This story isn't about when, where and how all-terrain vehicles should or shouldn't be operated on public lands.
I'll leave that topic to our ever-reliable lawmakers, who have let the ATV issue fester and grow like a cancer until a responsible resolve was impossible. But they've done the same in the past with most other environmental matters.
And for not completing their job on time they get paid extra? Save your letters and e-mails because you won't change my mind.
Instead, this story is about how an ATV and various implements can be used to create and enhance wildlife habitat.
Ten years ago I bought 70 acres south of Brainerd. Since that time I've carried out many habitat projects, including planting food plots for deer and other wildlife, selective forest harvest, planting thousands of trees and shrubs. For all these projects I used an ATV and some of the many attachments that are available.
My only habitat projects that required larger equipment were the excavation of five wetlands. For that I hired a heavy equipment operator who used a wide-tracked bulldozer.
You might wonder why a person would use an ATV for habitat work when a farm tractor, with its greater power and larger implements, works better.
First, a lot of landowners already own an ATV, and with the addition of a few implements they can use their machines for work and play. In my case, I bought an ATV specifically for habitat work because many of my projects are on remote sections of land that are difficult if not impossible to access with a tractor.
My ATV, when equipped with a 3-point hitch and various farming implements, is highly maneuverable, allowing me to shape and contour food plots to match the lay of the land. If I get stuck I simply extract the machine with a winch that can be deployed from the front or rear of the vehicle.
Most people would be amazed at the work a properly equipped ATV is capable of performing. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, study the photos on this page and realize that all the work that went into those habitat projects was done with an ATV outfitted with various accessories.
Cycle Country Accessories Corp. of Milford, Iowa (www.cyclecountry.com) makes the ATV farm implements I purchased. The company started out building snowplows for ATVs, but since has expanded and now builds a variety of quality ATV accessories.
Cycle Country farm implements are attached to my ATV via a 3-point hitch. The hitch connects to the ATV using brackets specific to the brand and model. The various implements link to the 3-point hitch with three lock pins, so switching implements is easy. A simple push of a button located on the handlebar of the ATV raises and lowers the implements using an electromechanical screw-driven lift that runs off the ATV's battery.
Cycle Country makes a 3-point hitch to fit most brands of ATVs featuring 4-wheel drive and engines larger than 300 cc, which is the minimum engine size suggested for use with their farming attachments.
An ATV isn't cheap, and neither are the implements, but what hobby is? Habitat work is rewarding, and a good excuse to get outdoors.
Uses for an ATV equipped with the many available accessories are limited only by one's imagination. It seems every day companies introduce new products that help make an ATV a four-season tool.
Just a decade ago, the idea of farming for wildlife seemed rather absurd to most people. A lot has changed in recent years and many folks now own land purely for their enjoyment, whether it be for hunting, wildlife viewing, or other outdoor recreation.
This was substantiated when recently I typed the words "ATV food plot" into a Google Web search and it turned up more than 68,000 results.
Locally, ATVs and their various accessories can be purchased at Gander Mountain and Brother's Motorsports. Gander Mountain also carries a complete line of products for developing food plots, such as seeds and herbicides.
Bill Marchel, wildlife and outdoors photographer and writer, can be reached at email@example.com
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