ATV - Tool or Toy?

By Rick Nolan (

For me, ATV's have only two reasons for existence. One is to hunt with and the other is pure and simple recreation. If you ask one-hundred outdoorsman to describe the perfect ATV, you will likely get one-hundred different responses.

Many would think recreation and hunting would be the same, and for some it might be. To me a hunting ATV is a tool, to be used mainly for two reasons.

First, the hunting ATV has to get me where I want to go and back at the end of the day. During the 2008 Colorado elk season I rode my Artic Cat two rider ATV over 20 miles one way each morning to the trail head, from there I walked another hour to the hunting area. During the 2006 New Mexico archery mule deer season, my Honda ATV hauled me and my gear almost one-hour to a remote camp site in the mountains. From that base camp I hunted on foot reaching elevations of over 12,000 feet.

Second, the hunting ATV has to haul harvested game out of the woods or off the mountain. I owned a small Honda and have used it to carry out two deer on one trip. That little 250 cc was overloaded to be sure, but it got the job done.

When you consider which hunting ATV to use, take into consideration the following.

What is the overall size of the ATV. Will it fit into my pickup or will it require a trailer?

Engine size is also important. Will the selected size be adequate to carry a hunter, gear and game? What about the lay of the land, will you see mostly flat land, hills, mountains, mud, snow, etc. Will you use the ATV to pull a plow for food plots?

What about 4-wheel drive? You will be amazed what an ATV will traverse with only 2 wheel drive, but if you need all four wheels pulling, a 4x4 is a must. What about a winch?

Do you need a two-rider or will you only go solo? My two-rider is great if you have a second hunter you need to give a lift to.

Don't over look the front and rear rack. Look them over and think about what you will be hauling and how you will secure the load to the rack.

My wife Marilyn and I enjoy spending summer vacations in the mountains of either Colorado or New Mexico. Each year when the temperatures in Oklahoma are hitting the triple digit mark each day we hook up the RV, load the Artic Cat Two-Rider and head west.

We played on the little Honda 250 cc for a few years and had a great time. When it came time to up-grade we looked at all makes and models available. After all things were considered we went with the Artic Cat TRV (two rider vehicle), a 650 cc big bike designed for two. Little did I realize how much more comfortable the TRV would be for both of us. We can now play all day, day after day exploring mile after mile of back county, jeep trails and mountain peaks. We have had the Artic Cat to over 12,000 feet with the only limiting factor was stopping for lunch or to watch mule deer and elk graze in the high meadows.

Which ever ATV you pick to be your perfect ride, tread lightly, respect others and be very careful. These bikes are safe to use and ride but they can get away from you in a heart beat.