Preparing ATVs for late fall hunting
Today, four-wheelers, or ATVs, are more popular than ever. Most of those ATV users are outdoor enthusiasts and/or hunters. The two main reasons I hear echoing from the mouths of users are easier access to remote areas and less wear and tear on trucks that cost $50,000+. I even use them on occasion for that exact reason myself from time to time. If it is legal, by all means take advantage of it. I have used ATVs and UTVs for the better part of 20 years now, and when it is cold, you want to be prepared for the worst. Here are a few items that I have with me at all times when the temperature gauge dips below freezing.
This is what my four wheeler looks like all winter long. Not much different than it does during the summer except for a few key items.
Generally, I don’t like the rack bags that most manufacturers make for their quads because most are too big and bulky. I like to be able to strap game animals to the back of my ATV when needed, and their bags don’t allow this. My solution is to have small, low-profile bags which allow me the room to do so — even if I have to move a bag or two to the front to create more room in the back. I always run a protective rain/dust-proof cover over the bags to keep the clothes and electronics as dry and as dust-free as possible.
Under the cover you will see four different items. A rope, hand protectors, a dry bag with extra clothes and a napsack with all sorts of fun essentials — these are a must.
Let’s start with the hand protectors. Usually, I just run with these brush guards. They keep 75% of the wind off of my hands, and let’s face it, you get cold from the wind chill, and the hands and thumb are usually the first to get cold. I use these with a good pair of winter gloves; it is really all you need unless it drops below 15- 20 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temps do drop that low, then I go with the hand protector. They keep 99% of the wind out and off your hands.
The cool thing about these hand protectors is that if your hands get cold, even with good gloves and the protectors, you can always open up a hand warmer and throw it inside for all-day comfort. The down side to the protectors is you better know where all the buttons are on the handlebars, or it could be a long day.
I also have the electric warming grips and thumb warmer installed on my quad. These are a must for winter driving, and you can get them installed and bought for less than $200. Pair them with the protectors and you can almost get away without using gloves.
Next, lets open the napsack and see what necessities you should be carrying. Inside my bag, I carry a little lightning jump start kit, a fire building kit, safety blanket, LED flashlight, extra rain gear for the napsack, a shovel and a set of chains. Chains are a must if you are ever in snow. You will know what I mean, especially if it is hard-packed snow like a road. I won’t leave these home for anything if the snow is going to fly. A shovel...yes, a shovel! It is more for removing snow if you get stuck in a drift or snow bank. This has been used more than I care to talk about. You can pick up one of those collapsible shovels at most stores that carry automotive or ATV gear. I got mine at Fred Meyers for $20. It’s much better than using the hands.
Inside the napsack there are two other dry sacks with necessities that can’t get wet.
The smaller dry sack houses my fire kit. It is quite simple, but effective, and contains two flares to start a fire or to signal for help, as well as a film container with Vaseline-soaked cotton balls. These are a great fire starter, and they burn slow and hot while giving you plenty of time to get the fire going well. A lighter and waterproof matches top off the kit.
Inside the other dry bag is the Jump Starter kit. These can be picked up at most motorcycle and ATV shops. This one was purchased at Grizzlle Motor Sports here in Idaho. Fortunately for me, my four-wheeler has a pull start so I haven’t had to use this on my quad. However, most newer quads don’t have a pull start and are electronic shift, so there is no push-starting them. For these newer ATV models, and my UTV, this is a must to get it going if the battery fails. As a bonus, it charges many of today’s electronics like cell phones, GPS, satellite phones and even computers. I have used it to recharge my cell phone and it worked great. I also used it to start a buddy’s ATV (he will remain nameless) and it worked flawlessly.
In the big green dry bag on the back of the four wheeler is my insulated wind and waterproof clothes. These will save your life, period! If it drops below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, I put them on when driving the ATV. While driving you can get a wind chill of less than 0 degrees, so these are a must. Also, if your ATV decides it doesn’t like the cold weather and decides to take a break, you have some super-warm clothes to save your behind. Just be careful if you decide to walk out that you get plenty of ventilation. You don’t want to get wet and cold. This is where good clothing is a must. You need to layer and layer with quality clothes made from materials such as merino wool.
I always make sure my bibs are a full-zip bib. It just makes for easy on and off when needed. Pictured here is Kryptek’s Extreme Cold Weather Aegis Bibs. Windproof and waterproof while also being insulated make for a great addition to anyone’s survival or just-stay-warm kit.
10 degrees F and I’m all smiles in Aegis top and bottom from Kryptek. The Aegis cold weather glove is a must when riding when it is frigid outside. They are warm, lightweight and functional. I also use them while snowmobiling.
All machines should have a winch on them summer or winter. You just never know when you are going to need it. My experience is both times of year.
When the snow flies I usually throw on the chains. I usually start with the just the back tires, but chaining up all four tires helps you with steering and the traction you need.
In the back tool chest of the ATV, I always carry a tire repair kit. It’s not a must because you can creep a four wheeler back on three tires, but it makes life a lot easier if you get a flat.
I stopped by one of Idaho largest ATV and UTV dealers to see if I forgot anything that could make your winter driving more enjoyable.
Owner and Operator Brent Heck mentioned that I had pretty much covered everything but a windshield. I thought windshields were for the old guys. Turns out I must be pretty old because after talking to him, I placed an order for one.
Lock and ride, it’s easy on and off. So when you want it on for the cold weather, it takes less than 30 seconds to attach. When you don’t want it, unlock it and take it off. It’s as simple as that. Good thing about leaving it on most of the year is that you don’t end up with bugs in your teeth.
One other thing Brent mentioned was this time of year that people start storing their ATV and with today’s ethanol gas that only has a shelf life of 6 weeks, a fuel treatment additive is a must. If you want your ATV to start in the spring without some costly repairs, I recommend you spend the extra seven dollars and buy a bottle.
Remember these products to carry with you on your next late season hunt and may all your ATV hunting adventures end as well as this one. It’s not everyday you can get a buck out whole on the back of an ATV.