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Hunting With an ATV

One of the biggest tourism draws to central Utah is the Paiute ATV Trail; it might even be the single biggest reason people come here on purpose. Of course, I’m not counting those who are just passing through on the way to some unknown destination, only stopping here to stretch their legs and grab a bite to eat.

However, before the days of four wheeler tires scratching their way along the trails came, big game hunting used to be the single biggest reason people traveled to this area. It was a big deal. Thousands of people crammed into our small towns for a few weeks each fall.

As deer and elk populations dwindled, so too did the hunters and the economic boost they brought. Nevertheless, hunting still plays an important role around here and wildlife officials use it as a means of controlling animal populations. In fact, the popularity of hunting as a sport, as well as its use as a game management tool, is common all across the United States and Canada.

But hunting methods have changed.

Advantages of Hunting with an Off-Highway Vehicle

Unlike early American hunters like Daniel Boone and Jim Bridger, the nimrods of today enjoy much easier ways to pursue large game. The days of walking are nearly over and only the true old West romantics still ride horses. Everyone else uses motorized vehicles.

Trucks are comfortable and warm and allow you to listen to the radio or converse with a friend as you scout for animals, but they don’t quite do the job for those hard to access areas. It’s also rather awkward to safely remove a firearm from the cab of a vehicle.

ATVs, however, offer a lot of advantages to hunters. Here are a few:

  • Access to Difficult Locations
    There are a lot of trails today that are built with ATVs in mind; trails too narrow and rugged for full-sized trucks. Trails become overgrown and really scratch up the paint job on your truck. Some wash out or have stream crossings, while others have large boulders. An off-highway vehicle outfitted with a durable set of all-terrain ATV tires will get you through any of these situations.
  • Cover a Lot of Ground
    If the game you’re hunting is on the move, it’s very easy to keep pace or to relocate to a new position while keeping all of your gear with you.
  • Carry All of Your Gear
    With an all-terrain vehicle, you can hunt all day and keep everything you need right with you-even use it as a comfortable place to sit while leaving the big or unnecessary stuff back at base camp.
  • Carry Large Game
    Once you finally bag that trophy (bear, deer, elk, hog, antelope, moose, turkey, etc.), getting it back to camp is quite easy. If it’s been raining, put on a pair of ITP Mudlites before you go to be sure you have the traction needed to haul that load.

Hunting Accessories for Your ATV

There are lots of great ATV accessories for every occasion and hunting is no different. It’s a long list, but here are a few of the ones that I see most often when I’m in the mountains during hunting season.

  • Gun Scabbards
    They protect your firearm, keep it handy, and allow for safe transport. They come in many styles: hard case, soft case, leather, enclosed, open-ended and camouflage.
  • Gun Racks
    Similar purpose as a scabbard, but gun racks allow for an “open” method of carrying for fast access to your rifle. Not to mention that if done right, they can look pretty cool. Gun racks come in many types: U-shaped grips, enclosed oval grips or Rubber Snubbers are among the most common. They attach to cargo racks, roll bars and the frame of a UTV.
  • Bow Holders
    It’s important to archers to protect their expensive bows, especially when riding in rough country. And, just like gun scabbards, bow cases can be hard or soft, enclosed or exposed.
  • Tree Stands and Carriers
    ATVs can easily carry tree stands to a blind or observation point. You can even get a “Ride and Hide ATV Stand” that mounts to your four-wheeler so you don’t even need a tree.
  • Fender Bags
    These make handy and accessible storage compartments for arrow tips, ammunition, elk bugles, and numerous other hunting items.
  • Winch
    This is a must-have for hunters. It can get you out of a tight spot, retrieve game, move logs from the trail, and many other uses.
  • Big Game Loaders
    There are several varieties on the market today that work somewhat like a forklift. They mount to the front of an ATV and use the power of your winch to lift, secure, and carry animals.
  • Stealth Exhaust
    Kolpin makes one of these units that claim to reduce exhaust noise by 50%.
  • Hand Warmers
    Let’s face it, the weather can be mighty cold during the late fall, and staying warm is important. There are a variety of devices on the market today that attach to the handle grips of an off-highway vehicle to keep your hands warm. Snowmobiles have used these for years and it’s about time ATVs did
    the same.
  • Helmet
    Not only does a helmet keep you safe from injury, but it will keep your head warm and dry during inclement weather in the backcountry.

Obey the Law

Each state or province (for you Canadians, eh) has its own set of laws to govern hunting, so don’t assume everywhere is the same. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to ride off of designated trails for hunting or game retrieval purposes. Most areas do not permit this practice.

Perhaps the number one area of regulation is the transport of firearms or other hunting devices such as bows. Laws are literally all over the map on this issue. It’s usually considered unlawful to carry a loaded firearm on an ATV. What is loaded? In some states, the magazine may not be inserted into the gun, while in others an unloaded firearm requires at least two mechanical actions before the gun will fire. There are laws that require firearms be completely encased during transport. Yet, in other places, this only applies to long rifles, not handguns. Similarly, bows often cannot have arrows in them, arrows must be in a quiver, or a bow must be encased. Take some time to learn these rules or it could cost you.

When carrying concealed firearms, a permit is required and it must remain concealed. Whose land are you on? In most cases, concealed carry permits do not apply to federal properties. If you are out of your home state, check the laws of the state you are visiting to see if they honor your state’s concealed carry permit; it’s called reciprocity.

Shooting from a motor vehicle – any motor vehicle – is often prohibited.

Bagging the Big One While on an ATV

For those who hunt, good luck this season! Your ATV/UTV will provide a lot of options for hunting. And who knows, perhaps you’ll be like the guy I met a few days ago (without my camera) who had a large bull elk sprawling over the bed of his camouflaged Polaris Ranger. The Duro Power Grips he had were straining, but still carrying the load just fine.

No matter where or what you hunt this season, be safe.

Ryan Richards

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