My rancher neighbors in eastern Montana don’t buy their Can-Am ATVs and side-by-sides in any specific camouflage pattern. Any camo wrap would be a waste, hidden under the patina of mud spatters and cow-pie streaks that are visual proof of their field-worthiness.
These are tried and proven off-road vehicles. Most never even see gravel roads or byways. Instead, they’re used on remote ranchlands to deliver fencing supplies, or in mucky or snow-drifted cow pastures to help gather herds. Or they’re used in the summertime on irrigation lines, a shovel slung across the handlebars of an Outlander ATV or thrown in the bed of a Defender side-by-side, along with irrigation pipe, mud boots, and chest waders for those especially troublesome pivots and wellheads.
If they’re not especially preoccupied with camouflage, my neighbors are particular about accessories, those add-ons that make specific jobs a breeze and unexpected tasks safer, easier, and quicker.
They also deploy their machines for fall hunts, but these deer, antelope, and bird seasons are just a fraction of the year, and represent just a small portion of the working life of these folks, and their essential machines.
Using my neighbors as ambassadors for the idea of the year-round Can-Am, here are specific considerations for all budgets and activities, plus a number of accessories that can make your own ATV or side-by-side work for you, no matter the size of your property or your task. Or even whether you use a road to get there.
The galaxy of choices on the market for both recreational ATVs and side-by-sides can be overwhelming, but it’s useful to consider the choices of those working landowners, who require dependable companions for such a variety of tasks. After all, the job of hauling a deer out of a hunting area isn’t so different from toting feed or delivering a crippled calf to the corral.
Most of the functions you find on these types of ATVs and side-by-sides translate perfectly to hunting: They can get you to remote locations, often over difficult terrain, and they can carry your materials with tons of accessories.
The first question to get your head around is whether an ATV or a side-by-side (SxS or UTV) is best for you and for your uses, both the ones you know you’ll use it for and those that you can only imagine tackling.
Consider where you’ll be using the machine. Is it on public land where your hunting area is accessible via trail systems that allow mechanized travel? Then an ATV, which is narrower, has a tighter turning radius, and a shorter wheelbase, might be the better option, especially if you’re not hauling large amounts of heavy or unwieldy gear. Most ATVs are sized to ride in the beds of full-sized pickups, so getting to your hunting area is a cinch.
But if you’re hunting private land with no travel restrictions, and you want to take a buddy or three, plus haul a good deal of gear, then a SxS or UTV, with a more spacious cab and bed, is probably your better bet. Keep in mind that side-by-side’s cargo capabilities aren’t limited to its bed; Can-Am’s models have dash and under-dash storage, waterproof toolboxes, and under-bed storage, as well.
Because SxS and UTVs also have smoother suspensions and the comfort of traditional seats, they’re a more comfortable ride for longer sessions. Depending on the number of companions, a two-row SxS might be a good option.
Even after you’ve settled on the platform—ATV vs. SxS—you’ll probably have additional questions. Whether you’re considering your first off-road machine, or you’re looking to upgrade, every potential buyer has their own checklist and priorities. But here are some universal considerations:
- MODEL VARIABILITY
ACCESSORIES: Must-Haves vs. Electives
Hunting rigs have their own requirements in terms of accessories and features. Some are essential to maximizing the machine’s full capabilities and utility, but others are entirely elective. This is the fun part of owning an ATV or SxS—the ability to personalize the ride and the rigging.
Let’s start with gun racks, gun holders, and gun boots. These are really required aids to safely and conveniently transport a firearm, bow, or other hunting accessories. Some are handy brackets, others such as Kolpin’s Impact Gun Boot, which is a fully enclosed storage solution that keeps your gun safe and clean until it’s time to put it to use. Bow racks and holders similarly secure a bow and quiver until ready for use.
LinQ accessories create a huge variation in carry options, from cooler boxes, stackable fuel caddies, and sports bags to baskets and cargo boxes that fit just about any model of ATV or SxS.
Then there are all manner of additional storage options, from lockable boxes and weatherproof bags to coolers to keep drinks and hard-won game meat cool and out of the elements. One of the benefits of a SxS or UTV is the additional room and attachment points that can accommodate everything from a dog kennel to a canoe rack. My rancher buddies add headache racks to their SxSs that can be used to anchor all manner of gear, from fence posts to irrigation pipes. Custom (and customizable) gear rails are also extremely useful for a wide variety of tasks, from attaching decoy bags and treestands to dog kennels.
Beyond accessories that help with hauling, consider the wide range of accessories for plowing, winter riding, or traction (maybe a set of treads is worth considering during those seasons when your wheels and tires have limited utility), for protecting riders from the dust and wind, or for making your SxS ride more comfortable.
SELECTING THE RIGHT WINCH
Once you use one, you’ll agree that a winch isn’t really an accessory. It’s an essential companion for either an ATV or a SxS/UTV. Some winches are straight-ahead pullers, designed to help extract a stuck machine from a mud bog or a snowdrift. Others can both pull their host machine to safety or be used to pull just about anything else, from another machine to a heavy log, or to operate a snow plow.
Not all winches mount to the front of a machine. Can-Am’s Cargo Bed Winch is an indispensable companion to help load heavy or awkward payloads in the tilting bed of a SxS.
Some winches have manual controls, others operate with remote controls. When shopping for a winch, consider its rated capacity, length of cable or rope, and whether you’ll need that remote operating ability.
Lastly, consider that Can-Am’s branded winches are designed to fit the specific frames and bolt patterns of Can-Am’s machines. The reduced hassle and expense of these product-specific accessories, compared with winches that aren’t purpose-built for your machine, should factor into your consideration of the winch that’s right for you.
Maybe Can-Am’s baseline Outlander 500/700 ATV isn’t quite what you had in mind. Move up to the Outlander PRO, or the powerful Renegade. The Outlander family is built around a common DNA, but each successive model brings more power, capability, and versatility. Or consider adding a youth model to your fleet. The benefit of brand allegiance is that you can grow with the models and their capabilities. Same with the SxS family of Defender, Commander, and Maverick.
VALUE vs. PERFORMANCE: ASSESSING COST
While this is last in the boxes to check, it’s actually the first consideration for most buyers, whether they’re just getting into the off-road market or upgrading machines.
The biggest difference is the starting costs for both ATV and SxS platforms. Figure that the base models for each are separated by about $6,000, or that you can buy two Outlander 500-700 ATVs for the price of one Defender SxS. The base price for the former is about $6,000; for the latter, it’s around $12,500.
It’s useful to break down the cost into manageable units, whether a per-month payment or some other financing option. Can-Am helps with payment estimations with this handy tool that breaks down options for each model and price point.
Keep in mind that as you add accessories and options, the price will increase, but accessories are a great way to keep adding value and capability to your machine year after year. Plus, they make great holiday gift ideas for your loved ones.
Adding accessories after you’ve used your machine in the real world of mud, inclines, rutted roads, and hunting conditions also allows you a better idea of the accessories you require versus those that would be nice to have.
As a rancher and country kid, I can tell you that I had no idea how useful a bed rack would be in my Defender until I had to haul a canoe, a newborn calf, and veterinary supplies after rescuing a hypothermic calf from a flooded island. I can’t imagine performing that very particular task with any other combination of vehicle and accessories.
Sponsored by Can-Am.