Sorry for the late reply! I've been on the road and had no internet opportunity.
Thanks for the offer to help regarding setup! I could definitely use some help.
This morning, I spoke with a different group of hunters who showed me their equipment. I was surprised to see they had somewhat basic equipment, but got very good range. One truck was equipped with a Uniden PRO520XL CB Radio. His partner had a Midland 75-822 CB Handheld.
These were some good folks. When I asked concerning range, they actually had the gentlemen with the mobile drive away from us as he spoke on the CB. He reported at about 4.5 miles (by road, maybe 3.5 "as-the-crow-flys) before we could no longer hear him. The mobile unit had a 102" whip antenna, while the handhelp had an aftermarket 17" or so antenna.
Much as you alluded, they said the antenna was 80% of successful distance, if not more. They also said if they could get a taller antenna on their handheld it would make a great deal of difference. In theory, they felt that if one could put a 102" antenna on a handheld, they could substantially increase the range, maybe doubling it (does this sound reasonable?). This is where your idea of a getting a piece of coax cable over a limb would be great.
After considering the above, could I ask your opinion on this type equipment and use of coax cable on a handheld?
If you prefer, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org