ATV and UTV safety during hunting season

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ATV in woods

The many advantages of utilizing an ATV or UTV during hunting season have increased their use dramatically over the last decade. They create easier access to secluded areas and make it easier to retrieve game. Hunting with an ATV or UTV can be convenient, but it also creates additional hazards.

Put safety first and make sure everything runs smoothly this hunting season.

Hunting season

You probably already have a maintenance routine for your firearms and bows, your stand and any other equipment you take with you, but do you have one for your off-road vehicle? You should. It’s important to make sure your ATV or UTV is at top performance before heading out. No one wants to be stranded miles out in the woods.

For cold weather maintenance, check out these tips.

Safety tips

No matter how experienced you are as a rider or driver, operating an ATV or UTV can be dangerous. Every year hunters who use all-terrain vehicles to reach their destinations die in accidents.

Here are some things to consider:

  • A machine must match the height and weight of the operator for it to be safe. Accidents happen when a vehicle is too large for the operator.
  • ATVs and UTVs both require unique skill sets to operate. Don’t assume it’s as easy as hopping in the driver’s seat and hitting the gas. Take the time to familiarize yourself with your machine before taking it on a hunting trip.
  • Consider what you’re hauling on your ATV or UTV. Extra weight and equipment throw off the balance of the vehicle, which can make it easier to tip. Never overload your rack boxes or the bed of your UTV.
  • Take time to scout out terrain on foot before heading out with your ATV or UTV and all of your equipment, so you know where the hazards are.
  • Wearing a helmet is one of the easiest safety measures you can take. Whether you’re riding an ATV or driving a UTV, wearing a helmet reduces the likelihood of serious injury or fatality.
  • Stay off paved surfaces. ATV and UTV tires are designed for unpaved terrain and perform best off of the road.
  • Manufacturers’ labels on ATVs clearly state that single-rider ATVs should not carry passengers.
  • Don’t ride under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
  • Don’t fire your weapon from an ATV or UTV.
  • Don’t carry loaded firearms on your ATV or UTV.
  • Respect closed trails, closed areas and private property.
  • Stick to existing trails as much as possible.
  • Avoid wet areas or waterways.
  • Know and understand the meaning of trail signs and vehicle symbols.
  • Slow down or stop when approaching others on the trail, and proceed to pass in a safe and courteous manner.
  • Don’t ride at night without a headlight, headlights or light bar.
  • Know vehicle regulations for the area you’re hunting and where you’re permitted to ride.
  • Travel off trail only if regulations permit.

Decrease disturbance

To make sure everyone has a good outing, decrease your disturbance to other hunters by doing these two simple things:

  1. Access hunting area on existing roads and trails before shooting hours.
  2. Retrieve harvested big game during the middle of the day (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.). Travel off trail only if regulations permit.

Cold weather

Hunting is a cold-weather sport, generally speaking, so it can present unique challenges depending on the conditions. Here are some tips for adverse weather:

  • Hit your brake levers occasionally to prevent them from freezing up.
  • Check and clear snow and ice from your ride, especially the CV- and U-joints, every time you take a break.
  • Carry extra gas and because snow and ice build-up reduces fuel economy.
  • Use your choke minimally; it’s hard to keep a choke cable from freezing and sticking.

Safety equipment

When riding out alone in cold weather conditions, the American Motorcycle Association suggests packing the following:

  • Front rack box: two 1-gallon cans of gas; air compressor; 50 feet of 3/8” Samson Braid rope; compact 3/8” drive socket set; a roll of trail-marking tape; Leatherman multi-tool; set of wrenches and multi-screwdriver; spare plug, oil, duct tape, wire and various tie-wraps; snatch block for winch; spare GPS power cable and batteries; tire repair kit.
  • Rear rack box: First Aid kit; normal and space blankets; change of clothes (polar fleece) in a waterproof bag; 12-inch bow saw; hatchet; bungee cords; 50 feet of parachute cord; maps; 8’ x 8’ tarp (for shelter); toilet paper; fire-starting kit; slivers of maple fat wood; maple kindling; a 9-volt battery; steel wool; a flashlight; food and water; 25-foot ¾” Samson Braid tow rope; energy bars and a book.

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