By Brian Fortenbaugh, Assistant Editor
Bowhunters seem to have a love-hate relationship with ATVs, but ATVS are undeniably useful tools that continue to carve out a place in bowhunting. When used properly, ATVs can be real life savers (trust me, I know). While I don't personally own an ATV, members of my hunting camp do, and I ride them and use them for just about everything - traveling to and from stands, carrying game, hanging stands, hauling firewood. (It's important to note that we hunt on 550 acres of private land where we have permission to use ATVs.) Frankly, I don't know how we used to get along without them.
Bowhunter Art Director Mark Olszewski recently bought a 300cc Suzuki Quad with the sole intention of using it around his home in the woods near our editorial headquarters in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Plagued by a bad back, Mark soon realized how helpful his new quad could be. With trailer attached he has hauled rocks, firewood, lumber, and all sorts of home-building supplies and tools. And he's done more than his share of "good deeds" for neighbors.
But he never really intended to use it for hunting. "I like to do things on my own," Mark told me. "If I shoot a deer, I want to drag it out myself." But when Mark discovered how handy an ATV can be for hauling stands and ladders, targets, decoys, and all sorts of bow gear, the machine started to win him over.
And he likes the mobility. Balancing hunting time with his busy family life and his job here at the magazine, Mark has come to really appreciate the timesaving nature of the ATV. "Hey, I have permission to use my ATV on the neighbor's farm, and if I can save 5 to 10 minutes by riding within a quick walk of my treestand, that's more hunting time for me - maybe the extra time I need to get the big buck I've been watching the last couple of years."
Last fall the Bowhunter crew once again hunted at Stoney Brook Plantation near Gap Mills, West Virginia (See "Sad Daddy Slam," Whitetail Special '03). On the first morning, three lucky guys took 8-point bucks. Fortunately, I was one of those guys. It wasn't long before an ATV crept along an old two-track near my treestand on Elk Knob. While the guys at Stoney Brook don't use ATVs to transport hunters, they do use them to transport game, because the quicker they can get deer field-dressed and hung in a cooler, the better. After strapping my buck to the front of their Honda Foreman 400, Stoney Brook manager Josh Duncan and guide Justin threaded the rig through thick hardwoods back to the their truck. And they were no sooner done with my buck than they had to go get Sales Manager Jeff Millar's deer, which had died at the bottom of a steep ravine. We watched in amazement as Justin slowly crawled the loaded ATV out of that hole. (For tips on safe riding practices, contact the ATV Safety Institute, 1-800-887-2887; www.atvsafety.org.)
Without a doubt, ATVs are tremendous bowhunting tools when used responsibly and in accordance with common ethical standards, the rules of fair chase, and the laws of the land. A quick glance at this magazine's latest reader survey shows that one-third of our readership owns an ATV and nearly half as many are looking to buy a new ATV.
But where do you start? With all the ATV choices, how do you know which machine is right for you? Following are the basics from engine size to drive train to transmission style, plus the latest new-model specs from top ATV makers.
Engine size depends on how you will use your ATV. I'll be the first to admit that I'm a sucker for big quads with big engines (400cc and larger). That's probably because that's what I have used the most, and I just think they look cool.
But maybe you will be more analytical. For starters, don't buy anything with less than a 250cc engine. In fact, a 250cc model will do what most bowhunters want them to - carry them, their gear, and deer-sized game over a variety of terrain. If you want an ATV that will do these tasks and still have enough power to tow a trailer, food plot attachments, or large game like elk and bears, you should probably look at the 350cc to 450cc models. If you think you need more, take a look at the 500cc-plus models. Keep in mind that as engine size increases, so does price. My advice is to pick one that has enough power for the most basic tasks - plus a little extra when the need arises.
2X4 vs. 4X4
Terrain and your budget are the deciding factors on whether to buy two-wheel (2X4) or four-wheel drive (4X4). The quads in my camp are used on the logging roads that crisscross our property. Some of these roads are steep, and all of them get muddy during rain or snow. Therefore, all of our machines are 4X4s. It wouldn't make sense to go with anything less. ATVs with two-wheel drive cost less, but if the terrain where you hunt warrants four-wheel drive, you would be wise to spend the extra money. Luckily, many ATV models on the market allow you switch from 2X4 to 4X4 with the flip of a switch or the push of a button. This feature may be a little more expensive, but there will come a time when you'll be glad you have it.
Today's ATVs have thee kinds of transmissions: Automatic, Manual, and Automatic/Manual Combo. Those with automatic transmissions, which work in similar fashion to car and trucks with automatic transmissions, are the easiest to use. Just shift it into gear and hit the gas. They are definitely the most convenient of the three transmissions, but they do cost a little more. Manual transmissions are foot-peg operated. To change gears you either lift up or push down on a foot-peg located on the side of the quad. They aren't hard to operate, but shifting with your foot does take some practice. The Automatic/Manual combination transmissions are available on some models that have electronic button shifting.
Now that you know some of the ATV buying basics, here are some models designed to meet all your bowhunting needs.
Arctic Cat 400 4X4 Automatic TBX
Highlights - Dry weight 721 pounds; 12-inch ground clearance; 4.8-gallon fuel capacity; 300-pound combined carrying capacity of front and rear racks; 1,050-pound towing capacity; MSRP - $6,499
376cc, 4-stroke, 4-valve air/oil-cooled SOHC engine Ã‚· Automatic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with EBS Ã‚· Electric 2WD/4WD shift on handlebar Ã‚· Front Suspension: Double A-arm; Rear Suspension: FIS Ã‚· Front disc brakes; convenient tilt box; truck-style receiver hitch
Thoughts: Easy to operate, plenty of power, smooth handling. Contact: Arctic Cat, Inc., 1-800-3-ARCTIC, www.arcticcat.com
Argo Conquest 8X8
Highlights - Dry weight 1,025 pounds; 8.4-gallon fuel capacity; 1,000-pound load capacity (On Land without Accessories); 1,600-pound towing capacity; MSRP - $11,900
617cc, 4-cycle OHV V-twin liquid-cooled Kawasaki FD 620 engine Ã‚· Belt-driven, Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with high/low range, forward, neutral, and reverse Ã‚· 8WD Amphibious Off-Road Vehicle Ã‚· Carries up to 6 passengers with large cargo area for your gear
Thoughts: A tough machine that works on land, water, and just about everything in between. Enough said! Contact: Ontario Drive & Gear Limited/ARGO, (519) 662-4000, www.argoatv.com
Bombardier Quest MAX 650
Highlights - Dry weight 785 pounds; 7.4 inch ground clearance; 5.3 gallon fuel capacity; 265 pound combined carrying capacity of front and rear cargo racks; MSRP - $7,299
644cc, 4-stroke, single-cylinder, 4-valve, SOHC, liquid-cooled engine Ã‚· Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), dual-range (hi/low) with P, N, R Ã‚· Full-time 4WD Visco-Lok Optimized Traction System Ã‚· Front Suspension: Double A-arm; Rear Suspension: Rigid Swingarm Ã‚· Large, up-front storage compartment; rear-mounted radiator; step-through design for easy access to the engine compartment
Thoughts: The 2-seat feature is a great idea both for comfort and safety. A solid machine with lots of power and carrying capacity. Contact: Bombardier Recreational Products, (715) 848-4957, www.bombardier-atv.com
E-Z-GO WorkHorse ST Sport 2+2
Highlights - Dry weight 972 pounds; 15-inch ground clearance; 6-gallon fuel capacity; 650-pound payload capacity; and 250-pound bed capacity; MSRP - $5,599
11 horsepower, 350cc 4-cycle, twin-cylinder overhead cam engine - Multiple leaf-spring suspension with hydraulic shock absorbers - Convertible rear seat to accommodate up to two additional passengers; front bumper with brush guards; optional sun canopy
Thoughts: The ultimate in comfort, perfect for larger properties, the more the merrier with convertible seat. Contact: E-Z-GO Textron, 1-800-241-5855, www.EZGO.com
Honda FourTrax Rancher AT GPScape
Highlights - Dry weight 559 pounds; 7.2-inch ground clearance; 3.8-gallon fuel capacity (including 1.1 gallon reserve); 199-pound combined carrying capacity of front and rear cargo racks; trailer hitch with 850-pound towing capacity; MSRP - $6,199
Longitudinally-mounted, 397cc air-cooled, OHV 4-stroke engine - Hondamatic automatic transmission with Honda's Electric Shift Program (ESP) lets you "shift" with the touch of a thumb using two push buttons mounted on the left handlebar - Direct front and rear drive shafts with torque-sensing limited-slip front differential - Front Suspension: Independent double-wishbone; Rear Suspension: Swingarm with single shock - GPS unit with easy-to-read LCD readouts; 100-waypoint storage capacity; digital compass; and an automatic compensating clock.
Thoughts: A tough machine with good acceleration, a tight turning radius, and enough power to carry your gear and your harvest. Contact: American Honda Motor Company, Inc., (310) 783-3745, www.hondamotorcycle.com
John Deere 4X2 Trail Gator
Highlights - Dry weight 500 pounds; 6.7-inch ground clearance; 5.6-gallon fuel capacity; 500-pound load capacity; 900-pound towing capacity; MSRP - $6,749
10 horsepower, OHV, single-cylinder, air-cooled, 4-cycle engine - Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) eliminates shifting - Standard differential lock for pulling through tight spots - 16-gauge steel cargo box; tight turning radius; compact design allows for transport in the bed of most full-size pickups
Thoughts: Turns on a dime and has enough power for what bowhunters would need it for. Contact: John Deere, (309) 765-4645, www.johndeere.com
Kawasaki Prairie 700 4X4
Highlights - Dry weight 602 pounds; 9.5-inch ground clearance; 4.5-gallon fuel capacity; 264-pound combined carrying capacity of front and rear racks; 1,250-pound towing capacity; MSRP - $7,099
697cc, 4-stroke V-twin, liquid-cooled, 4-valve SOHC engine - Dual-range CVT transmission plus reverse with K-EBC (Kawasaki Engine Brake Control) - Selectable 2WD/4WD with Variable Front Differential Control - Front Suspension: MacPherson; Rear Suspension: Aluminum swingarm and single shock - Towing hitch comes standard; digital instrument panel for readings at a glance; all-new bumper, front grill, and cargo racks
Thoughts: Plenty of power when you need it and the Engine Brake Control is a nice feature when you're white-knuckling it down steep hills. Contact: Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A., 1-800-661-RIDE, www.kawasaki.com
Kawasaki MULE 3010 4X4
Highlights - Dry weight 1,278 pounds; 7.2-inch ground clearance; 5.3-gallon fuel capacity; 803-pound bed capacity; 1,200-pound towing capacity; MSRP - $8,799
617cc, 4-stroke V-twin, liquid-cooled, OHV engine Kawasa
ki Automatic Power-Drive System (KAPS) transmission which features high and low range, plus reverse - Selectable 4WD; dual-mode rear differential - Front Suspension: Independent, MacPherson strut-type; Rear Suspension: semi-independent, De Dion axle with leaf springs and shocks - Bench seat; automotive-type controls; tilting cargo bed; large storage space under the front hood
Thoughts: Great for large properties, comfortable ride for two adults, plenty of power, and easy to operate. Contact: Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A., 1-800-661-RIDE, www.kawasaki.com
Polaris All-Terrain Pickup (ATP) 500 H.O.
Highlights - Dry weight 738 pounds; 7-inch ground clearance; 3.25-gallon fuel capacity; 490-pound combined carrying capacity of front and rear racks; 1,225-pound towing capacity; MSRP - $6,999
499cc, 4-valve, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled engine - Automatic PVT Transmission: P/R/N/L/H - Thumb switch lets you choose "Turf" Mode, 2WD, or On-Demand All-Wheel Drive - Front Suspension: MacPherson strut; Rear Suspension: Swingarm -Digital gauges; sealed front storage box that doubles as a cooler; dual fender storage pockets capable of holding up to 20 pounds each
Thoughts: Storage, storage, and more storage! A well-designed powerful machine designed for equipment fanatics. Contact: Polaris Industries, Inc., 1-800-POLARIS, www.polarisindustries.com
Suzuki LT-A400F Eiger Automatic 4X4
Highlights - Dry weight 590 pounds; 9.3-inch ground clearance; 4-gallon fuel capacity; 198-pound combined carrying capacity of front and rear racks; 992-pound towing capacity; MSRP - $5,299
376cc, 4-stroke, single-cylinder, air/oil-cooled, SOHC engine - Automatic CVT transmission with high/low range and reverse - Limited-slip front differential - Front Suspension: Independent, double A-arm, oil damped; Rear Suspension: Swingarm-type, oil damped - Start-in-gear system for fast restarts; full floor boards; high-strength skid plate that won't catch on trees and rocks
Thoughts: Smooth and responsive machine designed to take a pounding. Contact: American Suzuki Motor Corporation, 1-800-828-RIDE, www.suzukicycles.com
Suzuki LT-A500FC Vinson 4X4 Automatic
Highlights - Dry weight 604 pounds; 9.8-inch ground clearance; 5-gallon fuel capacity; 198-pound combined carrying capacity of front and rear racks; 992-pound towing capacity; MSRP - $6,599
493cc, 4-stroke, single-cylinder, liquid-cooled, SOHC engine - Fully-automatic V-belt transmission plus 2-speed sub-transmission - Handlebar-mounted push button 2WD/4WD operation; limited-slip front differential - Front Suspension: Independent, double A-arm, oil damped, 5-way preload; Rear Suspension: Swingarm-type, oil damped, 5-way preload - Handlebar-mounted auxiliary light; start-in-gear system for fast restarts; 3-liter waterproof utility box mounted in the front fender
Thoughts: Plenty of power in a smooth operating ATV, room for all your gear and then some. Contact: American Suzuki Motor Corporation, 1-800-828-RIDE, www.suzukicycles.com
Yamaha RHINO 660 4X4
Highlights - Dry weight 1,049 pounds; 12.1-inch ground clearance; 8.5-gallon fuel capacity; 400-pound bed capacity; 1,212 towing capacity; MSRP - $8,499-$8,899
660cc, 4-stroke single, liquid-cooled with fan, 5-valve SOHC engine - Yamaha Ultramatic V-belt transmission w/All-Wheel engine braking; Hi, Lo, N, R - On-Command Push Button 3-way locking differential, 2WD/4WD/4WD Lock; Shaft - Front and Rear Suspension: Independent double-wishbone -Steel roof support system; automotive-style 3-point safety belts; padded seats; storage compartment under driver's seat
Thoughts: A stylish machine capable of safely carrying you, your hunting buddy, and a ton of bowhunting equipment. Contact: Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A., 1-800-962-7926, www.yamaha-motor.com
Yamaha Grizzly 660 Automatic 4X4
Highlights - Dry weight 600 pounds; 11.8-inch ground clearance; 5.3-gallon fuel capacity; 286-pound combined carrying capacity of front and rear racks; 1,212-pound towing capacity; MSRP - $7,099-$7,399
660cc, 4-stroke single, liquid-cooled with fan, 5-valve SOHC engine - Yamaha Ultramatic V-belt transmission w/All-Wheel engine braking; Hi, Lo, N, R, P - On-Command Push Button 3-way locking differential, 2WD/4WD/4WD Lock - Front and Rear Suspension: Independent double-wishbone Ã‚· Inner and outer fenders; under-the-seat storage area; ratcheting gas cap
Thoughts: A smooth ride with enough power to get you through the worst slop out there. Large capacity gas tank lets you ride further than you thought possible. Contact: Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A., 1-800-962-7926, www.yamaha-motor.com
|Equipment Notes: ATV Accessories|
No ATV is complete without a few accessories like winches, covers, cargo racks, trailers, bow holders, etc. Following is a partial list of companies that manufacture or sell accessories for your ATV:
Bass Pro Shops - 1-800-BASSPRO, www.basspro.com
Cabela's - 1-800-237-4444, www.cabelas.com
Kolpin Outdoors, Inc. - 1-877-9KOLPIN, www.kolpin.com
Summit Treestands, LLC - (Pak-Mule ATV Trailer, see "What's New" on pg. 90), (256) 353-0634, www.summitstands.com
Warn Industries, Inc. - 1-800-543-9276, www.warn.com
Editor's Note: Watch for our "Bowhunting Food Plots" special section in the May/June '04 issue, due out March 23, '04. We'll cover agricultural-type ATV accessories in that section.