Ultimate Top Drives Introduces the Definitive Hunting Vehicle
Enhanced hunting vehicles have been around for quite some time, especially in the South Texas brush country where there is an abundance of dense brush and lack of medium, or much less, tall trees. Distant images of hunters perched in high racks, traversing roads and senderos are seemingly as natural as a part of the topography as Mesquite trees and sunsets. Today, they continue to be a popular addition to the Texas landscape.
Tricked out big game and quail rigs sport about any useful hunting feature you can imagine – dog cages, gun holders, open-air jump seats and elevated shooting platforms – to name a few. As such, they’re perfect for the mild weather of Texas’s quail season, safari-style deer hunting and laid-back treks around ranches. They are custom made creations, often a reflection of not only the owner’s needs but personality.
Perhaps their most prominent features are the elevated perches or “racks,” ideal for spotting game through and above the low, thick brush. Over the years, many such vehicles have transitioned into “top drives,” providing the ability to start and drive from a second elevated level.
Top drives are typically modified creations built from ATVs, trucks or SUVs. Until now.
Silent Ruggedness from on High
Ultimate Top Drives, LLC has developed the Cabra – the first-ever clean sheet designed hybrid electric top-drive hunting rig. This means that, among other things, it’s a production vehicle that was thoughtfully and tirelessly designed from scratch. That’s right, no Ford F250 or Chevy Suburban frame here.
The Cabra was recently rolled out for the Texas Trophy Hunters: Hunters Extravaganza shows – and from the get-go, it created quite a stir with a constant array of wow expressions and holy cow reactions. It should be no surprise, as before even understanding the features, it amazes you with its imposing size, attractive design, and hydraulic articulating cab.
What about the features? Well, there are almost too many to list but here is a summary of some of them. The Cabra offers a silent four-wheel drive operation with front and rear hybrid-electric motors powered by a lithium battery pack. This will get you about 35 miles of silent hunting per charge. However, the onboard generator will expand this range out to a whopping 160 miles – and it will do so quieter than any gas-powered UTV. Goodbye to long walks back to the deer camp or lodge because your batteries run down sooner than expected. Other features include generous storage, 2-100- pound game feeders, dog boxes, gun scabbards, winches, and a spacious bed. The rig seats 7 (5 on top and 2 in the front) and safety was also a design priority with features such as an under-cab camera and sensor-locking cab doors. The speed (normally up to 35 MPH) is governed to 15 MPH while the cab is in its raised position.
And what about portability? No problem. Owner and creator, Russell Eppright addressed this with aluminum, albeit stout construction. Weighing in at around 5,000 pounds, the Cabra can be easily be transported on a flatbed trailer. When the cab is in the down position, it also fits into a standard 8’ tall garage. Talk about practicality.
The Cabra’s development has been quite an adventure but hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park. As with all such pursuits, there have been long hours, setbacks, and tweaks. Still, it was a labor of love. Says Eppright, “It’s been a fun experience, but the Cabra represents 3.5 years of intensive development, field-testing, and trial and error. It has been well worth it, though, because we feel like we’ve had the opportunity to make improvements and add extra utility based on a lot of experience in real driving and hunting situations.”
Speaking of hunting situations, the Cabra proved instrumental in taking a nice turkey on a hunt this past season – a long hunt seemingly headed for a futile ending. “The turkeys weren’t responding to calls. In fact, on the way back to the house, my friend Rich Moore and I spotted a distant tom and were able to put a stalk on him. The stealth quietness and height of the vehicle made the difference”, says Eppright.
Eppright had a good benchmark, having seen his share of modified hunting vehicles over the years. However, much of the Cabra’s quality and diverse functionality can be attributed to his entrepreneurial nature and love of the outdoors. With 50 years of hands-on hunting and outdoor experience and stubborn attention to detail, he was arguably the ideal person to not only invent the vehicle but see it to fruition. Says Eppright, “I spend as much time as I can hunting and tooling around in the country – particularly in South Texas. I saw a need, and the next thing I knew, I was almost four years into this project. I just kept finding more ways to improve it. Plus, it was so effective on the ranch”.
Now in production, this is a tough full-sized vehicle that all bird and big game hunters should consider adding to their arsenal. If you love the outdoors, it’s an ideal vehicle for leisurely ranch cruises with friends, family, guests, or clients, The Cabra’s recreational value and utility are simply off the charts for any lodge, ranch or lease. I know I’ve never seen, much less driven, anything quite like it.
Don’t be surprised if you see one traversing the countryside one day near your property. If you even hear it coming.
Based in Texas, Jerald Kopp is President of 1st Light Hunting Journal. His articles cover a variety of topics about hunting and the outdoor lifestyle. Jerald is an avid outdoorsman with deer hunting and whitetails being by far his greatest passion. He was introduced to hunting and fishing at an early age and has been enjoying it for 40+ years. In 2005, he established the Empowerment Outfitter Network (EON) – a faith-based non-profit organization that provides hunting opportunities for disabled and terminally-ill children and youth. When not hunting, he spends his time traveling and enjoying life with Amy, his wife of over 30 years. Jerald and Amy have two adult daughters and a son-in-law.