The Ultimate Hunting UTV
A UTV is just as useful a tool for hunters as it is for farmers. Side-by-sides can haul gear and feed, transport across a wide range of terrains, and even help with land and wildlife management. Knowing that many farmers are hunters as well as UTV owners, Successful Farming magazine set out to build the ultimate hunting UTV.
The base for the project was a Can-Am Defender XT HD10. The Defender is powered by a 976-cc Rotax V-twin engine that produces 72 hp., has four-wheel drive, power steering, independent suspension, and a winch with a 4,500-pound pulling capacity. A few of the selected accessories are specific to the Defender, yet, overall, most of the modifications made for this project can be done to any make and model of UTV.
Starting at the Bottom
Upgrading tires is one of the easiest ways to improve UTV performance. The Defender comes with Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 tires stock. This is a great all-around tire and is tough as nails. However, the tires on our Defender had been across the country on several rides and were starting to look a little worn.
To decide which tires to select, we brought in the experts. Midwest Traction in Iowa knows everything about tires. We told them we wanted a tough tire that would wear slowly with improved traction in mud and snow. At the same time, we wanted a tire that was reasonably priced. The team at Midwest Tire suggested Sedona RipSaw tires, which were the perfect fit for this machine. With deep lugs that dig in and are self-cleaning, these tires have worked great in everything from mud and slop to deep snow. They run around $95 each.
With tires handled, next came adding more ground clearance. With most UTVs, the center of the machine is high enough for ruts, but the A-arms from the suspension can get hung up. While it requires a bit of work, the solution is high-clearance, lower A-arms.
For the Defender, S3, an aftermarket company, partnered with Can-Am to develop a set of arched A-arm lowers. You can get these at your local Can-Am dealer for $399.99. A word of advice: You’ll need a bearing press for this task, and you might want to start out with new ball joints and bearings, because trying to reuse anything can be trouble. This adds ground clearance and helps the machine get through tricky ruts much better.
If you’re going to be dealing with a lot of known obstacles, a big bumper is a good idea. For this machine, we chose front and rear bumpers from Dragonfire that are low profile and still offer a great amount of protection. The best place to get them is through your Can-Am dealer or on the Can-Am website. The front costs $399.99; the rear sells for $349.99.
To the front bumper, we added extra lighting by way of a small 36-watt LED lightbar from Cyclops. The Cyclops lights are lower priced than many (this one sells for $69) and still offer up the durability needed for a serious UTV. You can find these at gsmoutdoors.com.
When it comes to windshields, there are several options. A full windshield can be nice on cold days since it keeps the wind off your face. However, unless you opt for either a laminated polycarbonate windshield or an automotive-glass one, you’re not going to enjoy it for long, as scratching will ruin it in short order. Vision is another problem with a full windshield. If it’s dusty or muddy, you may end up being unable to see.
The other route is the half windshield, which is the direction we went on our build. Half windshields are much less expensive and do a good job deflecting the air up and away from your face. They also offer an unobstructed view in the event of dust or mud. Plus, installation takes mere minutes. For the best fit, we ordered one through Can-Am for $229. Installation time was about 15 minutes.
Who doesn’t like camouflage? Every manufacturer offers its machine in some form of camo pattern. The Defender is available in Mossy Oak Break Up Country; several other brands offer models in Realtree patterns; and some have proprietary patterns, like Polaris’ Pursuit. If your machine isn’t camo, however, and you wish it were, there is a fun solution.
Our project Defender was originally silver. It looked great, but for a hunting rig, we wanted it to be camo. Mossy Oak offers a camo wrap kit with heavy-duty 3M-based adhesive vinyl with the camo pattern impregnated for a durable finish. For this machine, we used Mossy Oak Bottomland camo, as it is a good all-around pattern. The camo wrap kit costs $279.
A word of advice on camo wraps: If you don’t feel comfortable with making a meticulous application, get help from a professional. The UTV Wrap Kit from Mossy Oak Graphics had enough for the whole machine and some extra for wrapping the bumpers. We used a professional to apply it for a precise fit and that added $175 to the cost of the project, but it was well worth it. If you do it yourself, take your time and work slowly. A wrap kit not only adds the fun of camo, but also adds a layer of protection to your UTV’s plastics. The wrap can be removed if need be, so if you plan to sell the machine at some point, you can switch back to the original finish.
One of the main reasons you use an UTV for hunting is to carry gear. Kolpin Outdoors makes some of the best accessories for UTVs when it comes to gear solutions.
We mounted Kolpin Outdoors’ Rhino Grips to the front hood for carrying things like a Gerber ax or a small shovel. You really have no limits to what the grips will carry, as long as it fits into the slots. The grips cost $29.95 and are available through many retailers or from kolpin.com.
To clear paths or to remove limbs that are in shooting lanes, it’s handy to bring along a small Husqvarna chain saw. The most secure way to carry a saw is with a Kolpin Saw Press. It costs $69.99 and is a universal fit. It doesn’t take much to mount the saw press, and it securely holds your saw until you need it.
One of the issues we encountered with this project was finding accessories for the Defender, since it’s a relatively new machine and the aftermarket hasn’t caught up entirely. We wanted a rear cargo rack for the bed that was up high to secure a Plano Field Locker bow case ($199.99). The catch was finding one that could mount anywhere in the bed. Can-Am offers a great option, but it has to go up near the cab. That wouldn’t work when we mounted Can-Am’s Double Gun Bag ($169 from Can-Am) that mounts to the rear of the ROPS cage.
Hornet Outdoors makes a steel rack for the Polaris Ranger that fits the bill, but it didn’t quite fit the Defender bed. (It’s a little too narrow and the mounting brackets don’t match up.) A welder and a couple pieces of flat steel made up for that, though, and we were able to attach the rack with little worry. The rack is high enough to store a Plano Sportsman’s Chest underneath it, so all of our gear and tools can be protected and secure. It costs $399.99.
Making Food Plots
Up next for this machine is food plots. UTVs are great for making food plots – as long as you have the right tools.
Kolpin Outdoors has a great lineup of tools for making food plots. The company’s Dirtworks system has a mount for the receiver hitch at the rear of the machine that has a mechanically operated three-point system. This costs $899.
The motor for the system wires into the battery and has a switch you can control from the cab. From there, Kolpin offers a wide range of attachments for the system including a disk plow, chisel plow, back blade, cultivator, and rake.
All of the accessories are adjustable and portable, which makes getting them back into some remote areas easy. The system, being mechanical, has advantages over other plows in that it doesn’t require the machine to be lifted up to use its weight to give down pressure. The motor in the three-point adds 300 pounds of downforce, enough for most any land-management project.
About the Author
Derrek Sigler grew up on a beef and row-crop farm in Michigan. For the last 12 years, he has covered ATVs and UTVs extensively for Outdoorhub.com, North American Whitetail magazine, and Fruit Grower’s News magazine.