Hunting is one of the most popular outdoor activities in the world. For outdoorsman and survivalists, there is nothing quite like the feeling of self-sufficiency that hunting provides—the ability to feed oneself by tracking, hunting and ultimately harvesting one’s prey.
Hunting is an activity that has gone on for centuries, but only recently have ATVs been introduced into the hunting equation. ATVs—an acronym for All-Terrain Vehicles—allow hunters to cover more ground, pack in more gear and supplies than they would normally be able to bring on foot, and they assist hunters when it comes time to retrieve and pack out their prey to ultimately prepare it for the fire.
ATVs have become indispensable in the hunting game. They have given hunters the ability to quickly go where the prey is; and to track and retrieve their prey without putting undue stress on their bodies.
If you are looking for a hunting ATV, whether new or used, there are several things of which you should be aware before making a final purchase. To help you make the very best decision for your particular hunting situation, below we will first discuss some of the uses—and usefulness—of these vehicles as it pertains to hunting. Next, we will go over some of the accessories you should look for when buying a hunting ATV. And finally, we have also provided a brief buying guide for those who plan to purchase a used ATV—a series of steps that every purchaser should follow before signing on the bottom line.
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- What to Look for in a Hunting ATV: The Usefulness of a Hunting ATV
- Getting from Place to Place
- ATVs Can Be Used for Carrying Gear
- ATVs Save Time
- ATVs Enable Older and Disabled Hunters to Enjoy the Sport
- What to Look for in a Hunting ATV: ATV Accessories
- Tips When Buying a Used Hunting ATV
What to Look for in a Hunting ATV: The Usefulness of a Hunting ATV
Before we talk about some of the accessories to look for when buying an ATV for hunting, let us first take a closer look at the usefulness of these machines—and how the various ATV accessories make these uses possible.
ATVs are used for a wide variety of purposes. These recreational vehicles can turn a day in the desert and mountains into an exhilarating adventure. Millions of people worldwide use ATVs as their primary source of outdoor recreation, speeding along hills and dunes at speeds up to 50 miles an hour. They are easy to ride—much easier than dirt bikes—and provide the same type of entertainment as those vehicles provide.
ATVs are also used for work. Farmers regularly use ATVs around their farms and ranches to haul feed and hay, fix fencing and fix irrigation pipes; and construction and landscape professionals use them to pack in gear, plants and other materials.
And of course, ATVs can be used for hunting. As hunting vehicles, they have a number of handy uses and offer a number of great advantages. Depending on the type of hunting you plan to do, you may or may not be able to benefit from the following uses, but you should definitely consider each one before making a final buying decision. Doing so will help you get just the right kind of ATV for your needs, without paying more for things you don’t require. Some of the uses of hunting ATV include:
Getting from Place to Place
By its very nature, hunting often requires you to cover a lot of land. And for this, an ATV can come in very, very handy. ATVs can travel long distances on a single tank. And, as their name suggests, they can tackle almost any kind of terrain. From sandy spots where trudging on foot can be exhausting, to rocky bluffs, where walking can be near impossible, ATVs allow hunters to get to where the prey is—or at the very least, to get to their blind or tree stand without having to pack in all their gear on foot.
There are different kinds of ATVs. The three-wheel varieties can often negotiate tight places, while the four-wheeled varieties tend to be more stable and durable. Before deciding on the ATV that is right for you, take some time to think about where you will primarily be hunting, and then talk to a professional about the best type of ATV for that terrain and how you plan to use the machine.
ATVs Can Be Used for Carrying Gear
Like most outdoor sports, hunting often requires a lot of gear and equipment to enjoy the sport to its fullest—and ATVs are the perfect vehicles for carrying that gear. ATVs can be used to transport rifles, ammunition and other equipment, which can come in very handy during a long hunt. Even the most robust individuals can get worn out from carrying too much gear with them.
Often times, ATVs can be used to transport gear to places where trucks and other vehicles are not allowed. This makes them perfect for transporting things like blinds, tree-stands, decoys, extra food and water, fuel, tools, camping and backpacking equipment and any other accessories that make hunting easier and more enjoyable.
ATVs are also wonderful to have when you need to pack out an animal after a long hunt. When hunting for big game, such as deer, elk, big horn sheep and wild hogs, an ATV can save your back the strain from having to carry such a large animal from the kill site back to your truck. For this reason, they have become very popular for hunters who prefer big game hunting.
In the next section we will point out some of the “carrying” and “hauling” accessories that many of today’s hunting ATVs come equipped with.
ATVs Save Time
As you will see in the next section, many of the accessories that come standard (or special ordered) on today’s hunting ATVs are geared to help hunters save time. Let’s face it: When you finally get the chance to go hunting, the last thing you want to do is spend hours hauling gear and prey back and forth from the truck. ATVs eliminate this hassle, freeing up more time for hunting rather than packing in equipment
Depending on the spot at which you decide to hunt, you may be forced to park your truck or vehicle more than a ½ mile away from your blind or tree-stand in some instances. This is a long way when you have a lot of gear to carry, and if walking, you may have to make the trek back and forth to your truck several times. ATVs—and the accessories that some of them come equipped with—enable you to drastically shorten the time it takes to get back and forth to your truck, freeing up more time for hunting.
ATVs Enable Older and Disabled Hunters to Enjoy the Sport
If you or a member of your intended hunting party is older, infirm, or disabled, your (their) ability to walk while carrying guns, ammunition and other gear may be compromised. ATVs help people overcome these limitations, effectively allowing them to enjoy the sport they love regardless of their physical limitations. In the next section, “ATV Accessories,” you will see that many of today’s hunting ATVs come with special features that enable “all” people to hunt comfortably.
What to Look for in a Hunting ATV: ATV Accessories
In the world of all-terrain vehicles, there are ATVs and there are hunting ATVs. And while there is no measurable difference between the two when it comes to the standard parts—engine, wheels, handlebars, etc., hunting ATVs do come equipped with many accessories not found on a standard ATV—accessories that help hunters enjoy the sport more deeply and assist with certain tasks that every hunter will sooner or later face.
When traveling into remote locations during the hunt, an ATV can be indispensable. These vehicles can be used for hunting in every season for traversing rough terrain, transporting camp gear and blinds, and bringing harvested game back to the hunter’s vehicle.
In the last several years, the manufacturers of ATVs have come to realize the popularity of these vehicles among hunters. As such, they have begun including a number of handy features and accessories that cater to the hunting crowd. If you are serious about hunting—and serious about hunting with an ATV—the following accessories should definitely be on your wish list when selecting and purchasing your next hunting ATV.
Front Gun Rack
A front gun rack is a must for any hunting ATV. Designed to keep your rifle—or compound bow/crossbow—at arms reach for when you need it quickly, the front gun rack is an accessory that every hunter needs. When purchasing a front gun or bow rack there are a couple things you should keep in mind. First, you want a gun rack that is padded. Keep in mind that you will be traversing over some very rough and rocky terrain. A padded gun rack will help avoid scratches to your gun and bow and keep it in tip top shape for when you need it. You will also want a gun rack that locks your weapons into place. This is another safety measure that will keep your gun—and you—safe, and will keep your scope from getting knocked out of spec.
A front gun rack is ideal for keeping one of your weapons secure and at arm’s reach in case of an emergency. However, if you plan to have more than one gun on board your hunting ATV, a gun boot is a must-have accessory. A gun boot is great to have when riding long distances. We recommend you keep your primary hunting firearm in the fully-enclosed gun boot to keep it safe and protected for when it’s time to take down game. Your secondary weapon can be kept in the front-facing gun rack for protection and emergencies.
A spotlight is another must-have on a hunting ATV, especially if you plan to be out after dark. A hunting ATV spotlight can be used for a variety of functions, such as:
- Locating downed prey after dark. Often times, your hunt may take you into the nighttime hours. This can make finding downed prey almost impossible. A spotlight helps you locate that prey before other animals—or hunters—come upon it.
- Harvesting game. Field harvesting game is a great way to reduce the overall weight of your prey before hauling it back to camp. But field harvesting after dark without any light source can be near impossible. A spotlight can make this chore easy and quick in the right hands.
- Preparing/cooking game at camp. If you are forced to prepare or cook your harvested game after dark, the spotlight on your hunting ATV can come in very handy.
- And many, many more…
Although spotlights have a number of useful functions—too many to count, in fact—they CANNOT be used to spotlight animals with the intention to kill. Spotlighting animals is illegal in most states, and the penalty for such actions can be severe from a monetary standpoint.
Although many hunters may not think they need a front windshield on their hunting ATV, this accessory actually comes in pretty handy—as those who have taken advantage of them will surely attest to. During the colder months, a front windshield can help protect hunters from the icy cold wind that would otherwise blow right in their face as they ride their ATV. This makes the hunt much more comfortable overall. A front windshield can also protect hunters from things like bugs and debris, and keep them protected from the hot sand and rocks that may swirl up when riding/hunting in the warm summer months.
Front-Mounted Carry Bags
Front-mounted carry bags on an ATV can carry a wide variety of smaller supplies that hunters many need during the hunt or back at camp. These bags, which can be sealed very securely to prevent dirt and debris from entering them, are ideal for carrying items such as:
- Extra Batteries
- Spare ammunition
- First aid supplies
- Water and food
- And much more…
Almost anything (small) that you can think of can be transported easily in front-mounted bags. These bags come in a variety of sizes, styles and materials—even camouflage-colored—and make a great addition to any hunting ATV.
Rear Molded Back Seat With Extra Storage
If you plan to ride with other hunters, a rear back seat is, of course, a must-have feature in your next hunting ATV. Rear molded back seats, along with making your hunting ATV larger; provide a comfortable space for your passengers to sit. Even if you plan to do most of your hunting alone, a rear back seat can be used to give your wife and kids rides on the ATV when back in camp or when merely riding your ATV for recreation. Best of all, most rear-molded back seats come with waterproof storage options that allow you to carry things like electronics and extra weapons safely and securely. They are great for storing things like blankets and food for a picnic, essentially turning your ATV into a large vehicle with enough space for four people and a lot of supplies.
Blind and/or Tree-Stand Carrier
As we mentioned in the previous section, when you need to set up a blind or a tree-stand a hunting ATV can be a great resource to have. Today, many hunting ATVs come complete with a blind or a tree-stand carrier—an option that will allow you to get all your supplies to the preferred location in a single trip. Blind/Tree-stand carriers are typically mounted right behind the rear seats, jutting out just far enough to safely secure all of your supplies. This is the ideal way to set up your hunting location without having to break your back making several trips back and forth to your vehicle.
Perhaps the granddaddy of all hunting ATV accessories, a rear-mounted trailer can remove all your hauling worries during the hunt. Typically measuring about 4 feet in length, hunting ATV trailers are mounted in much the same way as any rear trailer. Some even come with electrical features for setting up lights. Hunting ATV trailers are perfect for hauling a wide range of supplies to your blind or campsite, such as the blind itself, tents, backpacks, hunting and camping equipment, food, water and other beverages. They are also the most convenient option available for packing a large animal out after the kill. Around the house, hunting ATV trailers can be used for things like hauling plants, tools, dirt, sand, bricks and other materials from spot to spot, making them suitable for a wide range of functions outside of the hunting realm as well.
The same type of winch you would typically find on larger 4-wheel drive vehicles can be purchased for—and used on—your hunting ATV. According to those in the know, every ATV that will be used for hunting should have a winch attached to it. When covering rough and rocky terrain, and when traveling through soft surfaces like mud, snow or sand, some hunting ATVs may occasionally become stuck. And when they do, a winch is indispensable—a tool that can be used to get the vehicle unstuck with very little effort. A winch is also great for hoisting up large animals as hunters field dress them, and have even been used to drag prey home after the harvest—although we do not recommend this due to the negative effect it can have on the meat.
Quiet Exhaust System
A stealthy, quiet exhaust system is a must when buying an ATV for the purpose of hunting. Most standard ATVs can be quite loud. This becomes a problem when hunting, as this extra noise tends to scare away the prey—an eventuality that can ruin your hunt. Stealthy exhaust systems can help reduce this noise output by more than 50 percent to 70 percent. The best part about these exhaust systems? They are relatively inexpensive and very easy to install. Most can be installed by merely sliding the new exhaust system over the existing exhaust pipe, and tightening just a few pre-drilled screws.
Tips When Buying a Used Hunting ATV
Can’t afford to buy a new hunting ATV? If this is the case, you can rest easy. Now that we have covered the many uses of a hunting ATV and addressed some of the accessories and features you should look for when buying one of these machines, we will now briefly take you through some of our tips for buying a hunting ATV that is less than new.
1. Don’t Buy the First ATV You See
Buying a hunting ATV is a big decision—and a big purchase. Hence, we recommend you look around some prior to signing on the dotted line. Unfortunately, there are some deceptive sellers out there, so by taking the time to do some research before making a final purchase you can reduce the odds of buying a lemon.
2. Always Check the Oil
If you think you’ve come across a hunting ATV with potential, be sure to check the oil for yourself. Very dirty oil can be (but is not always) an indication that some of the parts inside the engine have begun to wear down. And “super” clean oil could be a sign that the owner has recently flushed the oil to present a product that is better than it is. Although the oil can tell you some things, it does not tell you everything—so be sure to ask questions about any maintenance the ATV has recently undergone.
3. Check the Coolant
Just like the oil, the coolant in a hunting ATV can tell a story. Coolant that is low can be an indication that the engine has been running too hot, and dirty coolant, which is oily or contains any particles that should not be in there, can also indicate a problem.
4. Check the Driveline
ATVs, especially those used for hunting, can take some serious pounding, and too much pounding can eventually cause cracks or weakness in the driveline. Thus, when purchasing a hunting ATV, be sure to check this feature carefully—or bring a mechanic to check it for you.
5. Bald or Balding Tires? Use Them to Negotiate a Better Price
Tires are not everything on a hunting ATV—but they are important. Hence, when buying a used all-terrain vehicle, be sure to check the condition of the tires. Of course, tires that are bald or are starting to become very worn do not have to be a deal breaker, but you can definitely use the condition of the tires to your advantage by negotiating for a better overall price.
6. Check Out the Frame
Although you will not frequently encounter an ATV with a cracked or damaged frame, some sellers are not always honest about the vehicle’s history. A bad crash on an ATV can, in some cases, cause damage to the frame, so look it over carefully—inside and out—before purchasing it. You should also look for things like rust, which may indicate some problems with the overall structure of the vehicle.
7. How Does It Look Overall?
Some sellers just take better care of their ATVs—and all their vehicles—than others. This will often show in the overall cleanliness of the vehicle, how the upholstery has been preserved, the absence of trash and other debris, etc. If everything else is equal, and your decision comes down to an ATV that is a bit “trashed” and one that sparkles as if it has been well taken care of—always go with the latter.
When buying a hunting ATV, whether new or used, there are essentially three general things you will need to do. First, you must decide how and where you will use it. Second, you should consider the various features and accessories you will need based on the style of hunting in which you plan to engage. Finally, if buying a used hunting ATV, you should select one with no major internal or external damage; one that has been well cared for by the previous seller. By undergoing these three steps you can be sure to purchase the most ideal hunting ATV for your next big outdoor adventure.