The Elk Hunter Part 1

Getting ready for the hunt

March 2014 Build

There really is no good reason to be outside in the middle of January if you live in Idaho. It’s too cold to work—well, unless by work you mean wrenching on your own truck, and in that case it’s never too cold. Despite temperatures in the low teens on this afternoon in southeastern Idaho, Adam Westfall was eager to get to work on his 2005 Dodge Ram 2500 SLT.

Adam picked up the 5.9L Cummins with low miles in September 2011, right in the middle of hunting season. With only 48,000 miles on it at the time, it was too good a deal to pass up. But with hunting season still in full swing, Adam was content to let his stock truck go unmodified—at least for a little while. He gave himself a timetable of a year before he would begin to upgrade it.

Adam had been involved with other diesel projects over the years, but knew he wanted to first put together a game plan that would help him reach the goals he had set for his truck. Leaving it stock was not an option, but rushing into his build was just as foolish in his mind. 

Setting Goals

“Basically I wanted a dependable truck that would get me where I needed to be so I can get my animals out,” said the avid hunter who lives for the outdoors. “Plus I didn’t want to get passed on Ashton hill either.”

His vision following the 2012 hunting season for his 5.9L Cummins was to create a bullet proof, off-road beast that would be ready for the fall 2013 hunt. But work and other obligations had delayed his plans so when January rolled around, he knew it was time to get busy.

“This truck is my every day driver, but I want the upgrades to make it more bullet proof for when it has to work,” says Adam. “And a top priority was to get new bumpers because I’m in the hills all the time and on roads that wildlife frequent.”

Adam started hunting with his father Jeff Westfall and his grandfather Rollin Westfall before he was old enough to carry a gun. That influence led him to a position at a local sporting goods store where for over 10 years he sold firearms and archery equipment.

“Hunting is a way of life and it’s been that way for as long as I can remember,” says Adam. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”

After hunting all over the U.S. including Alaska, as well as trips to Mexico to hunt, he enjoys the variety that hunting offers, but hunting for elk will always be his true passion. But now that he’s between seasons, he’s focused all his energy in building a truck that will equal his love for the outdoors.

Lowering Temps

A lot of people replace their rear differential cover for cosmetic reasons, just because the new look gives the truck an instant upgrade. But those who tow and use their truck a lot understand the real benefit. 

Adam contacted Pacific Performance Engineering and ordered its Heavy Duty Rear Aluminum Differential Cover. The internal heat-sink baffles and half-inch external fins help keep his fluids cooler. With the increase in fluid volume, there is now even more fluid to lubricate and cool.

A nice added benefit for the diff cover is that it comes with a new gasket and Adam was a little surprised he didn’t even need to use his gasket scraper to remove the old one. The install was quick and clean and the new cover includes a 1-inch sight level/fill plug with a powerful Neodymium magnet and stainless steel drain plug.

AMSOIL has always been a trusted name in the Westfall house and Adam didn’t hesitate for a second when it came time to fill his new 6-quart capacity rear diff cover. He went with AMSOIL Severe Gear 75W-90 that specifically says on the bottle that it’s for “severe operating conditions of today's hard-working vehicles.”

The gear oil is engineered for high-demand applications, including trailer towing and heavy hauling, plus Adam has found it to be excellent in colder Idaho weather.

Tranny Pan

Continuing with the bullet proof theme, next up was to replace the stock transmission pan. For this Adam went with the Deep Oil Pan from B&M Racing. Extra fluid means more cooling, and more cooling means better efficiency and performance, which will add life to his transmission, which is exactly what the Idaho-native was looking for. The pan features built-in drain plugs and includes mounting hardware.

As for the installation, it’s designed to fit multiple vehicles so it comes with a universal parts bag, which Adam didn’t realize at first.

“A photo would have been nice with the instructions for the filter, but after figuring it out it wasn’t that difficult,” says Adam. “The filter came with an extension piece so it can drop down lower to keep from burning up your truck if you ever happen to run low on oil. But the screws provided in the universal bag didn’t appear long enough, but after a closer examination, my heavy-duty Dodge already included a built-in spacer so we were basically trying to add a second one to it. After this we put it back together and were fine.”

With the new tranny pan installed, Adam figured this was as good a time as ever to flush out his old transmission fluid and change it out. Once again he trusted AMSOIL and used its Automatic Transmission Fluid to top it off. ATF is engineered to outperform conventional automatic transmission fluids. It provides outstanding performance and protection in the severe operating conditions.

Three For Three

With the larger capacity rear diff cover installed as well as the Deep Oil Pan for the transmission, it only made sense to replace the front differential cover as well. For the front, Adam went with one from aFe Power.

With a little plumber’s tape to cover the threads, Adam, along with his father, Jeff, got the aFe front differential cover ready for the install. A gasket is sold separately, but it did come with a tube of Black RTV Silicone Instant Gasket that they used to create a nice lip around the edge before installing it. With a new 3.5-quart capacity, he still had plenty of bottles of AMSOIL left over from the rear diff cover install.     

The aFe front-end differential cover brings performance engineering to the protection of your truck's front-end. This differential cover has a 3.5-quart quart lube capacity (factory cover holds 2.5-quarts) at the fluid level line, a magnetic drain plug and a magnetic fill plug to remove unwanted debris. Built-in external fins transfer heat from the fluid to the outside air for maximum cooling. aFe has also designed a large oil level sight glass with calibration plug set to the factory fluid level to eliminate overfilling.

Ranch Hand

Now it was time to get down to the fun stuff: installing the bumpers. Ranch Hand was Adam’s first call after seeing the Legend Bullnose Front Bumper on its website. The bumper is a tough, dependable product that is designed with what the company refers to as “off-road rally” styling. Standard features include a black powdercoat finish, light tabs and a 2-inch receiver.

Since Adam had never installed a bumper before, he wasn’t sure what to expect, so he invited a group of guys to help out in case it was heavier than he anticipated. 

Nothing brings guys together like a bumper install—probably because it’s not one of those projects you can do yourself since heavy lifting is involved. Adam called his brothers Aaron and Isaac along with his father Jeff to help, plus his friend Gary Wirkus in case they needed more lifters. Turns out it just meant more guys standing around watching Adam work, since way too many guys were invited to this party.  

To get the stock front bumper off, the guys had to loosen the intercooler. There was nothing wrong with the old fog lights so they decided to reuse them in the spots provided with the new bumper.

As it was first going on, you could tell it was a quality-made bumper right from the beginning. It has a custom-look to it; without knowing you would think it was specifically made just for Adam’s Ram. Especially the way it curves around the front headlights, it really has a nice snug fit to it. The tubing used is also solid, which left Adam with a permanent smile on his face as he tried to take it all in. It did take a few extra guys to lift this solid bumper from Ranch Hand, but once in place, everyone was able to step back and appreciate the sight.

Rear Bumper

The Sport Back Bumper from Ranch Hand is just as beefy and as well-constructed as the front one. The way it goes on so easily and right into place is a good indication that it’s from a company that knows a thing or two about quality products. It again had a custom feel to it and the black diamond plate ties in perfectly with the front one.

Adam had a couple of different options when he was ordering the rear bumper, including one rear bumper that is a little longer and replaces your stock hitch mount. But in the end the smaller version that would still allow him to use his hitch was a better fit for him so that’s why he went with the Sport Back Bumper. A nice added touch is that this bumper comes with additional backup lights that easily mount in the spaces provided.

Ranch Hand's Sport back bumper is designed with the same unsurpassed quality and workmanship as the Legend series. This durable back powder-coated bumper is made from formed channel and has diamond plated skirts.

Moving On

The first wave of upgrades dramatically changed the look of the Dodge Ram, but this is only the beginning. The next round will get him even closer to his ultimate goal of having his truck ready for hunting season this fall. 

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