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Choosing the Best ATV or Side-by-Side/UTV for Hunting

We track down which vehicle will take your hunt to the next level

Hunting is one of the most ancient and beloved pastimes in the world. For outdoor enthusiasts and survivalists, the tracking, hunting and harvesting of prey offers an incredible connection to nature and one’s self-sufficiency.

While hunting is as old as humans are, the inclusion of off-road vehicles is only recent. Much like horses did in the past, ATVs and side-by-sides (SxS or UTV) allow hunters to cover larger areas and bring along more gear and supplies than they could ever manage on foot, allowing them to reach remoter locations and bring back larger prey to camp or home.

Here, we’ll help you decide which ATV or SxS/UTV is best for your hunting adventures, what you should be aware of while shopping, and what you need to consider before expanding your hunting universe with an off-road vehicle.

Why choose an ATV or Side-by-Side/UTV for hunting?

 

There are seemingly endless choices when it comes to ATVs and side-by-side vehicles, with uses ranging from recreation to hard-working utility models. People in every corner of the world use ATVs as their primary source of outdoor recreation or even transportation, whether it’s speeding along dunes, conquering forest trails, or trekking in deep mud. Farmers find dependable companions in off-road vehicles, using them to haul feed and cargo and easily get around large swaths of property. Construction and landscape professionals use them to haul and tow materials and plants. Of course, most of the functions you find on these types of ATVs and side-by-sides translate perfectly to hunting in a couple of big ways:

Hunting often demands covering great distances, and ATVs and SxSs are suited for rolling over whatever you may come across while out in the wilderness. With great fuel economy, these vehicles can travel far on a tank of fuel, letting hunters easily get to where their prey is.

A day out on the hunt can require lots of gear and equipment. Whether it’s supplies, camping gear or food, an ATV or SxS/UTV will carry a lot when outfitted with cargo beds or racks. Towing a trailer boosts carrying capacity even more. For big-game hunters, a capable off-road vehicle is a game changer, allowing them to haul a prize deer, elk or large wild hog out of the bush and back to their truck.

What to think about when buying an ATV or SxS/UTV for hunting

Where are you hunting?

You’ll want to begin by thinking about where you’ll take your off-road vehicle. While pretty much any ATV or SxS/UTV can handle compact dirt, you might need a more robust setup to safely take on deeper and looser surfaces such as sand or mud. Really challenging terrain might mean you’d like lots of ground clearance, a winch and aggressive tires like those found on the mud-specialized Can-Am Defender X mr. Keep in mind there are loads of accessories to choose from to tailor your off-road vehicle to your needs, so if a ready-made model isn’t exactly what you need, you can easily make it perfect. If you’ll be hitting trails with width restrictions, you might want to look at more compact vehicles to be able to explore those areas.

Colours and Accessories

Recreational riders sometimes enjoy a bit of flash and bright colours on their ATV or side-by-side; but when it comes to hunting, you’ll probably want something a lot more subtle. Look for neutral-coloured vehicles in earth tones like olive greens, greys or blacks to better match surroundings. Some Can-Am models, like the Outlander ATV or Defender side-by-side are offered in exclusive patterns such as Mossy Oak Break-Up Country Camo. Also, specific accessories can dramatically improve your time on the trail. Some vehicles are already designed for hunting with accessories that enhance the experience for a hunter, and we’ll be sure to get into specifics about these essential accessories later.

ATV or Side-by-Side/UTV: which is best for hunting?

 

While hunters are known to enjoy both ATVs and SxSs as trusty companions on their adventures, choosing which type of vehicle is best for you can be a tough call. Both offer tremendous benefits to the hunter, so it really comes down to your own needs and wants. Let us help you narrow it down.

Cargo and Storage

When comparing ATVs and side-by-sides for hunting, the latter comes out on top when it comes to storage. While a four-wheeler like the Can-Am Outlander can certainly carry its fair share with multifunction racks and a bevy of attachable accessories, an SxS—much like a car or truck—has storage in countless places, like under the seats, in the cargo bed and in other pockets and nooks all over the vehicle. For example, just the cargo box on a Can-Am Defender side-by-side will carry up to a 1,000 pounds. Add to that a waterproof toolbox, dash and under-dash storage, and a lower box... you see our point. This means you have loads of places to store hunting, camping, and survival gear, not to mention the ability to haul home hides, racks, and meat.

ATVs, meanwhile, have far more limited storage, with rear and front racks to hold around 300 pounds combined. While this might be plenty for some, hunters after big game tend to go for a SxS when it comes to storage. That said, the mighty Can-Am Outlander MAX 6x6 DPS is an exception with its ability to carry up to 700 pounds in its racks.

Cargo and Storage

When comparing ATVs and side-by-sides for hunting, the latter comes out on top when it comes to storage. While a four-wheeler like the Can-Am Outlander can certainly carry its fair share with multifunction racks and a bevy of attachable accessories, an SxS—much like a car or truck—has storage in countless places, like under the seats, in the cargo bed and in other pockets and nooks all over the vehicle. For example, just the cargo box on a Can-Am Defender side-by-side will carry up to a 1,000 pounds. Add to that a waterproof toolbox, dash and under-dash storage, and a lower box... you see our point. This means you have loads of places to store hunting, camping, and survival gear, not to mention the ability to haul home hides, racks, and meat.

ATVs, meanwhile, have far more limited storage, with rear and front racks to hold around 300 pounds combined. While this might be plenty for some, hunters after big game tend to go for a SxS when it comes to storage. That said, the mighty Can-Am Outlander MAX 6x6 DPS is an exception with its ability to carry up to 700 pounds in its racks.

Manoeuvrability

When it comes to manoeuvrability, it’s the ATV’s turn to shine. If the side-by-side wins on cargo capacity, the ATV is far more nimble than its bigger, wider cousin. With most ATVs being no wider than 50 inches, you can squeeze through gaps where larger vehicles fear to tread, while also being able to fit in the bed of a truck for easier long-distance transport.

Basically, the capabilities of a 4WD or 6WD SxS make it ideal for wider open country, while ATVs dominate in the deep woods and tight spaces. With a smoother suspension, the SxS is appreciated over longer roads especially with the comfort of traditional seats. Overall, when it comes to hunting, the choice between the two is comfort versus agility.

Passenger capacity

Since ATVs are generally one-seaters, they have limited passenger-carrying capability than an SxS, like the Can-Am Defender, which can comfortably sit three adults. If your hunting trips include friends or family members, then a side-by-side might be a better choice. Some SxS vehicles, like the Can-Am Defender MAX XT, can transport up to six people, allowing you to bring along a sizeable hunting party. 

A larger 2-up ATV can accommodate a second passenger, and some are designed with a good deal of passenger comfort in mind. The Can-Am Outlander MAX DPS 450/650, for example, boasts dynamic passenger comfort ergonomics and multi-position passenger handgrips.

 

Cost

One of the big differences in comparing ATVs and side-by-side vehicles is cost. All that increased storage, size and comfort come at a price; it’s a much larger vehicle after all. Comparable base models, such as the 2021 Can-Am Outlander 450/570 ATV and 2021 Can-Am Defender SxS, come in at about US$6,299 and US$10,399 respectively. As you can see, if cost is a concern, then the ATV comes out ahead in that regard.

Don’t forget that financing makes vehicles more affordable than you think, with manufacturers like Can-Am offering low interest rates and other incentives. Financing makes ownership more affordable to more people and gives you the opportunity to get the vehicle that best suits your hunting needs, rather than being bound by cost. It’s also a great way to afford the accessories and add-ons that really dial in your vehicle and tailor it to your style of hunting. Be sure to check out the payment estimator on the Can-Am site to get started.

The long and short of it is that both ATVs and SxSs make outstanding hunting rigs and will open enormous possibilities for your adventures. It’s just a matter of figuring out which style of vehicle matches your set of criteria.

What are the best hunting accessories for ATV or Side-by-Side/UTV?

As we’ve seen, both ATVs and SxSs have their own advantages when it comes to hunting, but it’s in the accessories where the fun really begins. Outfitting your off-road vehicle with accessories and add-ons tailored to your needs is how it transforms into an all-out hunting machine. The selection of quality off-road accessories offered by Can-Am is almost endless, so let’s take a look at which ones might be especially useful for hunting.

Gun/Bow Racks and Holders

A top priority when hunting is the safe and legal transportation of your firearm or bow. Thankfully, Can-Am has a complete assortment of gun racks as well as gun holders and boots that integrate seamlessly with its ATVs and side-by-side vehicles. A gun boot, such as the Gun Boot 6.0 Impact by Kolpin, is a great example of a fully enclosed storage solution that keeps your gun safe until it’s time to put it to use. Again, the type of accessory you choose will depend on the type of firearm or bow you use on your hunt and your vehicle.

Winch

Many experienced hunters will tell you that the most important accessory you can attach to your ATV or side-by-side is a winch. A winch is indispensable to get you out of tough situations when travelling over rough terrain or soft surfaces like mud, snow or sand. When that moment arrives and you finally get stuck, a winch will undoubtedly save the day. A winch is also great for hoisting large, heavy animals to dress them in the field, making it easier to bring home the spoils of your hunt. In fact, most Can-Am Outlander or Defender series vehicles come with a factory-installed winch with a 3,500 lb capacity.

Headache Rack

If you’re planning to carry heavy loads aboard your SxS, a headache rack is a must. A heavy load can easily slide forward, and a headache rack protects the cab and occupants. An excellent example is the Deluxe Headache rack for the Defender, which is also compatible with the Gear Rail for attaching a multitude of other hunting accessories to your vehicle.

Extra Storage

A successful hunt can often depend on having the right gear. The more you can bring along, the better prepared you’ll be for your hunt. Extra storage makes it easier to carry essentials, with this being especially true with ATVs. Storage boxes and bags such as the LinQ Premium Storage Bag by Ogio improve your storage capacity and fit in the bed of ATVs such as the Can-Am Outlander. The LinQ 8 gal (30 L) Cooler Box can make hunts all the more enjoyable by keeping your food and drinks fresh all day long. Coolers are also indispensable when transporting meat back from the field.

Whether you go for an ATV or SxS, both types of off-road vehicles will take your hunting to the next level. Whether it’s covering greater distances, accessing hard-to-reach areas, transporting more gear and companions, or bringing home more meat from the hunt, you’ll find these vehicles indispensable. With an endless array of accessories to outfit your vehicle for exactly your needs, it’ll surely become your most trusted hunting companion.



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