Food plots are a proven way to grow and manage a healthy deer population on your property, and an ATV is the perfect tool for making a plot and making it work for you. The biggest hurdle in purchasing one, however, is cost.
Sure a new ATV is nice, but with the latest machines going for upwards of $10,000 or more (plus all the implements on top of that), who can afford that?
Don't panic. With a little creativity and some time clicking away on Craigslist, you can come up with the ultimate ATV and all the things you'll need to manage your property for half the cost of just the new machine.
And with Spring finally on the way, now is the best time to shop. Don't believe me? I set myself a budget of $5,000, then hit the Internet to see just how much I could potentially buy and still stay under my self-imposed budget.
Here's how you can do it.
Pick a Winner
Tip 1: Start by figuring out what kind of ATV to buy. With your budget, you'll be looking at machines that are a few years old, but that's OK, as long as you stick with one of the major brands (Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Polaris, Arctic Cat and Suzuki).
There are a lot of off-brand machines out there and while some of them are pretty good, they usually lack dealer support. You need to be able to get something fixed if it breaks down and having good dealer support is one less thing to worry about.
Tip 2: Engine size is also very important. Many of the manufacturers will recommend that you use at least a 500cc engine or bigger if you're planning to use your ATV for farm/food plot work. You can get away with a smaller engine and save a few extra bucks as well. Just go easy on it.
Tip 3: And while it is a nice feature, you really don't need four-wheel drive, which may save you additional dollars. Make sure there is some kind of trailer hitch on the machine, or some way you can add one. You're going to need it.
Don't be Afraid to Trade
I found a decent 2002 Polaris Sportsman 700 for $3,100 or best offer on Craigslist, meaning the owner would be willing to deal. It had a new battery and new tires — a real plus since having to replace them would be pricey.
Tip 4: Best of all, the owner lived close by, so I wouldn't have to travel far to pick it up or pay to have it shipped. He might be willing to barter as well by taking some things in trade. I've got an extra bow I could trade, and my mother-in-law. I don't know if he'd take my mother-in-law, but I can dream, right?
Buying Implements the Smart Way
Having the ATV is the start, but now you need to get the rest of the tools to establish your food plots and manage them. Unlike most tractors, there is no power take off (PTO) or three-point hitch system on an ATV.
Tip 5: Keep that in mind when you're looking at implements on Craigslist or other places. Some farm implements just aren't going to work.
You're going to need some kind of plow or disk system to break up the soil and turn it over. A plow is honestly quite a bit for an ATV to pull, unless you go with a small one- or two-blade model designed for ATVs. If you've got really tough ground, the challenge will only be greater.
Tip 6: However, there are some great, small disk/harrow units designed to be pulled by an ATV or garden tractor. With some looking and some luck, you can find a good used one out there. I found a compact disk for $125 that I'm going to go pick up.
Tip 7: One alternative piece of equipment I've had a lot of luck with is the Groundhawg Max disk/harrow. This is a small unit that can be mounted up pretty easily and uses the ATV's weight to dig in to the dirt.
You might be able to find one on Craigslist, but if you can't find anything else and time is running short, they can be purchased new for under $350.
Make Your Own Drag
Tip 8: A drag is a great tool to use after you turn the soil over. It clears out all the roots,grass and other junk from your food plot.
Drags can be pretty cheap to find, too. You can sometimes find a good deal on one in the lawn-and-garden section of Craigslist as there are plenty made for use with lawn tractors.
You can also make one using an old box spring. Just take some wire cutters and cut the bottom side off the springs, so there are plenty of wires from the coils hanging down.
Use a chain to attach the box spring behind your ATV. Strap a couple of cement blocks to the top for weight and have at it.
Tip 9: Sprayers are great if you need to transport water to your plot, or if you need to spray for bugs or weeds. Used sprayers are great if you can find out what was used in them.
Moultrie makes a great line of sprayers and sometimes you can find a deal on their website for a refurbished or discontinued model.
Rent and Save
Tip 10: Renting implements is also an option. Check with your local farm implement dealership to see if they have any, or know of someone who rents implements.
Not long ago, many Gander Mountain stores had a rental program for Plotmaster units. You can sometimes find other implements at commercial rental places.
Renting everything you need to get your plot in place can save you a few bucks and help if you're not able to find an ATV or implements within your budget.
With careful planning, and by using Craigslist, local ads and some creativity, you can find your own ultimate food plot and hunting machine for a fraction of what a new machine would cost.
Yes, you won't have the latest machinery, but you could find the perfect machine and implements to accomplish your management goals and have a better hunting season, all while still having enough left over for a new bow or rifle. Sounds good to me.
Tips for Protecting Your Used ATV
The very first thing you should do when bringing home a used ATV, (even before you ride it), is change all the fluids. This applies to purchasing a new ATV or UTV as well.
- Change the Oil and Filter
- Clean and Oil the Air Filter
- Drain the Fluids and Check for Metal Shavings
It's in the Soil
One of the most common mistakes land managers make with their food plots is misunderstanding how to work the type of soil they are growing in. Many are limited by their equipment or their knowledge of the soil. Dr. James Kroll and Pat Hogan show you what you need to know about soil preparation before planting your food plots: