Over-sized tires, lift kits, skid plates, winches, brush guards, dual batteries, off-road lights, gun racks, cargo boxes, light bars and tube bumpers are the typical accessories we hunters love to bolt onto our hunting trucks. They are items of both form and function.
Accessorizing a hunting rig elevates its functionality from an everyday driver to a rig capable of handling the unique demands hunters require of such vehicles. Getting to and from the hunting area is one thing. Being able to efficiently carry guns, gear and game while comfortably and safely transporting you and your friends to and from camp is another. Accessorizing also sets us apart from everyone else; it makes a statement of who we are and makes us feel good about what we drive.
So it is with ATVs. The big difference is while vehicle manufacturers shy away from offering a one-stop accessory shop for pickups and SUVs at the local dealer, ATV makers work closely with their dealers to offer an ever-expanding line of accessories designed specifically for their products. What that means is you can walk into just about any ATV dealer worth its salt and drive away in a sport/utility, side-by-side or utility ATV custom-fitted with the accessories that fit your style of hunting and year-around four-wheeler needs.
Just The Basics
When I first started using ATVs as hunting transportation, my most basic need was packing along my stuff while I concentrated on riding. The best way to carry gear was in an egg-crate strapped to the rear rack, while my rifle or shotgun was lugged over the shoulder. That quickly evolved to a backpack for gear and plastic gun case for the gun.
Today, ATV-specific gun scabbards protect firearms, and a wide variety of cargo carriers designed specifically for ATV use keep clothing and other gear protected from the elements. Such items fit securely on the ATV with the use of straps or special mounts that allow them to be easily and quickly removed when not in use. What's even more intriguing is the variety of cargo-carrying accessories available. If there's an open space on an ATV, odds are someone makes a bag, pack, locker or some other storage item to fit that space.
If your ATV manufacturer doesn't have what you need, there are a number of aftermarket suppliers that probably do. One such manufacturer is Moose Utility Division, or MUD for short. It sells its hard-plastic products through Parts Unlimited ((608) 758-1111). MUD is a virtual candy store for ATV packs, racks, trunks and lockers to fit almost any cargo or gear carrying need.
Two neat MUD cargo carriers are the rear-mounted Sportsman Storage Trunk ($190) with its big access door, and the Prospector Front Storage Trunk ($131), which comes equipped with locking latches and side reflectors. Both beat egg-crates and backpacks any day.
Need a little extra gas on the trail? Not a problem if you have MUD's Gas Can Carrier ($42) that fits on front or rear tubular metal ATV racks. The carrier is designed specifically for Wedco ((888) 449-3326) gas cans, which can be purchased at many auto parts and ATV accessory stores.
Another good source of cargo carrying accessories for ATVs is Kolpin Powersports ((877) 956-5746). Koplin specializes in heavy-duty soft bags such as the new 92120 Rear Cargo Bag ($126), which features a main storage compartment measuring 31 inches x 13 inches x 111/2 inches and two small compartments measuring 9 inches x 5 inches x 10 inches. The bag has a heavy-duty water- and dirt-repellent Hydro Shield exterior to keep items inside dry and clean. Kolpin makes all of its soft bags with special Mud Guard zippers to prevent debris from entering the bag. The bottoms feature a special "diamond plate" plastic tread and Rhino Armor reinforced corners for extra durability. Of course many of these types of products can be ordered in your favorite camo pattern to fit the overall look of a serious hunter who equips their ATV to hunt the country in stealth mode.
Speaking of camo, you can protect an ATV's body and reduce sun reflection with special covers made with waterproof Cordura. Moose Utilities and James Greene Products ((336) 670-2186) are the biggest of the aftermarket providers that sell camo covers, packs and products through e-stores such as Ducks Unlimited, Big Buck All-Terrain Products ((866) 588-2887) and Arkansas Duck Hunter ((866) 501-3825).
But carrying game and gear is just one element of really letting an ATV work for you. Establishing food plots, spraying weeds along roadsides, moving around small trailers and knocking down grass are just a few of the "utility" benefits a well-equipped ATV can offer a hunter. That's where a number of new working accessories help you get the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to buying that next ATV.
Arctic Cat is taking the lead by taking dead-aim at the sub-compact farm tractors with sport/utility and utility attachments. When I first heard of this I was a bit skeptical as to its implements' true worth, but a little work time showed me its products are really very good.
Arctic Cat offers a neat self-contained Speedpoint hydraulic three-point hitch system for all of its 400cc-and-larger ATVs. This optional accessory system retails for less than $800 and allows Artic Cat ATV owners to quickly switch between mowers, plows, discs, sprayers, spreaders and a number of other implements and accessories normally associated only with tractors.
It's powered by the ATV's 12-volt system and has the actuator control switch mounted on the ATV's rear Speedrack. The hydraulic hitch can put 600 pounds of down force on the attachments, making it ideal for prepping everything from gardens to remote food plots. ATV-ready attachments range from $300 for a cultivator to $1,999 for a 63-inch finish mower. Arctic Cat also offers a very high-end, self-contained, double-boom sprayer system that mounts on the Speedrack for $350.
Polaris is also getting into the utility accessories market with its Pure Polaris line of products. Although not nearly as extensive as Arctic Cat's line of products, Pure Polaris still provides an owner with factory-designed products to make work using their ATV easier.
Go Anywhere, Anytime
Of course, the idea of owning an ATV is to get from point "A" to point "B" and back again when other modes of transportation—short of walking or riding a horse—would be a very tough go.
Bone-stock 4x4 ATVs are remarkable when it comes to off-road transportation. But when you take them to the next level with special lift kits, bigger tires and more aggressively locking differentials, well, let's just say they can be quite impressive at what they can accomplish when the terrain looks all but impassable. If the terrain you encounter while hunting takes you through deep mud, snow or other tough conditions where the typical ATV would be stopped dead in its tracks, check out the lift kits and big tires offered at e-stores such as High Lifter ((318) 524-2270) and Rocky Mountain ATV ((800) 336-5437).
If deep snow, mud or soft sand hinder where and when you can use your ATV for work or hunting, companies such as Mattracks Inc. ((218) 436-6000) and ATV Tracks ((866) 243-8359) offer a variety of track-conversion kits. A track-equipped ATV is all but unstoppable.
The real draw for me of late is not single-rider 4x4 ATVs, but rather side-by-sides. I prefer them because they're as maneuverable as a regular 4-wheeler, but you can take a couple buddies with you and have the side-by-side tricked out almost like a Jeep or brush buggy. Just take a look at the new Polaris RZR side-by-side or what hunters are doing with Yamaha Rhinos and you'll see what I mean.
Polaris offers a whole array of accessories for the all-new two-passenger RZR to make it totally hunter cool. The Pure Polaris offerings include items such as nerf bars, a fully enclosed cab, rally lights, gun scabbards, spare tire carriers, fuel can mounts, winches and full windshields. Meanwhile, companies like Daystar ((800) 595-7659) and Black Rhino Performance ((619) 561-5000) offer a whole world of lighting, body protection, skid plates, electrical, storage and performance accessories for the Yamaha Rhino.
Such accessories will no doubt spread to the Polaris Rangers, Bush Hogs, Club Cars and other side-by-side sport/utility and utility ATVs as they continue to grow in popularity among hunters and avid outdoorsmen.
Accessories such as these are becoming very popular as ATVers, especially those who use them to hunt, find more and more uses for their machines during the year. Being able to mix and match these specialized products to match the need adds greater flexibility in the field—be it for a few hours or several days.