How an important hunting attachment can do the heavy lifting for you
Any hunter who has had to lug a downed bear out of the woods knows that it can be some of the most grueling work imaginable. A chubby bear has no natural holding points comparable to the legs or antlers of a deer. So even a 200 lb bruin is next to impossible for a solo hunter to carry out—especially if the bear is being retrieved from a thick cedar or spruce swamp.
Indeed, extracting a larger bear from such cover will put the strength and teamwork of a handful of men to an extreme test. It can be very warm during bear hunting season in many locations, and time is of the essence to prevent meat and hide spoilage.
One device that might be of assistance is the PowerLoader from Great Day Inc. of Tallulah, La. The PowerLoader is a lifting device that mounts to the front of an ATV or the back of a UTV and uses a winch (purchased separately) to hoist game up onto the vehicle’s rack or cargo bed. Then it helps to hold the animal in place for the ride out.
I installed the PowerLoader on a 2007 Suzuki King Quad 450. There is some assembly required with the device, and the process will vary depending upon what model of ATV you’re installing it on. This is because the PowerLoader attaches to the front racks with U-bolts and front rack designs are as individual as the ATVs themselves. It required a couple of attempts for me to achieve the proper clearances for the various moving parts. However, once the job was done the PowerLoader stayed put and had no effect on my day time trail riding. It does partially obscure the headlights, but if a night time trail ride is in your plans, all that is required for removal is to loosen the four mounting U-bolts, and to disconnect the winch cable. Then the entire assembly can be pulled off easily. Once I became familiar with the process, both installation and removal required no more than five minutes to perform.
My first opportunity to put the PowerLoader to work came when I helped to retrieve a friend’s Minnesota black bear. We were hunting bruins that were hammering a farmer’s corn field. I did not take a bear this time, but my hunting partner dropped a nice five-foot boar (photo 1). I drove the King Quad up to the bear, pulled two pins to disengage the Warn RT30 winch’s clutch and then lowered the PowerLoader to the ground. Two more pins need to be removed so the platform extensions could be stretched out to fit the carcass onto the loader. We then shimmied the bear onto the loader, and as my partner stabilized the bear, I reeled in the winch, raising the PowerLoader’s lifting platform (photo 2).
It must be noted here that a winch is a very powerful device, so it is important to stay out of the cable path during operation. Also be sure not to over tighten the winch once the PowerLoader is fully returned to its home position. The PowerLoader lifted the 200 lb bruin effortlessly onto the front rack, and held it in place as I bounced over furrows and ruts during the drive out.
My second opportunity to use the PowerLoader was even more telling. I was hunting at my own bait station in a Minnesota white cedar swamp. It is an understatement to say the terrain was rugged. Thankfully, I was not too far from a road. After taking a 300 lb bruin, the real work began. I wove the strong King Quad through the forest to the bear, which had dropped in its tracks from my rifle shot. Once I was able to get the hefty animal onto the platform (photo 4), I used the PowerLoader to lift it onto the front rack (photo 5). The ride out was an adventure in itself as my ATV dipped and rolled over the terrain, but the King Quad and PowerLoader proved themselves to be sturdy hunting partners, performing a hauling job that I would’ve needed at least two other men to help me with. After this job, the PowerLoader lost some of its black paint, but otherwise was ready to do battle again.
Great Day claims a 350 lb weight rating for the PowerLoader. In reality, a loss of steering and handling with the ATV will likely become an issue before the PowerLoader’s one-inch square aluminum tubing begins to yield due to a heavy load. In the past, I have endured the sweaty, grueling work of dragging a dead bear or deer over countless, exhausting snags and deadfalls. The difference between that experience and using the PowerLoader is like night and day. You will never need to risk a slipped disk or other personal injury again as long as you can get an ATV with a PowerLoader to a downed animal.