Utilize an ATV/SxS for Hunting | GoRollick
Written by Carolyn Jackson
Over the years we have come to rely more and more on technology, gadgets, and machines to assist us with everyday work. These items make us more effective, take the load off our physical bodies, and help us do more in less time. ATVs and Side by Sides (SxS or UTVs) are a vehicle that absorbs a large amount of physical work from their users. These vehicles can go places regular cars and trucks cannot and get do so with extreme efficiency and precision.
ATVs and SxS have become increasingly popular in the outdoor world and have grown in popularity in the hunting segment in recent years. Using an ATV or SxS for hunting grants you access to new terrains and places that may not otherwise be accessible by car or foot. ATVs and SxS also increase safety for hunters by providing an organized way to carry gear and safety tools such as first aid, lighting, and faster travel times.
Where to Start
If you are considering investing in an ATV or SxS for hunting, you might wonder where to start. There are dozens of ATVs and SxS on the market and figuring out what you specifically need and what you need to know to use the vehicle for hunting can be overwhelming. In this article, we are going to cover everything you need to know about how to choose the perfect ATV or SxS for hunting and all the insider tips and tricks for getting the most out of your vehicle while still following laws, regulations, and common etiquette on the hunting trails.
- ATVs and UTVs are both useful for hunters, though they offer different advantages and disadvantages
- UTVs are typically more expensive than ATVs, but they fit more people, have more towing capacity, and more storage
- When buying an All Terrain Utility Vehicle for hunting, you want to look for high towing capacity, muted colors, and a vehicle that is well-suited for all types of terrain.
Table of Contents
What is an ATV?
An ATV is a 4-wheeled vehicle with low-pressure tires and a seat that the operator straddles with one leg on each side. ATVs are controlled by two steering handlebars. ATVs are very similar to motorcycles in how they ride and drive. Traditionally, ATVs are single-rider vehicles, although some are designed for a second passenger to sit on the back behind the driver (much like two people on a motorcycle).
ATV is an acronym that stands for All-Terrain Vehicle. The distinguishing factor of an ATV is the driver’s seating position, the handlebars, and the vehicle driving on 4 wheels. For a more in-depth look at what an ATV is and the history of ATVs, take a look at our article: All About ATVs.
What is a SxS?
SxS, also referred to as UTVs, and more similar to a traditional car than an ATV. SxS feature bench or bucket seating where the driver and passengers still upright like they would in a typical car. They can come with single or dual rows and can accommodate 2 to 6 passengers. To steer the SxS, there is a traditional steering wheel and gear shift, just like in a car. Most SxS have automatic transmission as well. Power steering is standard across most SxS in the industry.
Additionally, SxS are much larger and heavier than ATVs. They are designed for comfort and have more capabilities than ATVs. Typically ATVs are used purely for sport or travel whereas SxS are used for utility, hauling, transporting multiple people, etc. Because SxS are heavier and larger than ATVs they are known for their great handling capabilities, making them easy to use and comfortable to ride in.
Take a look at our article on the Differences between ATVs and SxS to learn more about how the two vehicles are both similar and different.
What to Look for in an ATV or SxS for Hunting
ATVs come in an array of styles, each specializing in something different. Usually, when picking an ATV you would decide based on power and the type of terrain you expect to ride on. However, hunters often encounter many different types of terrain, so a general or adaptable ATV might be your best bet. You’ll want an ATV with a significant amount of power for hauling your trophy back to base camp and to get up and over slopes or through muddy terrain. You will also want to make sure your ATV is ready and able to carry or haul cargo.
If you struggle to find the perfect hunting ATV, remember you can also add aftermarket upgrades to your ATV such as a gun scabbard, extra lights, a winch, etc.
UTVs are very similar to ATVs. When shopping for a UTV for hunting, you will want to consider your experience and size. Believe it or not, operating a UTV can be exhausting, especially if it is too large for your body type. You’ll want to take that into consideration as well as what type of land you’ll most likely be hunting on. UTVs are great for longer distances, but not quite as responsive as the ATV for climbing over obstacles or up hills. If you anticipate this need, you might want to look for a UTV with a higher ground clearance or more power.
Just like for ATVs, you can always add aftermarket upgrades to make your UTV more adaptable for your hunting preferences. You can add mufflers to the exhaust to make the vehicle quieter, you can add a gun scabbard, LED lights for hunting before dawn or after dusk, you can even add a hitch to tow a trailer for carrying your kill or other essentials with you.
For both ATVs and UTVs, you’ll want to look for a muted color instead of flashy, sporty colors such as red, orange, or yellow. It could alert the animals and make hunting much less exciting for you.
The Best ATVs and UTVs for Hunting
Ground Clearance: 12.2”
Towing Capacity: 2,000 lb
Ground Clearance: 12”
Towing Capacity: 1,500lb
Ground Clearance: 13”
Towing Capacity: 2,500lb
Ground Clearance: 9.4”
Towing Capacity: 1,250lb
Ground Clearance: 10.5”
Towing Capacity: 1,300lb
Ground Clearance: 11.5”
Towing Capacity: 1,350lb
What Laws Do I Need to Be Aware of When Using an ATV/SxS for Hunting?
There are some general laws to be aware of when using an ATV or SxS for hunting, but we strongly recommend you look at the specific laws and regulations for the area you are planning on hunting at. Each park or designated hunting area has unique laws and regulations and you should read up on those before departing on your trip.
Here is a link to a site that details ATV laws state by state, which would be a good starting place.
Overall, here are some basic laws you will need to follow no matter where you are hunting:
- Do not shoot from the ATV or SxS, use the vehicle to reach your hunting destination. Use the vehicle for accessing legal hunting areas and transporting your kill.
- It is illegal and irresponsible to chase wildlife with your ATV/SxS
- Many locations do not allow you to travel on an ATV or SxS with a loaded weapon, so you will need to empty your guns and safely store them while you travel to your hunting destination
- You may only hunt during the designated season and make sure you have proper identification and hunting tags and permits
- Some states only let you use an ATV on gravel or paved trails and, if caught, you could lose your hunting or fishing license, so be sure to look up your state’s laws and regulations
- In many states, there are laws prohibiting ATVs/UTVs from operating off roads/trails in a manner that damages or disturbs the land, wildlife, or vegetation
- Some states require ATV/UTVs to have approved and operating spark-arresting mufflers and comply with sound regulations
Look up the vehicle use regulations for the area you are hunting in. Use a map to identify legal routes for ATV/SxS hunting. You can contact the local Bureau of Land Management (BLM) field office, Forest Service Ranger District, or State Land Management organization for travel information before you take your vehicle hunting with you.
If using an ATV or SxS while hunting, utilize existing roads and trails for travel and do not stray off these paths unless essential. Driving off-path can cause erosion and damage to the natural environments or spread invasive species, which can ruin a natural habitat.
Pro Tip: If the property you are hunting on is privately owned (by you or someone else), these laws and regulations do not apply. If you are hunting on private property by sure you have permission from the owner and they are aware you are there. We still highly recommend following all safety and environmental considerations when hunting with an ATV/SxS on private property.
What Gear Do I Need for Hunting with My ATV/SxS?
You’ve probably heard it before, but let’s say it again. Gear. Is. Important.
Gear For Riding
After you purchase an ATV or SxS, your next investment ought to be the gear required to safe and comfortable riding. When using your vehicle for hunting, there are some additional tools to the regular necessary gear you might want to have with you. As a reminder, here are the items you should always have when riding an ATV or SxS no matter how you’re using it:
- DOT Compliant Helmet
- Goggles (if not included with helmet)
- Over the Ankle Boots
- Long Pants
- Long Sleeves
- First Aid Kit
Gear For Hunting
However, if you are using your vehicle for hunting, there are a few additional things we recommend you have on hand:
- Camouflage helmet, pants, gloves, or jacket
- Safety Orange Vest
- Straps for Hauling
- Pocket Knife
- Extra Tank of Gas
- Lots of Water
- Compass and a Map
- Cell Phone
- Air Pump and Tire Plugs
- Small Tool Kit
- Spare Belt for UTVs
- Fire Extinguisher
- Cargo Rack
- Cargo Net
- Extra Tire
You do not necessarily need to have every one of these items for a successful hunting trip on your vehicle, but pick and choose what you will need to have to be safe depending on the specific nature of your trip. If you are taking a SxS out for a weekend-long trip and the nearest civilization is miles away, you may need more of the items on the list than if you just take the SxS out on the trail a couple of miles from your car for a few hours.
Essentially, over-preparing is always better than being under-prepared, especially in a situation that could turn dire in seconds.
Tips and Tricks for Hunting with an ATV or SxS
If you are not used to hunting with a vehicle, there are some common courtesies and other tips and tricks that are good to know ahead of time. These are all designed to keep you, the environment, and your fellow hunters safe.
- Do not ride your ATV or SxS during wet or damp conditions. This can cause irreparable damage to the environment
- Still be prepared to walk. A SxS or ATV is only meant for traveling on existing trails, which might not be your final hunting destination or where the kill takes place. Be prepared to walk and carry your kill back to the vehicle.
- Only cross rivers or streams at dedicated crossing points
- Have adjustable cargo straps available to transport your kill back to your car or home
- Make sure the kill is centered on the vehicle when loaded
- If the kill is heavy enough to lift the front wheels up, you will need to drag it back to your base
- Keep your engine at a low RPM to avoid loud engine revs which could startle the wildlife
- Do some prep work by looking at the area you are hunting in ahead of time. Determine where you want to go, drive your vehicle there, and do not drive around aimlessly
Are ATVs/SxS Safe?
ATVs and SxS are safe if the operator and passengers understand how to use them correctly and follow all related laws and regulations. Inherently, some dangers come with using an ATV or SxS. However, if you learn safety protocols, use the proper equipment, and operate an ATV/SxS with safety in mind — they can be a safe and fun addition to your hunting time.
One of the major reasons ATV/SxS accidents occur is a lack of experience and knowledge about safety protocols for riding an ATVs or SxS.
Advice for Safe ATV/SxS Practices
There are a few things to keep in mind to operate an ATV/SxS with safety in mind:
- Take an ATV/SxS Safety Course before operating an ATV or SxS
- Understand where you can and cannot operate an ATV or SxS — and abide by those regulations
- Wear the appropriate attire: Helmet and protective eyewear, long pants, long sleeves, and over the ankle boots
- Ride during daylight hours
- Do not ride alone — or at least let a trusted friend know where you are and when you expect to return
- Ride an ATV or SxS that is appropriate for your age, experience, and size
- Know first-aid and carry a kit
- Understand safe speeds for turning and different terrains
- Do not ride while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Do not ride on public roads
- Do not ride with more passengers than recommended by the manufacturer
- Maintain your ATV or SxS to ensure it is in good, working condition
- Kids and teens should not have any passengers when riding an ATV or SxS
ATV and SxS Insurance
We’d be remiss, not to mention ATV/SXS insurance. Investing in ATV/SXS insurance is well worth the cost. You can expect to pay between $100-$200 per year for basic ATV/SxS insurance. ATV/SXS insurance is not legally required because ATVs and SxS are not typically street-legal vehicles. Sometimes, however, if you finance an ATV/SxS when you buy it, the financer might mandate an insurance policy for the vehicle.
When you purchase ATV/SxS insurance, it protects you in the case of injury or damage to property. For basic coverage, you will always have coverage for bodily injury and property damage. You can add on additional coverage, such as:
- Bodily injury
- Property damage
- Medical payments
- Uninsured/underinsured people
- Collisions (with a deductible)
- Comprehensive coverage (with a deductible)
How to Buy an ATV/SxS
ATV or SxS?
The buying process for ATV/SxS is actually pretty straightforward. ATVs and SxS that are specific to hunting are fairly easy to narrow down. Some of the models even have the name ‘hunting’ in them, such as the Polaris Sportsman® 570 Hunt Edition. But, most ATV and SxS dealers will have a lot of information about which models are best suited for your specific needs.
Where to Buy
Basically, you need to choose if you want a used or new ATV/SxS. Then decide if you want to try to buy online or in person. Most ATVs and UTVs can be retrofitted aftermarket to fit your specific hunting needs, so even if you do not purchase an ATV or SxS specifically dedicated to hunting, you can still make it work.
While searching for the perfect ATV/UTV, one of the first decisions you need to make is if you want to purchase new or used.
If you do decide to go the used route, we recommend having a knowledgeable mechanic take a look at the vehicle before you ride it to ensure it is in pique operating status. You do not want to purchase a used ATV/SxS only to find it has a major engine problem.
You have a few options when you are ready to search for an ATV or SxS. You can:
- Go to a local ATV/SxS dealer in your area
- Shop on an online marketplace such as GoRollick.com
Depending on the cost, you might want to finance your ATV/SxS. SxS are typically a little more expensive than an ATV. If you purchase new, usually the manufacturer or dealer will have some good financing options available for you. But, you can also finance through any bank or personal loan organization.
For more information on financing your powersports vehicle, read our article on personal loans and credit scores when buying with a dealer.
Check Out More Helpful ATV/SxS Guides and Articles
If you are strongly considering purchasing an ATV or UTV for hunting (or for anything else), you might have other questions about ATV/UTVs in general. We have all the resources you might need to better understand how to purchase an ATV/UTV, what models and brands you might want to consider, and what to do after you pull the trigger on the big buy. Take a look!
- What is an ATV?
- What is a UTV?
- Best UTVs 2021
- The Complete Guide to Selecting the Best ATVs of 2021
- Best ATV and UTV Accessories
- How Much Does an ATV Cost?
- What is the Difference Between an ATV and a UTV?
- See nationwide inventory, specs, and incentive information
- Get an upfront, transparent price on your desired ATV or SxS
- Receive special offers on both the ATV or SxS as well as additional accessories
- Take advantage of Bonus Savings plus the option to Buy From Home from select Certified Dealers
- Shop at one of our Certified Dealers who are committed to providing an exceptional buying experience