Honey Badger Wheel: New Meat Cart for Hunters

Out in Montana last fall, a guy came along with a little wheeled cart and helped me haul out the buck I’d just shot. I’d see such contraptions before, but had never used one. Well, that thing sure made it a lot easier to get my deer across a creek and back to the truck. I guess I had that hunt on my mind when I saw a press release for this new cart, which appears to have a better design and be more substantial than the one I used. I asked the company to send me some info and pictures to share with you, and here’s what they said:     

Hunters have been packing out deer, elk, sheep and other big game for decades on pack animals, or making multiple trips out of the backcountry carrying heavy loads on their backs. Teem LEED introduces the world’s smallest, collapsible, user-adjustable  big game cart for making that work easier and more efficient.

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The Honey Badger is a game changer. It is the first lightweight all-terrain pack wheel designed for deer and elk hunters. This multi-purpose game cart can pack out an entire elk, deboned or quartered, in one trip. With the deer accessory, it can roll an entire deer out of the woods. It straps to your backpack for the hike in and weighs only 13.5 pounds. The kit comes in multiple wheel sizes with or without disc brakes, and accepts bicycle panniers or pack animal saddle bags.

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The wheel can carry a buck up to 200 pounds with the deer accessory. Other big game such as elk can be carried out deboned or quartered, with up to 250 pounds of meat on the frame. The difference between the deer and elk weights–deer are carried on top, whereas quartered or deboned game are carried lower directly on the sides of the frame, which allows for more weight.

To carry a deer, you add sidebars and a front load bar. The wheel is placed upside down on top of the animal with the handlebars directly over the neck. The neck is strapped to the top handle bar and the lower quarter to the two side bars. Then the user flips the wheel right side up. It is simple physics. The load is carried completely over the axle of the patented frame design.

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The Honey Badger Wheel is the alternative to pack animals and gives backcountry hunters the ability to take out all their meat without the heavy load on the back. It is the first hunting product offered on the crowdfunding site kickstarter.com and is available for purchase now until the end of April.

Purchasing the setup now saves you 20% off the future website price, and all supporters receive the Honey Badger Wheel between July and August 2016, just in time for the season. Visit kickstarter to see the Honey Badger Wheel in action and support the project.

Hanback here: I find it very cool that the Honey Badger doubles as an off-road stroller/kid carrier. Young, active outdoor families will love that.

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While we’re at it, have you ever used a cart or similar carrier to get your deer out? I never had, but now I’m thinking I might. Sure does save your arms and back.

Hunt Gear Review: Manfrotto Befree Tripod for Spotting Scope

manfrotto 1 finalYou need a spotting scope, a good one, when hunting for deer or elk out West, or when glassing for whitetails on prairies or in large grain fields in the Midwest and elsewhere.

Without a spotter you might have to hike 3 miles and waste an hour to take a closer look at a buck or bull that you found with binoculars. Much more efficient is to glass an animal, set up a scope, zero and focus and determine quickly, “Nope, too small” or “Yes, a shooter let’s go!”

Most big game hunters do well to select a good spotting scope, but then defeat their purpose by choosing a flimsy $50 tripod for it. Big mistake, because you can’t use a spotter effectively—to zoom and size antlers or horns with rock-solid focus–without mounting it atop a quality tripod like the one reviewed here.

Manfrotto’s legendary full-size tripods are popular with professional photographers (some of our cameramen for Big Deer TV carry them). The company developed the Befree line for both amateurs and professionals who need a compact tripod that one can carry off the beaten path to get the perfect picture, without sacrificing the stability needed to grab a sharp image. So designed, the Befree has become a great choice for hunters and their spotting scopes.

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I tested and carried the Befree MKBFRA4-BH all-aluminum model dozens of miles last deer season, and used it to steady my Trijicon 20X-60X spotting scope (review on that optic to come later).

My first evaluation of any piece of hunt gear, be it a gun, bow or tripod, is simply the feel of it. First time you pick up the Befree tripod it feels sturdy and well-built.

The Befree tripod and ball head combo (more on the head later) weighs 3.09 pounds. The legs have an interesting “inverted-leg” folding design. Retract the legs, turn them over and fold them up and around the head to form a compact 15.75-inch package that fits easily into a medium-size backpack. The folded legs completely enclose and protect the head, a feature I like. 

The legs of many compact tripods only extend 22 inches or so, and confine you to spot from sitting or kneeling, which is generally okay because much of the time you’re on your butt and leaned back into a hillside as you look. But the Befree has 3 retractable sections on each leg that, when fully deployed and with the center arm extended, raise the tripod to around 57 inches. Now you can run your scope from the standing position as well, a big bonus.

The legs extend and retract easily and smoothly, and the 3 spring-loaded thumb toggles on each leg lock the sections securely into place.

On top of each leg is a silver selector knob. Twist each knob once and it sets and locks the tripod into a standard angle of 51 degrees. Twist it again to splay and lock the legs farther apart, to 25 degrees. This feature is designed to allow photographers to spread the tripod super low for dynamic ground-level shots. It can come in handy when you lay into the side of a mountain to glass for hours. With the tripod splayed and scope sitting about 14 inches off the ground, you have an incredibly solid spotting station.

To me a tripod is only as good as the head that holds, aims and pans your scope. The Befree’s aluminum ball head is small and moves smoothly and fluidly in its housing. You work a single wing knob to control the ball’s tension and aim your scope, which attaches to the ball’s platform with a quick release plate and mechanism. This mechanism does take a bit to practice and jiggling to figure out how to lock it in.

 While I generally prefer a pistol-grip head with a spotting scope, the wing knob works. It’s smooth and the tension control is precise as you move the scope a fraction in, out, up and down to find and focus on an animal. 

This Befree model is designed to support cameras that weigh up to 8.8 pounds, so it can handle any spotting scope for hunting. My Trijicon scope weighs 4 pounds and balances well on this tripod at various extended heights.

Professional photographers do a simple vibration test to check the stability of a tripod, and I did the same. I extended the Befree’s legs and rapid center column to 55 inches, and attached the scope. At full extension is when any tripod is least stable and susceptible to flexing that can put a camera or scope slightly off focus.

I’d tap the scope and use the stopwatch on my phone to record how long the scope vibrated. The less the “tremor time,” during which an animal would be out of focus in the scope, the better.

In 6 tremor tests, the scope vibrated for 3.8 seconds to 4.2 seconds before settling back into solid position. I kept my eye in the scope and on the target, and the real time of this vibration was negligible in a typical hunting/spotting scenario. Since the tripod proved steady enough at full extension, it would be even more stable the lower you use it for spotting.

Out west and on the prairies, the tripod was easy to set up and proved solid. I was impressed on the 4 really windy days I used it. In the wind I lowered the legs and spotted from a slouched sitting position, and worked the glass with negligible wind shake. 

In the end, at 7 pounds this tripod with my choice of spotter attached is not super lightweight (again the scope weighs 4 pounds) but the rig is easily packed for 95 percent of the deer and elk hunting we do. The Befree tripod alone is an excellent blend of compact size, light weight, stability and versatility for spotting of game.

No more cheap, flimsy tripods for me. I’ll be using the aluminum Befree travel tripod for many years. It is currently available at Amazon for $213, a killer deal in my book.  

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