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Why Using a UTV or ATV for Hunting is a Dumb Move

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Do you use an ATV for hunting? Here's why it may not be the best choice.

By now, people have recognized hunting ATV, UTV, or other off-road vehicles as the huge benefits that they are. Especially for those who couldn't continue to hunt or fish due to the physical requirements involved, they're a Godsend.

All-terrain vehicles have the carrying capacity to transport more than one hunter, get more equipment into the field, and achieve a great towing capacity. A good utility ATV can help us to hang treestands, tend to food plots, and go places in the backcountry were we may not have gone before. They come with a price, but it's one that many of us have accepted and paid.

It's easy to get caught up in the horsepower, fantasize about using a winch, dream about what to put in a cargo box or front rack, and desire to carry your rifle or shotgun in some handy gun boots or gun racks.

That's where the trouble started, in my eyes. It's not that they aren't a great tool, it's that they've become an overused one. We have gotten to the point where we have begun to rely more on powersports and less on our feet. 

This is not meant to dissuade you for wanting an ATV, or for using it predominantly for hunting purposes. What I want to do is get you to at least think about how you're using it, and ensuring that's the best practice.

Some tasks are simply made easier using an off-road vehicle. Some things, on the other hand, can be negatively affected. Here are the reasons why an ATV or UTV might be a bad move during hunting season.

Spooking Your Quarry

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Sure, I get it. Many ATV and UTV users do so in agricultural areas where deer and other wild animals are used to the presence and noise of gasoline-powered engines and large, hard-to-miss vehicles.

In other areas that are further away from farms and deeper in the woods and valleys, deer and other critters that aren't used to the noise and activity will routinely run from them.

Given time, they might return again, but you're hunting today and not three days from now. If you want to enter and exit a hunting spot undetected, there's virtually no possible way to do it on a four-wheeler or side-by-side.

Timing

Too many hunters reserve the use of their ATVs for opening day. This not only repels deer and other animals, but it introduces opportunities to mishandle or misjudge certain things. That will only lead to frustration, wasted time, and resources spent on fixing the problem instead of hunting the animals.

Environmental Impact

No matter how you feel about the idea of global warming and fossil fuels, an all-terrain vehicle has been proven to have an adverse effect on air quality, plant life, trails, and wildlife. You can drive it as slowly and carefully as you want, but it's a fact that cannot be denied. If you wanted to take the absolute best care of the land and habitat, you wouldn't be ripping through it in an off-road side-by-side.

Scent and Sound

It took this long to mention the sound pollution that UTVs and ATVs create, but it should be obvious. Gasoline engines are by nature inherently loud and obnoxious, even with today's exhaust, electronic power steering, and engine braking systems. And if you're so worried about staying scent-free, how in the world are you going to mask engine exhaust fumes and the possible gasoline scent that can easily get passed from the vehicle to you and your clothing?

We know that smells and sounds can be two of the biggest risks while hunting deer and other animals. An ATV will flat out ruin the effort to avoid them.

They Can't Do Everything

Even if a side-by-side or four-wheeler helps us haul ourselves, our gear, and our game animals, they still can't spot an elk on a hillside a quarter mile away. They can't field dress a deer for you. They can't sight in a rifle, pull a trigger, or give a high five after a successful shot.

Sure, they can cover ground and carry a lot more than we can by ourselves. But they also seem to be making us all a little less self-sufficient. We can't rely on them too much, because that's when we get lazy and miss out.

Is Using an ATV or UTV Really That Dumb?

The truth of the matter is that off road vehicles like ATVs and UTVs are an excellent choice for hunters everywhere when used properly. The bottom line is to be legal and safe: never shoot from an ATV, and never chase wildlife with any vehicle, especially one in their own off-road territory.

Know the vehicle-use regulations for the area you plan to hunt. Respect others in the area, hunters or not, especially if you're on public land. And above all, keep safety in mind.

Let this serve as a reminder of how great it can be to have an ATV during the hunting season, but how easily it can turn things in the wrong direction if you aren't being careful. 

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