A Guide to Big Game Hunting with ATVs

Hunting is made easy on an ATV. Here we reveal why that is and what you need to know.

All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) have evolved into one of the most essential tools of the hunting trade.  Every aspect of big-game hunting such as scouting, trail travel, and game retrieval is made easier with ATVs. They also offer improved access to dense wilderness areas. Anyone who pursues big game in the wily north woods should understand how the ubiquitous ATV, along with a myriad of great accessories, can make for the perfect hunt the next time you visit Ontario’s northeast!

Hunting with ATVs has loads of advantages, but comes with responsibilities too!

4 off-road advantages

The advantages of using ATVs for hunting are many. 

The first advantage is the ability to cover a great deal of territory in a short period.  Hunters can travel from their tree-stand locations and around rough forest trails in almost any condition. Today’s off-road vehicles will go virtually anywhere.

These bikes have the ability to haul a large amount of gear and complete such tasks as hauling-out firewood, or packing out a game animal. These powerful units are geared for work and more than strong enough to do the job.  Not only are ATVs handy for travel in the north woods, but they have also become the popular mode of transportation for all hunters. Yes, the 4X4 truck still has its place but there are many new roads and trails created throughout Ontario’s northeast where a truck cannot go, and the ATV shines.

Travel time in the woods is greatly reduced thus improving safety by not having to walk out of a hunting location after dark. With an ATV, you can remain at your tree stand longer thus increasing your chance of seeing game. When scouting new territory with a map or GPS, an ATV makes short work of covering hunt territory. 

With a trailer hitched to it, the ATV can pack out most wild game and copious hunting equipment with little effort. ATVs offer a variety of attachments for removing deer, moose, and even bears from the deepest forest depths. An ATV winch is used to hoist an animal out of a deep hole, and the heavy gauged racks on today’s bikes are more than durable enough to support a white-tailed deer or a moose quarter.  The new bikes now have ample storage space and all the power a hunter could ever need for hauling a moose out of rough terrain.

Hunting Attachments for ATVs

As the popularity of ATVs for hunting grew over the years, so too did the availability of ergonomic attachments and accessories.  The first ATV accessory introduced for hunting in the 1970s was the classic gun boot–a hard-shell attachment for guns, rifles, or muzzle-loaders, mounted on an ATV at various locations. The gun boot has proven to be one of the most versatile attachments available today.  

Gun-boot attachments are one of the most common hunting accessories for ATVs

Many ATV accessories for your personal electronics are available. These heavy-duty casings and mounts make it easy to attach your phone or other devices to a 4-wheeler for use on your next hunting trip. There are also two-way radio attachments and GPS mounting cases available–these are meant for extended use during a hunting trip. 

Hunting Etiquette for ATV riders

Along with copious safety precautions required while hunting with ATV, proper etiquette is also necessary. Hunting etiquette with an ATV includes the following essentials. 

Avoiding private property.

Avoiding excessive speeds on nature trails while being mindful of damage to the terrain. 

Avoiding sensitive wetlands.

Minimizing tree and shrub cutting to improve your path.  

Consideration for other hunters is also important while hunting with ATVs. Allow a clear path when stopping your vehicle on a trail, so other riders may pass. Ensure that your bike is in good running condition. Make sure your exhaust system functions properly and avoid refueling while afield. When traveling on difficult trails, or to and from a tree stand, park your bike in a safe spot and try to walk on foot the rest of the way.

Game-friendly rigs

Many animals are accustomed to the sights, sounds, and smells of ATVs in Northeastern Ontario.

Along with a multitude of uses, all-terrain vehicles have other, lesser-known advantages, which may surprise you. The presence of ATVs in the wilds of Ontario’s north is so common that even game animals are accustomed to the sight, sound, and smell of an all-terrain vehicle in the bush. As a result, traveling into the backwoods on a 4-wheeler has its advantages, since resident big game are often less wary of a hunter driving an ATV than they are of one walking on foot.  

A similar phenomenon is seen in areas of forestry work where even the drone of a large tree-skidder doesn’t bother nearby game. ATVs quietly and quickly slip through the backwoods and into a hunting position without really disturbing the moose, deer, or black bears in the area.  This is especially true among small game enthusiasts of the northeast as it is common practice for grouse hunters to drive ATVs on small backwoods trails in search of active birds, without alerting the game to any danger. In most regions the grouse, partridge, and even rabbits are not alarmed or feel threatened by the presence of an ATV, thus making your approach more efficient.  

ATV-friendly Lodges 

The next time you load up your ATV on a hunting tour of the Northeast, consider one of these great lodges that cater to off-road enthusiasts. Here you'll find ample parking, easy access to trails, and all the amenities you look forward to after a day in the bush. 

Enjoy your time in the great outdoors and safe driving!

About Jeff Morrison

Jeff Morrison is an award-winning outdoor writer, book author, and nationally-syndicated newspaper and magazine columnist.

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