|Riding Side-by-Side Useful on the Farm, on the Hunt, or Just for Fun|
The first time I saw a side-by-side, my thoughts were, "So this is what it looks like when you breed a pick-up to an ATV." What began as a way to travel around the work-site or the golf course has now become the most popular modes of transportation around the farm or on the hunting trail.
These little rigs are referred to by many names: side-by-sides, UTVs, off-road utility vehicles, recreational utility vehicles and many names referring to large or aggressive animals like Rhinos, Mules, Gators, Rangers and even Bad Boys. For the purpose of this article, we’ll just refer to the pickup/ATV hybrid as a side-by-side. Regardless of the name you use to refer to them, they are truly useful around the farm or on the hunt.
I’ve recently had the opportunity to put one of these side-by-sides to the test at Macola Creek Farms in Cleburne County this past winter. The side-by-side was a Yamaha Rhino 450 Auto 4 x 4. The 421 cc engine provided ample power to tow loaded utility trailers and haul rounded-over loads of firewood out of steep, remote woods. For a complete tractor-like pulling capability, you can fully lock the four-wheel drive differential and place the transmission in low range.
The plush, bucket seats provided all day driving and riding comfort, and the passenger grab handles and seat belts provided extra security in tough terrain. The low profile doors provided enough height to keep mud and debris out of the vehicle and gave extra protection in tilted terrain.
With over a foot of ground clearance, a dumping bed, grab handles and roll bars, the structural design of the vehicle is well-suited for work and safety, and the fully-independent four-wheel suspension results in agile handling and an extremely smooth ride. The suspension gives the same nimble feel as an ATV, and we were able to effectively herd and drive cattle with the Rhino 450.
The gas tank holds 7.9 gallons of fuel, but after using the 450 all day, it’s hard to see the gas level go down because of the fuel-efficient engine. With a total vehicle weight of 1,105 pounds, the Rhino 450 was able to haul well more than the recommended 400-pound bed capacity and 1,212 towing capacity. However, even though the unit will haul heavier than recommended loads, you have to remember you will eventually want to stop. Overloading the side-by-side can cause you to put too much confidence in the brakes, and sliding and other dangers can result.
On the Farm
If it’s time to plant the garden or the food plot, the side-by-side’s bed has ample room to haul fertilizer, lime, seeds, as well as the tools to get the seeds into the ground. Large, ATV sprayers can be a bulky load for the traditional ATV; however, in the bed of a side-by-side, you have much more stability for spraying even in rugged terrain. When it comes time to harvest your corn, peas and other produce, the side-by-side’s convenient bed will haul a few hours’ worth of picking, and dump the load with a click of a lever.
On the Hunt
One of the biggest advantages to the side-by-side over the ATV during the hunt is the ability to haul out large game. A fair-sized deer on the back rack of an ATV can be an unstable and clumsy load. However, the side-by-side’s bed holds the harvest more securely. Another option you would want to consider is the dumping bed. Whether it’s a deer or a load of gravel, the dumping bed can be a labor-saver.
Taking part in land management activities is much easier with the side-by-side. Trailer hitch implements can be pulled with power and stability by the rear hitch on the side-by-side, and the four-wheel-drive models with low range will pull with the power of a tractor. The comfortable ride for two is convenient for scouting land and general leisure, and the rear bed is plenty large enough to carry chainsaws, lime, fertilizer and other tools necessary to develop food plots and manage the land.
When it comes to two-person transportation, the side-by-side definitely works better than the ATV. While it is possible for two hunters to ride an ATV, most will tell you they feel more comfortable riding side by side rather than front and rear.
Just for Fun
A side-by-side is simply fun to drive. Convincing your spouse to agree to the purchase may not be as fun. A typical scenario might be:
"Honey, we really need one of those side-by-side’s to help us manage this land."
"Why is that, dear? We only own two acres."
"Well, don’t forget about that goat I bought. We are technically in the livestock business now, and I was considering buying a flock of laying hens this spring."
The side-by-side is truly a utility vehicle, and utility means useful. Even if you are not checking the cows, fixing a fence or hauling fertilizer, a side-by-side like the Yamaha Rhino 450 provides both riding enjoyment for the entire family and serves as a faithful working partner in the woods or on the farm. For more information on the Yamaha Rhino 450, visit www.yamaha-motors.com.
John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.