Hardcore hunters are always on the prowl... for tools and technology to help them hunt more efficiently. You want to be armed with the best tools possible when you're hunting the object of your obsession. You also want to get to the best spot, as quickly and quietly as you can.
Technology has come a long way in the department of speed and efficiency. Multi-passenger off-road utility vehicles lead the surge in improved mobility. Recent advancements bode well for hunters when it comes to ATVs and UTVs used primarily for transportation in the field and working food plots. The advancements are so great, in fact, they're tough to keep up. So NAHC recruited sporting vehicles pro Bruce Smith to break down some of the best ATVs and UTVs available on the market today. Here's your guide:
Well-known for its golf carts, E-Z-GO has expanded the company's offerings from the fairways to the fields, and hunters are the biggest beneficiary. E-Z-GO 2008 "Trail Utility Vehicles" offer the type of utility hunters will find useful in light to moderate off-pavement driving situations. For example, the ST-4x4, powered by a 614cc Honda four-stroke engine, features aggressive 25-inch tires, locking front and rear differentials, "on-the-fly" four-wheel-drive, a bed payload capacity of 1,000 pounds and a top speed of 25 mph.
The two-wheel-drive ST-Sport is a little smaller and more nimble than the ST-4x4. It's powered by a 350cc Robin-Subaru four-stroke engine and a constant velocity automatic transmission (CVT). A 250-pound bed capacity and the optional center-post two-gun rack and hard-top cover make it attractive to bird hunters. The E-Z-GO ST-480, a two-wheel-drive UTV powered by a 480cc Vanguard four-stroke engine, is also an attractive field hunter's ride. It has a payload capacity of 800 pounds, on-demand locking rear differential and 6 inches of ground clearance. Such a combination makes this machine good transportation over dry farm roads and stubble fields.
There are a lot of changes in the 2008 Polaris offerings. First off, they dropped the "Hawkeye" moniker, so now all Polaris sport/utility ATVs fall under the Sportsman brand. Then Polaris simplified its Sportsman line along with bringing in complementary models that will appeal to a wider variety of ATV buyers. They've also expanded their line of two-up ATVs, which should attract a number of hunters who like to be out with a partner, and added a "touring" model to make life on the trail a whole lot nicer for the back-seat rider.
The Sportsman 800 EFI, with 1,500 pounds of towing capacity and the ability to carry 300 pounds between the front and rear racks, is a force to reckon with in the field. Its twin-cylinder, four-stroke engine comes standard with dual exhaust, improved throttle and clutching response and automotive paint that's nine times more resistant to scratches and wear than the typical color-impregnated plastics found on most ATVs. Polaris saw the need for making the practice of riding two-up safer, so last year they came out with a pair of Sportsman "X2" models designed for riding double. In 2008 Polaris will offer four two-up models, including all-new 500cc and 800cc Touring editions.
Like its less powerful 500cc twin that is also new for 2008, the Sports?man 800 Touring model is a very cool two-up ATV for hunters. It utilizes a 7-inch-longer frame than the single-rider
Sportsman 800 sport/utility ATV, and it incorporates a heftier rear suspension designed to accommodate a second passenger.
As with all the Polaris two-up quads, the 800 Touring model features an exclusive VERSATRAC system and "rolled" Independent Rear Suspension. VERSATRAC enables the rider to use a thumb switch near the right handgrip to choose between two-wheel drive, On Demand All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) or full-time AWD.
The sporty 2008 Ranger RZR side-by-side, which came out earlier this year, is a quick, nimble side-by-side that should find favor with ATV owners looking for high performance with a level of utility value. The RZR is powered by the same Polaris 800 Twin EFI engine as found in the Sportsman 800, making this new entry the fastest-accelerating side-by-side with the highest horsepower in its class: It accelerates to 35 mph in only 4 seconds and tops out at 55 mph.
The Ranger RZR measures only 50 inches wide and weighs just 945 pounds. Tilt steering, adjustable passenger T-bar and sliding seats make it easy to get comfortable. The RZR might be the new standard for side-by-side UTVs because of its cargo bed with 12 tie-down points, 300-pound load capacity, 1,500-pound towing capacity, under-hood storage and a wide variety of Polaris accessories including a front-mount winch, gun scabbards, overhead off-road lights, plow mount, enclosed cabs and Lock & Ride cargo systems.
Also new for 2008 is the six-passenger Ranger Crew, a tough, smooth-riding, multi-passenger utility vehicle powered by a Polaris 700 Twin EFI engine. With the ability to carry six hunters at a time and 1,750 pounds of total payload, the new Ranger Crew is the vehicle for a hunt club that has a number of members on the property at the same time. It's quick, too, topping out at 44 mph. Club owners will find its massive, dual, under-seat storage useful, as will be the all-wheel-drive system, independent rear suspension and the array of accessories available.
Kawasaki Kicks It Up
The Realtree APG HD camouflage pattern on the all-new 2008 Kawasaki Teryx 750 4x4 is perfect for the hunting lifestyle. This brand new mid-engine, side-by-side 4x4 recreational sport vehicle is the first to offer V-twin power.
At the heart of the Teryx 750 is a 749cc, 90-degree V-twin engine, the same version found in the Brute Force 750 4x4. This model shares the long A-arm and narrow frame concept of its sport brethren to give it maximum travel while minimizing wheel camber change. Adjustable Kayaba suspension with gas-charged shocks give it a sport-performance ride and handling.
When the terrain requires it, the driver can activate four-wheel-drive with a simple servo-control switch. Additional traction control is achieved via an ATV-style hand lever that functions like a rear hand brake and lets the driver select how much the front wheels are locked together. The rear wheels stay locked and always turn together, providing maximum traction in the worst conditions.
Other features include 26-inch Max?xis tires; dual disc brakes up front and a sealed wet brake in the rear; retractable three-point seat belts; a 500-pound- capacity tilting cargo bed; a 1,300-pound towing capacity; 40-watt headlights; full digital instrumentation; scratch-resistant Thermo-Plastic Olefin bodywork; and steel skid plates.
Kawasaki added the 953cc three-cylinder diesel to the Mule 3010 Trans4x4 last year. Now it has added electric power steering (EPS) to the mix in 2008. This unique, four-wheel-drive off-road utility vehicle is easily transformed from a four-person 4x4 to a two-person model with an extended cargo bed in a few quick steps.
But now the EPS makes steering easier at low speeds and takes out most of the "bump-steer"—that jerk in the steering wheel as a front tire hits a rock, log, hole or other obstacle—at all speeds. Electrically driven, the motor is controlled by an electronic control unit (ECU) that uses input from a vehicle speed sensor and steering torque sensor to determine the amount of assistance provided. This system doesn't put a power drain on the engine and works as soon as the ignition key is turned on.
The Other Players
There are a number of other manufacturers marketing ATV/UTVs to hunters, and I'll bring you word on those as the new year arrives. However, I do know Arctic Cat, Honda, and Yamaha hint they have some exciting new models just around the corner.
As these new ATVs—and their slower, more utilitarian UTV cousins—appear, I'll spotlight those that make short work of what would otherwise be long hikes and heavy carries. In the meantime, put those guns in the scabbards, buckle up the helmet and pick the smartest route.