Before rolling out, one of my hunting buddies always asks, “do you have your rifle, ammo, knife, license and tag?” This makes me smile because I know that he’s packing a lot more than that.
Prioritizing your gear list can be a good practice. Asking what you really need is also a good approach to keeping ATV expenses in check.
If the idea of handing the local dealer $10,000 for a new ATV seems impossible, consider the following approaches to hunting with ATVs on a budget.
A good ATV strategy for many is to team up with some other hunters to co-own. This is common practice for many hunt clubs that own or lease hunting properties. The machines not only transport people on hunts, but are an important tool for maintaining fences, trails and food plots. A couple of ATVs are often enough to get the job done for most of the members of the hunt club. Multiple hunter vehicles such as the Polaris Crew, which has a six person capacity are ideal for both food plot work and hunter transportation.
ATV co-owner arrangements can be made with family members or other long-term hunting partners. For hunting partners that always put in for group draws on tags and work together on equipping the camp with big items like the wall tent and stove, a group ATV purchase can be a natural extension of the team approach.
Co-ownership agreements should be carefully spelled out in writing to avoid confusion over responsibilities including payments, maintenance, storage, personal use and repairs for any damage to the machine.
Another money-saving strategy for hunting ATVs is to look deeper into the lineup offered by each manufacturer to get beyond their big bore machines with all the bells and whistles.
Many of us old-timers were more than happy with the 200-300cc machines that we had available before today’s flagship models existed. These machines were air cooled, carbureted and two wheel drive but were still very capable for transporting hunters, gear and game.
Most of the manufacturers sell simple, entry-level ATVs with proven designs. These are available new at a fraction of the cost of the top-of-the-line models.
At just $4,299, Arctic Cat’s mid-size 300 features a liquid-cooled engine, 10.2 inches of ground clearance, digital gauges and rack capacities of 50lbs front and 100lbs rear.
Starting at $4,299, the Polaris Trail Boss 330 features an air-cooled engine and rack capacities of 75lbs front and 125lbs rear. The swing arm rear suspension has excellent travel but only 4.75″ of ground clearance.
Listed at $4,599, Suzuki’s Ozark 250 has an air-cooled engine with electric start and recoil backup. The swing-arm rear suspension has 8.3 inches of ground clearance and 5.5″ of travel.
The Honda Four Trax Recon is listed at $3,899 and is powered with a 229cc air-cooled OHV longitudinally mounted single-cylinder four-stroke engine. It has an electric starter with recoil backup. The transmission is 5-speed with a direct rear driveshaft. Suspension provides 6″ ground clearance.
At $4,299, Kawasaki’s Brute Force 300 is powered with a liquid-cooled, four-stroke, single cylinder engine. The electric start has recoil backup and rack capacities are 44lbs front and 66lbs rear. Swing-arm rear suspension provides 6.1″ of clearance and 5.6″ of travel.
The Yamaha Grizzly 125 starts at $3,699 and is powered with a 124cc air-cooled engine. Rack capacities are for small game at 11lbs front and 22lbs rear. Rear swing arm suspension provides 5.7″ of ground clearance. Weighs only 335lbs with fuel.
Looking for a 4×4 model? Yamaha’s Grizzly 350 is just $5,599 including 4×4 with push button dif lock. The Grizzly 350 features a dual-range (Hi/Lo) transmission and an automatic centrifugal clutch for constant belt tension. Rear swing-arm suspension provides 9.7″ of ground clearance and rack capacities are 88lbs front and 176lbs rear.
BUY — — USED
Another approach to ATVs on a budget is to buy used machines. There’s no real point buying a high end ATV unless you also have a reliable rifle to use with it, therefore I recommend that you check out this Gamo Whisper Silent Cat vs Benjamin Nitro Piston 2 guide for which is the best. There are a couple of pitfalls to avoid when buying used including machines that have been of been ridden hard and poorly maintained. Almost as bad are those that have been stored for a long period of time without being ridden.
Used ATVs are sold by private party or by ATV dealers. Dealership purchases can come with a warranty and knowledge that qualified mechanics have inspected key components.
You may be able to save additional money buying from a private party. Most of the time private transactions go well but you should go in prepared. Make sure that you know what to look for and have a plan for the actual money and title exchange.
Online resources like atvtraderonline.com can help locate used ATVs and help with used values are available from pricing guides like NADA Guides.
If you’re not sure that owning, maintaining and storing an ATV makes sense for you financially, look into the possibility of renting an ATV for your hunting trips. Look for programs without undue restrictions on where the ATV can be transported and operated. Make a solid plan for transporting the machine to your hunting location and research licensing requirements for operators and vehicles.
GUIDED HUNTS ON ATVs
I’ve had very memorable hunts on ATVs owned by professional hunting guides. If your dream of accessing remote hunting locations on ATV can be fulfilled with an occasional outing, consider spending your ATV budget on hunts with guides who use ATVs. These machines are often modified with the best cab enclosures, winches and lights. You get what you want out of the experience without the downside of purchasing, storing, maintaining, transporting and operating outside of your comfort zone. Leave the work to the guides and enjoy the ride.
I know several hunters who continue to have great experiences buying their ATVs on payments. Many credit unions have loan programs specifically designed for ATV purchases, but check with your local ATV dealers as well. As of this writing, Suzuki was running deal with 0% APR for 60 months and Polaris was offering $1000 rebates and interest rates as low as 2.99% for 36 months. Common scenarios include $115 monthly payments for 60 months on a $5,700 machine.
The primary reason that ATV manufacturers build youth models is to scale them to smaller bodies. It is critical to ATV control that the operator be able to comfortably reach the controls with plenty of extra reach remaining to steer while operating brakes and throttle. Quad control should also allow for weight shift while keeping the controls in reach. Picture a left hand turn with weight shifted to the left and steering to the left. Can the rider still reach the controls on the right hand grip?
Second and third to size is power and speed. Add inexperience to undeveloped judgment and you can see why young riders should not have limitless power and speed at their disposal.
While most manufacturers make sport quads for kids, Arctic Cat and Polaris make utility youth models suitable for hunting:
Arctic Cat 90 and 150 start at $2,699 and loaded with hunting features like utility style front and rear racks. Check out the video online http://arcticcat.com/atv/category/youth/
Listed at $2,699, the Polaris Sportsman 90 features and adjustable speed limiter and the Polaris rack system. It weighs 275lbs dry.
The Polaris RZR 170 youth side-by-side for riders 10 years old and above looks just like the very popular RZRs for adults. It features a parent-adjustable speed limiter and comes with safety flag, helmet and instructional DVD. MSRP: $4,299.
Tips for Used ATVs
The other thing you need to do with a private party sale is to be on your toes about the type of owner who previously had the vehicle young guys tend to ride the machines hard and fast. It may not have very many miles but the miles it does have could be hard miles at the other end of the scale is the person who buys a machine and stores it without really using it which is not always the best case scenario. Stored and then used the vehicle can have problems with the fuel system especially if stabilizers were not used UV exposure on rubber components or simply just sitting for a long time can cause damage to the tires so you need to be prepared to get a machine it’s been a long term storage up to speed
Ideally you want to find a guy who will treat the machine with respect in terms of not running it into mud and water at two high levels who cleans it when they’re done to keep that on a regular maintenance schedule the more that they can tell you about how they stored in the winter weather not to use fuel stabilizers what they used to clean it whether not it’s been running the sand those types of that those types of things can be helpful information
When inspecting a used ATV make sure that you get an opportunity to test drive but before you test drive look everything over thoroughly bring a flashlight with you get up and to those places Highup on the engine around the engine bay and look to see if there is mud packed into areas that would be higher than you might expect from normal water crossings
Jump on the machine stand on the foot pegs get your weight forward onto the front suspension see if there’s travel of Thursday undo amount annoys him grab the handlebars and turn it to see if there’s movement without moving the wheels in other words if there slopping the linkage of the steering and just check the overall condition
Often the tires on an ATV can tell you some things about how it was operated if the tread is almost completely worn off it means it’s had a lot of miles on it maybe some tougher miles on gravel or even pavement areas which they’re not really designed to do keep in mind that tires for ATV are a significant expense so don’t be too flippant about just saying oh I’ll go ahead and reach place the tires there may be more expensive than that then you know especially if the tires the required tires are of any type of specialty size
Oversize homemade racks may be an indication that the machine carried wait it was well beyond the recommended we carrying which can have negative effects on the frame and on the suspension system take your flashlight and have a good look at the underside of the vehicle to see the condition of the skid plates and then also observe if there are deep gouges in the protective plating underneath the ATV
Machines that of been ridden hard and fast will often have deep couches on the underside and even bent protrusions on the frame which will be scraped off and really rusty so keep an eye out for that which may be an indication of a machine that was drink driven fast and hard
Be sure to check and operate all of the lights see if the indicator panel everything is working fine make sure that the ATV does not smoke unduly if it’s a four stroke or shouldn’t smoke at all make sure that the exhaust system is intact because the odds are pretty good that you’re going to have to have a good muffler and of course for hunting you want to be quiet and have proper spark arrestors.
Try little casual conversation with the owners to see how they used the machine and ask him about the capabilities of it and what kind of trailers they told with it and what different types of terrain that they’ve been in and ask him how it performed in water crossings what you’re looking for is not so much their recommendation on how machine performs but exactly how they used the machine and whether or not it was operated in Deepwater or overworked by hollowing or towing heavy loads