Two weeks ago, hunter Ethan Smith pedaled his bicycle some 15 miles from the Rattlesnake Wilderness Area back to his car with a quartered elk calf in tow, marking the maiden voyage of perhaps the first bike trailer designed specifically for hauling game.
"Stuff broke on my bike, I lost my skinning knife, but the trailer itself [holding 185 pounds] came out without a scratch," Smith says.
The trailer, dubbed "The Harvester," is a prototype built for Smith by the budding Missoula business Greenbeard Trailers, which plans to eventually add the game trailer to its product line.
"We really view there being a need for hunting trailers," says Greenbeard co-founder Erik Aschehoug. "There are a lot of people who hunt and want to get out into areas that are otherwise closed to vehicles, and this is a great way to get deep into the woods and do it in a way that's quiet. You're not going to be scaring away any animals."
Aschehoug, 37, a doctorate candidate in plant ecology at the University of Montana, began Greenbeard with Jonas Ehudin, of Garden City Gondola fame, in July, six months or so after the two conceived of the idea. The company builds its products, including the all-purpose "Skinny Legs" trailer, out of a shop in Aschehoug's garage, equipped with a commercial grade TIG (tungsten inert gas) welder.
"We specialize in building aluminum cargo trailers for bicycles," says Aschehoug, who has 10 years of welding experience, "and I think what separates us from the rest of the crowd is the level of detail that we pay attention to and the quality of our fully TIG-welded frame."
Smith's 24-inch-long, 38-inch-wide prototype came with a frame that fully protects the wheels from trees and brush and is designed to withstand the heaviest of loads.
The best part of the Harvester, at least for Smith, is it allows for one quick trip, instead of multiple slogs dragging elk quarters through the woods.
"Making just one trip was huge for me," says Smith. "With my family situation [he and his wife have a 2-year-old daughter], I couldn't have made three trips. If I'd been gone four days I wouldn't have been allowed to go again."