine power, hauling and towing capabilities and handling.
I tested the original Can-Am Defender at Illinois’ beautiful Harpole’s Heartland Lodge. The property has many miles of groomed trails and there were some places on the property that gave the Defender a good test, but nothing like I would experience north of the border. After the call to head into the Great White North, I realized I would get more serious one-on-one time with Can-Am’s latest edition of the Defender, as well as its individual components.
Alone on the trails in Alberta, Canada searching for black bear, I would have to depend solely on this machine with limited outside help. Over six days I would be able to really flush out any immediate issues.
Dressed in Mossy Oak Break-Up Country Camo, you get an immediate feel of being hidden in the woods. This camouflage pattern, with its digitally enhanced natural elements and vivid colors, gives the machine a stunning appearance that any hunter can appreciate. After hand washing the machine over four times it was also clear that the matte plastics and graphics are really durable, as we saw no visible scratching of the Mossy Oak Break-Up Country pattern.
In addition to the camo, this Defender includes several very useful components. I had the opportunity to use each and every one of them, starting with underbelly protection. The entire bottom of the Defender is protected by skid plates, including an aluminum pre-runner plate. This provides a very tough belly for those unseen stumps and rock gardens that reached up for a bite of the machine. The roads in the bush are only maintained if someone with a motor grader decides to step out and do the neighborly thing by smoothing them after the rain leaves. This meant that some roads into the hunt stands were rutted and large branches or rocks could be heard calling from under the Defender. The trails are also cut fairly narrow in some places, with tree stumps cut off six to eight inches above the ground, biting the skids on a regular basis.
A brush bumper is also included in the Hunting Edition Defender, helping to spread the bush branches and ground brush well while keeping the hood or headlights from taking a beating. This classy looking bumper also houses the 4500-pound winch that did get a little use during the trip. As I mentioned beforehand, our hunting party knew when we arrived at the camp north of Edmonton, Alberta that we would be in for some rugged terrain. The fact that it was storming as we drove in and predicted to carry on this way through the week it was clear that we could really be in for some seriously nasty trail conditions.
Muskeg in the bush is like black quicksand and as the ground thaws the depth of this stuff just keeps growing. This was not even on my radar until we decided to travel out into the bush to retrieve trail cameras one evening. Underestimating the situation, I launched the Can-Am Defender off into the muskeg pit hidden only by a layer of logs used for escape by other hunters there. It was right then that I was pretty sure I would be using the winch for the full 50 yards across the muck. The big winch had no trouble pulling me through the mess and to the other side. That was a lesson learned and my passengers and I were glad the Hunting Edition included that winch. On our way back out of the same trail I simply let the gas pedal meet the floor and the massive 1000cc V-Twin Rotax screamed its way across the mire as the Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 tires on the custom black powder coated rims clawed their way through, pushing us into the hard packed trail. And that was that.
Luckily for all of us, the Can-Am Mossy Oak Hunting Edition Defender also includes a set of newly redesigned Kolpin Stronghold gun scabbards. These hard plastic gun storage boots have a liner inside to keep your rifle stable during your ride to the stand. A rubber strap latch keeps the end cap in place. My Mossberg Patriot 30-06 was very new and so was the Bushnell Trophy scope, so the last thing I wanted was for either of them to get thrashed while heading to the stand. Its not only a safe place for the rifle, but it gives the entire group peace of mind knowing the weapon is unloaded and secure while driving those rough trails. Having one for the driver and also a second for the passenger means you have plenty of storage available for firearms.
Mounted to the included headache rack on my Defender’s bed was a repositionable 12-volt light. This is something that was not only used to find a dropped range finder, but it came in handy when we needed to put gear away after last shooting light several times on the trip. Having this mounted on the headache rack meant it might be a little far from a 12-volt power source, so Can-Am added a 12-volt port right below this handy light on the back of the cab. This port is also easy to find in the dead of night. As well, bed rails and tool holders add that little extra feature to the cargo bed.
Rounding out the features of this Defender is the half windshield, side mirror and roof. As the wind and rain picked up, the windshield and roof kept our group mostly out of the elements, except for the time our guide dipped into a huge water hole at speed, catching us all by surprise.
One thing I would tweak if I had to do it again is the stock setting of the suspension. Though it provided ample cushion for three riders, in hindsight I probably should have added just a little more preload to the springs on the shocks to get us up a bit more for those rocky, stump-filled trails. There were no other issues at all with the ride.
Our adventure in the bush was a very exciting and fun filled time with friends. We were able to harvest some massive bear and used the impressive cargo space to haul them from the bush. The Can-Am Defender was already a great long awaited platform from the Can-Am engineers and this Mossy Oak Hunting Edition is just another cherry on top.