The Guide to Building the Best Predator Hunting High Rack
Whether you're new to predator hunting or a seasoned hunter, building the best predator hunting high rack the first time can be a daunting task. Many times you don't know what features or little quirks you need until the high rack is already built and you've spent time in the saddle. Our goal is to help you minimize the "I should've done..." sayings so you can get it right the first time.
If you want to jump to conclusions and just see photos of high racks and miscellaneous ways people have mounted their lights - here's a great article to give you high rack ideas.
Best High Rack Features
High Rack Body
Body Style: Open or Enclosed
There are two main body styles for hunting high racks - an open and enclosed concept. Let's talk about the advantages and disadvantages to each.
- Less drag from wind, better fuel economy if hunting tournaments and covering a lot of land.
- Easier for up close shots on hard charging predators since the bottom of the high rack is open and accessible.
- Less weight, less material, less money spent.
- Blocks wind on cold nights.
- Completely encloses the hunter, minimizes the potential for a predator to see a hunter moving.
- More weight, more material, and thus more expensive than open concept.
We travel to various predator hunting contests across the Nation, with the majority of them being in Texas. Generally speaking, we see more open concept high racks than we see enclosed concept high racks primarily because of the cost and weight factor. Many predator hunters want their high rack to be easily removable from the truck bed and saving money is always a plus.
Despite this, there are still many enclosed high racks we see on the road and they are usually the more serious "tournament" predator hunters that use this style. They want every edge on not spooking a coyote or bobcat at night by creating what looks like half of a deer blind on the back of their pickup truck.
Both styles are effective, it just depends on which one better suits your needs. If weight is your number one concern, I would consider the open concept. If you want every possible edge on your tournament predator hunting then I would consider the enclosed concept.
High Rack Hunting Lights
High rack hunting lights are utilized to do two things - one is to allow you to see the predator (obviously) but the other less obvious tactic is you can use them to camouflage yourself.
Running red hunting light bars off your high rack on the dim setting can provide enough light output to not spook coyotes or bobcats by "burning" them with an intense light but is just enough to somewhat "blind" them from seeing your high rack. We utilize this concept when we are covering a lot of acreage in a short amount of time. If you aren't sure whether a red or green predator hunting light will work best for you, well here's a full discussion on the science behind choosing a red or green predator hunting light.
In terms of using hunting lights to spot predators, I encourage you to read our article on How to Scan when Predator Hunting to gain knowledge on the right tactics to use to make your predator hunting light more advantageous than even some thermal optics. To give you a quick summary, we discuss how you should scan with your light on the dim setting until you find eyes, then utilize the halo of your light beam and slowly increase the intensity of the light until you have a clear enough image in your scope to pull of a shot.
Size: Fitting Various Hunting Vehicle Types
The size of your high rack ultimately depends on how many people you want to be able to take, and your method of transportation.
It's important to measure the bed of the vehicle you plan on putting the high rack in ahead of time, and if you're not sure if you will keep it long term then maybe you should make it versatile to fit some of the most common hunting vehicle types.
High Rack for Side by Sides & Small Trucks
Common Bed Dimensions:
- Polaris Ranger - 36.5" Long | 54" Wide | 11.5" Tall **note that the opening at the end of the bed is only approx. 50" so the rack would have to be dropped in @ ~53" width or can be slid in @ ~49" width.
- Can Am Defender - 38" Long | 54.5" Wide | 12" Tall
- Toyota Tacoma - 60.5" Long | 41.5" Wide (between wheel wells) | 19" Tall
- Ford Ranger - 61" Long | 44.8" Wide (between wheel wells) | 20.8" Tall
The most common pickups and side by sides we see when traveling to various hunting tournaments are the four stated above. People use these for a combination of reasons - some due to availability, others due to being brand loyal or even due to reputation for longevity.
Keeping all of this in mind, it's best to make your high rack multi-functional. So if you are targeting it to be used for a side by side or small truck, you can see that the dimensions of each aren't too far off.
Ideal High Rack Dimensions for a Side by Side or Small Hunting Truck
Based on what we presented above, for your high rack to be multi-vehicle compatible we recommend the following base dimensions:
Height (distance from bed to high rack floor): 22"
Building a high rack base to these specs means it will fits the 4 most commonly used small pickups and side by sides. If this isn't enough to fit you and your buddy, then you can make your floor board wider and just add supports from your base to the floor board. Here's a photo of a customer of ours who had a high rack built and mounted our Predator Cannon Hunting Lights to his shooting chairs.
Typically for these smaller hunting vehicle high racks you want to have no more than 2 people on them at a time. Due to the dimensional constraint, additional people can be too much for them. This setup above is made from aluminum and hunts 2x 250+ lb men all night long just fine. This rack will fit in the back of your standard side by side as well.
High Rack for Full Size Trucks
- Ford F-150 - 67.1" (5.5 ft box) 78.9" (6.5 ft box) 97.6" (8 ft box) Long | 50.6" Wide (between wheel wells) | 21.4" Tall **Length varies, different length truck beds are available, but width between wheel wells is consistent.
Ford F-250 (350/450 are same) - 80.2" (6.75 ft box) 96.4" (8 ft box) Long | 50.6" Wide (between wheel wells) | 21.4" Tall
- Chevy 1500 - 69.92"/79.44"/98.18" Long | 50.63" Wide (between wheel wells) | 22.40" Tall
Chevy 2500 (3500/4500 are same) - 82.8"/98.4" Long | 50.63" Wide (between wheel wells) | 22.40" Tall
- Dodge Ram 1500 - 67.2"/76.8" Long | 51" Wide (between wheel wells) | 21.4" Tall
- Dodge Ram 2500 (3500/4500 are same) - 76.8"/98.4" Long | 51" Wide (between wheel wells) | 21.4" Tall
Based on these bed dimensions, if you plan to use a full size pickup truck for your high rack and want it to be compatible with the most common brands used in predator hunting we encourage you to build it to fit these 3 trucks.
Recommended Base Dimensions for Full Size Truck High Rack:
65" Length, 49" Width, 24" Height
A predator hunting high rack base with these dimensions will fit all the variations of pickup trucks listed above, along with many other full size trucks. As you can see, the truck bed dimensions don't change too much from one brand to the next.
The above high rack was built by PredatorRacks.com. The rack features multiple swivel shooting chairs with Predator Cannon Hunting Light Bars mounted to them for shooting coyotes over 500 yards away if needed.
The above high rack was built by a customer of ours who has a Predator Cannon Hunting Light Bar mounted on each side of the rack, with a bolt that has a spring on it for allowing the light to rotate from left to right. This allows them to scan an entire field with the light and make the most of the 1,000 yard intense red beam the light throws out.
Ratchet System for Ease of Loading / Unloading
If you are building a predator hunting high rack for a small truck or side by side, ideally you want it to be easy to remove and preferably capable of one person being able to load and unload it. That being said, take this into consideration when choosing your material to make the high rack as well as what add-ons you want to include.
In terms of strapping the high rack down, we recommend using boat transom straps (used for strapping a boat down to its trailer during hauling) to strap your high rack down to your truck bed.
High Rack Material: Aluminum or Steel?
To give you a quick summary of this debate - steel is cheaper, stronger, and heavier. Aluminum is more expensive, not as strong, and lightweight.
Aluminum High Rack:
- Great for predator hunting somewhere near the coast or saltwater
- If you plan on loading and unloading the rack by yourself without heavy machinery to help you lift it, aluminum is more lightweight than steel.
- Not magnetic - if you used magnetic light mounts or other misc magnetic accessories they will not work. They must be bolted or installed a different way.
Steel High Racks:
- Much cheaper, easier to weld in comparison to aluminum.
- Very heavy - approximately 3X the weight of aluminum.
- 2X stronger than aluminum
- Magnetic - compatible with magnetic hunting accessories.
Paint / Coating: Dark Colors / Flat Finish is best
The best way to blend in with your surroundings (the darkness) is by using real dark colors on your high rack. Stay away from lighter colors.
- Black or a dark camo finish are the best colors to use for high racks.
- Avoid satin or semi-gloss paint, still with flat paint. You don't want any moonlight reflection off the high rack.
- Black bed liner achieves both of the key points above and makes for a good paint finish for high racks.
Ways to Keep High Rack Quiet
- Padded flooring will help eliminate sound when moving gun, batteries, or other misc. accessories around while hunting.
- Foam marine boat flooring such as SeaDek, Blacktip, Hydro Turf, or similar branded padded flooring would work well.
High Rack Joints
- It's best to weld the joints on your high rack together, so there are no rattling joints when traveling.
- If you want to stick with bolt together type of high rack, then we recommend using rubber or even plastic washers to keep bolts from rattling while traveling or when the high rack is under load.
Other Misc. Things
- Oil / grease / lubricate anything that moves such as seats, shooting chairs, swivel gun mounts, etc. to prevent any unnecessary noise.
- Strap high rack down to vehicle firmly and added padding underneath the high rack whether it's foam board or even cardboard, will help minimize any rattling.
- Using padding and foam boat flooring on the entire interior portion of the high rack is not a bad idea to help minimize the potential for any noise that might spook an incoming predator. Padding metal surfaces is far more important than padding wood surfaces.
High Rack Shooting Chair
Scanning Hunting Light
One of the most valuable tools in your predator hunting arsenal can be a quality scanning light for covering a lot of area, really fast. Digital devices such as night vision and thermal can kill your night vision, while a red long range predator hunting light will preserve your night vision and allow you to locate predators much faster.
- Dimmable for scanning large areas to get eye shine in an instant, then increase intensity as needed or switch over to a thermal/night vision for pulling off the shot.
- Digital devices such as night vision and thermal lag when you are scanning all night long and have limited battery life. Utilizing a red long range light for scanning allows you to scan faster, preserve night vision, and utilize larger batteries such as lawn mower batteries.
- For a more detailed explanation on how to scan when predator hunting with a light, here's a great article we put together: How to Use Light to Bring in More Predators
Swivel Shooting Table
One of the most functional, user friendly ideas I've seen on a high rack is utilizing a chair swivel base and mounting it to the bottom of your shooting table, which attaches to an arm that comes off your shooting chair.
This accomplishes two things: it allows you to adjust the shooting table whether the shooter is right handed or left handed and it also allows you to be in a more comfortable position regardless of where the coyote or bobcat is coming in from.
Battery Storage & Wiring
The way you store your battery and wire up your hunting rig can make or break your night. Here are some key points to keep in mind:
- Wiring should be clean and all wires should go in adhesive heatshrink tubing for weatherproofing and keeping them all together.
- When running wires for hunting lights from the shooting table down to your batteries, the wire should be run along the base of the shooting chair and it's best to mount the battery to the base of the shooting chair as well to keep wires from spinning and tangling when you are scanning at night.
- If you must mount the battery underneath the high rack, allow enough slack in the wire to allow the chair one full 360 degree rotation minimum. Keep in mind if you rotate one direction, you need to rotate back that same direction so wire doesn't get caught up.
- Mount a battery tray to your shooting table and avoid the wiring altogether.
Swivel Chair: 360 degree swivel
The base of a swivel chair needs to be as heavy duty as possible. Most builders use wheel bearing and hub assemblies because they are more readily available, they can bolt in place, and allow the chair to easily rotate side to side without making noise.
- The hub bolts in to the flooring of the high rack, it should have plenty of support structure in place since this is what will support the predator hunter.
- The shooting chair can be welded to the spindle, which goes into the hub and allows the chair to rotate freely.
- We recommend having a professional welder do these items for you - it will be worth it in the long run.
Ways to Keep Shooting Chair Quiet
A squeaky shooting chair can be your worst enemy. Here's some key features to look out for:
- If using a marine boat or similar style seat that has a folding back, make sure the hinges on the back are lubricated and greased very well to prevent any squeaking when you are getting in the shooting chair.
- If opting for a shooting chair that rotates with a hub and bearing, make sure the bearings are greased well prior to going hunting. This is especially important if the high rack has been sitting out for a while.
- Padding on your shooting chair is good for comfort but even better for staying quiet.