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Hunter’s Handbook is the official student “how-to” information pipeline of the International Hunter Education Association. As the experts in teaching safe, ethical and successful hunting, we are here to provide tips, tools, and great video content as well as offer you a place that you can learn more about your love and favorite past-time—hunting.  Spend some time with us.  New content is added monthly, and we are excited to share our expertise with you.  We wish you a lifetime of safe and memorable experiences in the outdoors.

Safety Blog

ATV and Side-by-Side Vehicle Safety in the Outdoors

Sasha Landskov

ATVs and Side-by-Side (SxS) vehicles are common place in hunting camps, whether you’re after whitetail or mule deer, turkeys or mallards, elk or antelope. Matter of fact, many hunters use them year-round for scouting, food plotting and recreational riding. These tough and versatile off-road vehicles help outdoorsmen reach remote areas and favorite hunting spots while carrying in gear and hauling out game.

But just like unloading your gun before crossing a fence or never aiming at something you don’t intend to shoot, there are some basic safety lessons to be learned before mounting an ATV or getting into an SxS vehicle.

There are many things to consider when talking ATV safety. One of the best ways to learn is through an ATV safety course, like the one taught by Specialty Vehicle Institute of America (SVIA), a not-for-profit trade association whose primary goal is to promote the safe and responsible use of ATVs.  The SVIA (800-887-2887) offers a free online e-course and information about their riding classes. The riding classes will show you basic riding techniques as well as teach you about the proper riding gear and the difference between vehicle types and sizes.

Additionally, the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association (ROHVA) offers more information and detailed recommendations (like always wear a seat belt and never drive a SxS unless you’re 16 or older with a valid driver’s license), along with a free, interactive multimedia e-course.

You might not think you need to strap on your helmet for every outing, but you’d be wrong. Safety should always come first. Proper riding gear always includes:

  • Helmet (with a Department of Transportation approved sticker)
  • Eye protection
  • Gloves (consider weather conditions, comfort and protection)
  • Long pants and long sleeves
  • Over-the-ankle boots (for support and protection)

Choosing Your Vehicle

he proper gear is a good start, and picking the right ATV or SxS vehicle is another important step. Today’s ATVs range in size, from entry level ATVs with 50-125cc engines up to “big bore” machines with 700cc motors. Be sure to try different levels (within your age range) and consider where and how you plan to ride. While you might think you need the biggest ATV on the market, there’s a good chance you can cover most terrain on a range of vehicles. Check with a local dealership or find a Yamaha demo ride to see which fits you best.

Another question to ask yourself these days: Need more than one seat?

This has become an increasingly important consideration the past few years as Yamaha’s lineup of SxS vehicles has opened up another option for exploring the outdoors.

Traditional ATVs are specifically designed for a single rider only. You should never allow a passenger on a traditional ATV. SxS vehicles are designed specifically for two or more with an automotive-type cab and operation functions (bucket seats, safety belts, steering wheel and foot peddles for throttle and braking).

ATVs are “rider active vehicles” which means you participate in the proper operation of the machine by moving around and shifting your weight, depending on the circumstances and terrain. These movements are best learned under the supervision of an SVIA instructor.

SxS vehicles are very off-road capable, and the automotive-like cab can be confidence-inspriring, but drivers should always drive within their experience level and take particular care in off-road situations.

Responsible Riding While Hunting

Once you are up to speed on proper riding techniques and safety gear, you are ready to insert this experience into your hunting trip. Responsible riding and ethical hunting will help guarantee you get the most out of your outdoor experience while taking care of the outdoors and promoting a positive image also we can all continue to enjoy these sports in the future. Always learn and follow the hunting laws and restrictions in your area, and consider some of these tips for responsible riding while hunting:

Always unload and properly store your firearm before operating your ATV or SxS vehicle. And NEVER hunt from your vehicle.

Learn and follow riding regulations including sound levels, safety gear requirements, age limits and safety course recommendations and requirements. Refer to on-product labels and your owner’s manual for detailed instructions and warnings on proper and safe operation of the vehicles.

Watch for and be considerate of others in the area including private property owners and other hunters.

When on public land, use up-to-date trail maps to assure you only ride in permitted areas and on designated open trails.

Inspect and clean your vehicle to remove seeds, weeds and other vegetation and prevent the transfer of non-native invasive species to other areas.

Follow your vehicle manufacturers recommended maintenance schedule and regularly check for any fluid leaks or problems that might negatively impact the environment or your vehicles performance.

Set a positive example, especially when riding with younger or less experienced riders.

Taking an ATV or SXS hunting can be both extremely helpful and a lot of fun. Even if you never take a shot, your ride out and back can be a blast. To learn more, check out Yamaha Outdoors Tip of the Week online.