Long before I had a driver’s license, I had an ATV. My first was a Honda TRX 200. I learned how to drive on that machine.
I also learned the value of freedom that comes from mechanisms of transportation. Every picked bean field was an expressway. Every trail through the woods was a new adventure.
Over the years, I have owned a number of ATVs, both three-wheelers and four-wheelers. They have been different sizes, makes and models, but this past fall, I ended up testing a 2012 Honda Rancher 420 with power steering.
Going into the test, I didn’t figure power steering would matter too much to me. It seemed like an unnecessary frill.
I was wrong.
The ability to make tight turns and the overall comfort of not having to wrench on the handle bars makes the power steering option very valuable.
The automatic transmission eliminates shifting. So really all you have to do is turn the machine on and go.
The power of the 420 was impressive. We are now seeing a lot of ATVs with 700cc, 800cc and even larger engines.
I don’t see anything wrong with purchasing an ATV with a larger engine, but I also don’t see a necessity. The 420 did everything I could have asked it to do, from pulling out deer to pulling my kids on a toboggan.
Over the course of the 2012 deer season, I used the Rancher to haul four deer out of the woods. Perhaps I’m getting lazier as I age, or maybe I’m just getting smarter. Why drag a deer up and down hills and hollers to a field edge putting strain on my back when I can pull right up next to it on my ATV, load it on and motor out to the truck without breaking a sweat?
Midwestern whitetails pushing 200 pounds are a chore to drag. Because I had an ATV, I didn’t have to drag any this year, and you know what? I didn’t miss that part of the hunt a bit.
My last ATV was sold when my oldest daughter was born, along with a bunch of other possessions like a Harley and camper. Kids are expensive, so the fringe benefits of life had to go in exchange for things like diapers and doctor bills.
But now that my girls are 7 and 6 and have found a love for the outdoors, and because they aren’t quite as expensive as they were as babies, I figure it’s time to start replacing my toys under the premise of making them our toys.
The girls absolutely loved having the Rancher around the house. We rode it down to my hunting lease at least a couple of times per week. It was a great tool for me to use for motivation to get my kids out in the woods.
The excitement of riding the four-wheeler led to walking in the woods, pointing out deer sign and setting treestands together. We also used it for hauling food down to their pony and other chores around the yard.
The most fun they had, though, was when I used the Rancher to pull them through a grass field on an old toboggan. When I was a kid, my friends and I used to pull each other on old sleds, with or without snow. What a joy to listen to my kids’ screams of excitement and to see the smiles on their faces.
An ATV is more than a tool. It’s an opportunity to discover enjoyment. They are extremely useful in most sporting pursuits, but they also are just plain fun.
If you have been considering purchasing an ATV, then I recommend you go ahead and do it. It’ll provide fun for you and your whole family, and man, they sure make hauling venison out of the woods a lot easier.
See you down the trail.
Brandon Butler’s outdoors column appears Saturdays in the Daily Journal.