One of the greatest challenges facing every hunter is figuring out where will be the good place to hunt. Government wildlife agencies are a good place to start your search. These agencies will gladly provide complete information on areas close to your home that offer the best opportunity for tagging your preferred species. For those wanting to access more remote hunting areas or appreciate the convenience of recovering and transporting their bear, deer or whatever else they’ve legally killed, an ATV is indispensable. Hunting with an ATV is becoming more and more popular among sportsmen for obvious reasons. They provide a means for easy access to locations that would otherwise be very hard to get to with a truck. Sadly, there is always a small portion of people who give the activity a bad reputation. Because of this, there’s a need to educate as many people as possible on the responsible use of ATVs while out on hunting or fishing trips.
Game departments can provide license requirements, costs and additional fees that may need to be paid to hunt certain areas, along with maps and info on access roads, parking and even local camping or lodging. They are responsible for managing much of the land available for public hunting, such as wildlife management areas or protected forests. It is very important to make sure to understand the rules of each individual public hunting area, as some legal hunting hours or season dates may differ from the rest of the province or state.
Most laws and regulations in place here in Canada are similar to those you may see in the States. The most common are simple and logical guidelines aiming at keeping you and others as safe as possible: hunter orange clothing is required while travelling to and from your hunting stand. Each hunter must wear an orange cap and not less than 400 sq inches of solid color above the waist. Camo or orange mesh fabric is not acceptable. Your choice of camo patterns may only be worn once you are settled in the stand. Firearms must be encased and unloaded one half hour before sunrise and one half hour after sunset and must be unloaded while in or on any vehicle. Helmets are required by drivers and their passengers on ATV’s, as is being in possession of proof of ownership and insurance. Of course, you will also need a valid hunting licence. If you’re crossing borders, it is important to get a non-resident licence. Make sure you research the rules and regulations for the area you will be hunting in. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, you cannot possess any magazine that holds more than 5 rounds for a semi-automatic center-fire rifle.
You will, inevitably come across private property owners, all kinds of recreational trail users, as well campers, and allow them to enjoy their recreational activities undisturbed. Respecting others’ rights is imperative. Respectful behavior is something that is easy to accomplish and can make a world of difference. I, sometimes, cross paths with horseback riders and I’ve made it a rule to just stop and kill the engine as soon as I spot them. I will do the same when I meet bikers, hikers or anybody else. The gesture is always much appreciated and it always opens up the possibility of a little bit of positive conversation. I recently did just that as a man approached with his unleashed dog and its owner was very appreciative of my choice to give him time to control it, tie it up again and calmly walk past me with a huge smile. “You’re very kind to have stopped, if only everyone would act this respectfully”. There is always the chance of coming across other hunters in the woods, especially if hunting on public land. Hunting defensively is important; always make sure your target is well identified before shooting. If you spot a turkey in the woods; remember, it could merely be another hunter’s decoy. One must keep a close watch and constantly be mindful of his surroundings.
This sort of ATV use is known to be very demanding on machines, so you might want to seriously look into some possible improvements to your quad, which will insure a safer and more enjoyable hunting trip. Skid plates, after market bumpers and mud guards, grip warmers, exhaust silencer, gun racks, auxiliary gas tank, sufficient dry cargo capacity and the list goes on and on. A powerful winch and aggressive tires are also some of the most important additions to have. Let’s take a look at what the possibilities are for making your ride a better hunter’s best friend.
A GunBoot is what you want if you want optimal protection for your firearm. The Kolpin ATV GunBoot V is a complete package for storage and transport of a firearm. It is made of a heavy duty polypropylene shell and comes with a Cordura soft case liner, and universal fit mount. This is a good option if you want to be sure your firearm is very well maintained, but you could also favor just simple U-shaped racks that clamp on your existing rack or your handlebar. That will leave your firearm out in the open, exposed to the éléments, but it remains another good option to carry it safely when running on a tighter budget. This cheaper option will cost you around 40$ for a single rack and will also be good to carry just about anything including bows, fishing rods, large tools, you name it.
Optimizing cargo space
Most of the time made of durable, weather-resistant polyethylene, an ATV trunk makes an excellent addition to any hunter’s ATV, so he can pack up the many things needed on such trips: decoys, extra clothing, ample food, water, and so on. Kimpex is one Company that offers a good quality and complete line of cargo accessories. The most interesting item for hunters is, by far, their model called the “CARGO”, which offers the most capacity. It’s available with or without an added rack on the lid. Kolpin also has a nice line of different storage products.
Motovan distributes a wide variety of rear cargo boxes, along with varied other upgrades bearing the Quadrax brand name. One available model in particular, #19-1181, is in green army camo. It’s actually only the thick cushioned seat that is covered in a very basic army camo pattern, which is certainly spacious enough to carry your fishing rod, axe or chainsaw. It can be mounted with quick release straps or with the included optional universal permanent U-type mount kit. It also includes two rear deflectors and offers the possibility of brake and signal lights. Sadly, this camo covered box isn’t available for Polaris or Can-Am’s. The #19-1111 Quadrax box is, on the other hand, available to fit any model, but is only a backrest type, a little less money than the other, but there is camo only on the small cushioned backrest part. It’s actually pretty much all forest green.
Another really good option for hunters is the ATV logic line of products, which includes all sorts of ATV Pack’s that really hold lots of gear and look very cool in genuine Mossy Oak New Break-Up camouflage. Constructed of rugged 600-denier polyester, with water-resistant pack material, the three spacious padded and lined compartments, each with separate zippers, offer a total of 3,200 cubic inches of storage capacity. Plus, two of those three compartments are insulated and equipped with leak-proof liners to double as coolers. The ATV logic line also includes fender and handlebar packs, tank saddlebags and ATV covers. Available in black or in Oak Forest camo, their most interesting product intelligently combines both the rear rack storage packs with an ATV cover. Simply open the zipper behind your ATV’s seat and pull out the cover.
Should anything try to ruin your perfect day and stop you in your trip to your secret hunting spot, here’s another really cool addition on a hunting workhorse, the Quadrax kit: a spare wheel and multi-accessory attachment which bolt directly on to the bumper. The kit which contains the rear bumper, a spare wheel attachment and a multi-accessory attachment that is made to fit several different tool and Jerry can holder attachments, can be a savior. Tamarack ATV Accessories also has a wide variety of storage accessories, including soft bags in camo for your hunting ATV. Based out in Leduc, Alberta, the company has produced ATV storage boxes since 1997. They offer a dry storage accessory for those who like to keep their racks clear. The Tube-It™ is a waterproof, cylindrical ATV storage unit that uses virtually no rack space, as this innovative design mounts off the back edge of your ATV rack and provides generous storage space with quick access from both ends. This means you can bring a whole lot of gear, without sacrificing any ATV rack or trunk space.
Another interesting type of cargo accessory that won’t sacrifice your precious rack space is a 20-by-48-inch tubular frame that carries loads up to 300 pounds of bulky gear at the back of your ATV. The Swisher ATV carry-all latches onto your ATV’s 2 by 2-inch rear receiver to carry game, tools, or any sort of equipment. Its receiver bar is Z-shaped upwards, for maximum ground clearance. Among other brand names, you can check out for practical extra storage accessories are Armor-X, Quadgear Extreme, Quadboss or Moose Utility Division products, which are distributed in Canada by Parts Canada. Your quad’s manufacturer may also have all you need for more storage. Polaris, in particular, has a very practical system called Lock’n ride, which makes all of their accessories very fast and easy to add or remove. If you opt for a Pure Polaris cargo box with this system, make sure you tighten the Lock’n ride latch tightly when assembling it to the box, so that the rubber anchorage expands at a maximum when in a locked position (see photo).
To boldly go where no one has gone before
Pumping up your quad’s obstacle conquering abilities might also be something to look into, if your budget permits, of course. Most stock machines are already very well equipped to bring you to that secluded secret hide-out of yours safe and sound, even more so, if it’s a recent model. Today’s suspension systems and advanced tire technology are a far cry from what they used to be, just a decade ago. Still, you might want to at least put on some more aggressively threaded rubbers. That’s one modification that your money might get the most positive effect from, and which can really improve your ride’s ability to climb up and over all sorts of obstacles, not to mention that you will be saving up your winch when getting through water and mud holes more easily and confidently, saving up on that precious hunting time. There are many very good utility type tires for you to choose from. Many will protect you against punctures from contact with sharp objects, such as rocks or wood splinters, much better than your usual stock tires.
Take your time in choosing, as they are a most important aspect of your quad, influencing handling and ride behavior in general. Stay mindful that some of those more specialized types of tires can be only well-suited for certain specific conditions. They might perform very poorly, when used for anything other than what they were designed for. Another fairly popular conquering capacity upgrade, is a lift kit to jack up your ground clearance. There are several kinds of ATV lift kits available; most of them designed for a specific machine and most giving up to 2 extra inches of clearance. This is another modification that can drastically affect handling. Take into consideration that the higher your ATV is from the ground, the higher your quad’s center of gravity will be, thus increasing the risk to roll over. Consider the lift your ATV’s tires allow on your vehicle and decide how much lift you want. You need to balance the over-all existing conditions of your ATV and the lift you install. It is best to involve a certified mechanic with these kinds of radical modifications, as every component must keep working in perfect harmony.
Even if you do choose to use a lift kit and huge tires to achieve more ground clearance, protecting the underside of your quad is a very good investment, as the terrain a hunter may encounter could seriously damage key components and that can lead to costly repairs. It is almost essential to protect the chassis and also the radiator and steering components, basically your entire machine, from damage caused by rocks, dirt and anything else you can think of. The front part of the belly will obviously suffer the arshest punishment; being certainly almost first in contact with obstacles, so the most important is the front skid plate. Protecting your ride as such, greatly improves its conquering ability, as it offers the user a lot more peace of mind and ultimately lets him attack obstacle in confidence more aggressively, in places one wouldn’t even think of going from fear of breaking something.
It is wise to take into consideration that your quad will still need regular maintenance, so check if the plates you are about to buy have access holes in key points like, for example, your engine’s drain plug. You can get a set in aluminum or in polyethylene (a tough plastic); checkered plate steel ones are also available, but for hunters I would suggest aluminum for its toughness and low weight. Some may say they don’t glide over rocks as well than with plastic ones but there is a good trick to make your aluminum glide just as well. Coating them with a product called Coat-it, a waterproof epoxy sealer reinforced with Kevlar fibers made to protect boat bottoms or truck beds, will make them just as slippery over rocks or trees.
Small simple things can make a big difference
Other key things to add on your ride to make sure your hunting trip stays only about hunting: handlebar grip heater kits; even in summer, the temperature can drop quickly for different reasons and a hunter can’t afford to lose dextérité, as he never knows when he might need to quickly aim and shoot with accuracy. A windshield and hand guards might also make a positive impact on your hunt, for the same reasons.
Other than what can be bolted onto the quad, there are all sorts of important stuff to bring along: tire sealant and pump or compressed air canisters, first-aid kit, basic tool kit, bug repellent, tie-downs and any other simple things which might come in handy, in accordance to where you’re going and what the conditions are to be expected.
So, there you have it! You’re ready to go out there and test your patience at the hunt, not from dealing with a beaten-down ride.