Deer Hunting with the 2019 Chevy Silverado Trail Boss
Pickup Truck Talk‘s Tim Esterdahl takes Chevrolet Forum along as he stirs up dusty back roads looking for elusive prey.
Each fall, thousands of hunters walk through the forest, climb into trees and sit quietly hoping to spot an often elusive deer walking by. While this is typically how hunting goes, we recently went a different direction, taking a 2019 Chevy Silverado Trail Boss. And we didn’t want to stop driving this pickup!
For our hunting plan we had permission to hunt on thousands of acres of private property consisting of wide open stretches of empty farm ground. This allowed us to spot deer from hundreds of yards away, from the convenience of our heated pickup cabin. It also meant hours upon hours of sitting in the aforementioned cabin. This is definitely a great way to get a feel for the Trail Boss.
Before we get into how the pickup performed, we should first start with what we were driving. Our test model was the new 2019 Chevy Silverado Trail Boss in a crew cab with the updated 5.3L V8 engine. This pickup is based on an LT trim Silverado and adds the Z71 package (Rancho shocks, skid plate, locking rear differential) plus a 2-inch lift. It rides on 18-inch Goodyear Duratrac off-road tires and sported the Cajun Red exterior color ($495 upcharge) with blacked out Chevy badges on the front grille. Also, we had the optional off-road black assist steps ($895) which were heavily used and well liked during our hunting trip.
Each morning, the cold temps had us moving quickly to load up the cabin and hit the road. Also, every morning, we immediately began to hate on the rock hard seats. Turns out, in the cold, the leather bucket seats turned to rocks and only after firing up the heated seat option did they loosen up to a more agreeable firmness, albeit still not the softest seats around.
While the seats may not have won us over, the rest of the cabin had plenty to offer. We used each and every storage bin, cup holder, and even the storage bin on the dash above the radio, a favorite place to put binoculars or maps, for our gear.
Scanning the horizon, the placement of the A pillars and large windows didn’t obstruct our view. We were able to easily spot moving deer in the distance or see dark mounds we thought were deer.
On the mostly uneven roads with sporadic washboards, the Trail Boss made it seem like we were driving on pavement.
Over the course of a few days, we would sit for a while and then drive for a while. Alternating based on where we thought the deer were heading. The vast majority of the time, we were on dirt roads and the Z71 package really showed its improved ride over a stock LT Silverado. On the mostly uneven roads with sporadic washboards, the Trail Boss made it seem like we were driving on pavement. The smooth ride, coupled with the 5.3L V8 mated to an 8-Speed automatic producing 310 HP and 335 lb-ft of torque, gave us plenty of power when required like chasing down the last minutes of daylight hoping to spot a deer.
When we needed more power, a simple flick of the dual Tow/Haul and Sport mode dial put us into Sport mode allowing for even better acceleration. This is a fun, yet easy to forget about, driving mode altering the transmission shift points and accelerator response. Why forgettable? In the days we spent behind the wheel, we only used it twice. Both times were for putting smiles on our faces, ultimately leading to more money spent at the gas pump.
Speaking of gas, the 5.3L V8 is still pretty thirsty even with the new Dynamic Fuel Management system. Our test model was rated at 15 city/20 highway and we saw 16 combined MPG fuel economy.
Heading to the gas station meant leaving the dirt for the paved roads. The ride quality was not surprisingly firmer than on the dirt and while the pickup felt solid, it wasn’t the smoothest riding pickup on the market. However, that is part of the compromise with the 18-inch Duratrac tires. The Duratrac tires did impress us though with the lack of wheel whine often found on dirt orientated tires.
Sitting in the pickup watching for deer also left us plenty of time to play with Chevy’s 8-inch infotainment screen with the MyLink software. This screen looks smaller than it is due to the interior styling of the cabin. It is rather unfortunate, since the software stands out as one of the better infotainment systems out there. The system is easy to use, the icons stand out nicely and the radio is simple to use. The sound system won’t blow your doors off, but it produces a nice sound with plenty of volume if a certain rock song comes on.
On several occasions, we did get to truly test out the 2-inch lift found on the Trail Boss. One morning, we were surprised to find a buck walking up behind us on a rare time when we hiked into a public management area. Turning, aiming, and firing: The buck was ours. However, this meant a nearly 2 mile walk back to the pickup, and a lingering question as to why we hiked in the first place. After finally reaching the pickup, we drove on a rancher’s road to reach where we had dragged our buck. Dropping the tailgate, via the piano key button on the center stack–a pretty handy feature it turns out–we quickly discovered the downside to a 2-inch lift: Hauling the deer into the bed. Pulling from the top while lifting from the bottom, the deer begrudgingly moved into the bed.
The taller Silverado, equipped with skid plates, gave us a lot of confidence getting over the pit and driving on the prairie.
Another time, we were on the back roads in Nebraska when a herd surprised us on the road after we turned a corner. Quickly loading the rifle, we hopped out and walked out onto the open prairie to the pleasant surprise of the curious deer waiting and watching. With a steady aim, our second buck was ours and once again we found ourselves dealing with the 2-inch lift issue. However, this time the lift proved valuable as we made our way to the deer which meant driving through a rather deep barrow pit (or ditch depending on your location). The taller Silverado, equipped with skid plates, gave us a lot of confidence getting over the pit and driving on the prairie to retrieve our deer.
When we weren’t out hunting for deer, we were playing in the dirt on an old farm road, testing out the suspension even further and at higher speeds. The shock rebound from the Rancho kept the pickup planted at these higher speeds and the large bumps were mostly muted.
Turning off traction control, we got to experience the pickup even better with power sliding through the corners trying to kick the back end out while smashing the gas. The Duratrac tires held their own and kept us from smashing into the barbed wire fence while we kept the throttle down. Even without Sport mode, the engine provided enough power to cause us to slow it down a little to keep the pickup under control. While not trophy truck fast, the Trail Boss didn’t disappoint. We went back again and again for more off-road fun.
We finished our trip filling one final doe tag, and we were able to fit all three in the new, larger bed of the Silverado. Ultimately, the hunt and the pickup were both a success. The deer provided a lot of meat for the freezer and the pickup gave us a good ride throughout our hunt.
Our test model came in at $57,280 with all options, and is available now at your local Chevy dealer.
Photos: Tim Esterdahl