I was riding my mountain bike recently trying to get my dogs and, to be honest, myself in shape for hunting season when I started thinking just how versatile these bikes are for the hunter or angler.
Of course, riding a bike is great exercise and I cannot think of a more beautiful place or time to enjoy a bike ride than in the mountains of West Virginia in autumn with cool temperatures and the changing foliage.
However, for the hunter and angler there are other uses for these bikes than riding up and down mountains.
Mountain bikes are a convenient and quick way to access many remote areas of the national forest where ATVs are not permitted.
I have been riding my bike into remote stretches of rivers and streams to fish for years, instead of walking half the day I can ride a few miles and be where I want in a fraction of the time.
Many of our streams and rivers have an old railroad grade or well-worn path that is perfect for a mountain bike and it seems the further you can get away from the parking areas and the crowds the better the fishing is. They are helpful in the summer, when the water is low and the fish are holding in the larger holes and deeper sections, you can pedal from place to place to find fish.
Many of the trails along streams are level and very well suited for riding.
The West Fork rail/trail is a good example of this, stretching from Glady to Durbin paralleling the West Fork of the Greenbrier River most of the way you can access several miles of stream going from one hole to the next.
I have done it many times catching trout in some holes and smallmouth bass in others, I just secure my rod to the bike frame with Velcro bands, wear my vest, and take off, you can cover a lot of water this way.
Aside from the obvious benefits of being in better condition for hiking up and down mountains when the season opens, bikes can be useful tools for hunters as well.
I have been using my bike to scout remote areas of the national forest, by utilizing the many forest service or gas well roads you can quickly get into hunting locations and thoroughly scout the area for mast conditions and game activity. This way I can scout several different places well and know whether it is worth hunting the area later.
This is a great way to locate spring gobblers prior to the season; on a bike, you can quickly ride from one listening point to the next early in the morning when the birds are most vocal. By locating several different flocks, you increase your odds when the season rolls around.
Bikes are a quiet, low impact and time saving way to check and bait stand locations. If you don't have a great deal of time you can ride in close to your stand and then walk the rest of the way to check things out then ride out without spooking game or spending a couple hours walking in areas you do not plan to hunt.
I have even used my bike to carry in tree stands to hang. I strap my stand and all the gear I need to get it hung on the bike and then walk the bike as close as possible to where I'm going.
Then I only have a short distance to carry my things and I can ride out and be back at the truck in no time.
I do not recommend riding a bike with a firearm but I have used my bike to hunt with as well, but I have a shotgun that breaks down that I can pack. Sometimes I will ride it when I go grouse hunting, I can ride along letting the dogs run then stop and hunt productive looking spots.
This works well for me early in the season when I like to get away from other hunters while the dogs hunt.
Nothing against ATVs, they are great if you have a place to ride one, but mountain bikes are quiet, spook less wildlife, and do less damage to trails.
Bikes are permitted in most areas of the national forest and are a great way to appreciate the scenery and traverse its varied terrain.
I cannot think of a better way to enjoy fall's splendor than cruising up and down our beautiful mountains on two wheels looking for wildlife among the myriad colors of autumn.