Howard Delo

As I write this, we are experiencing one of the hottest and driest periods I can remember. Please be careful and follow the burn and fireworks bans currently in effect. We survived the 1996 Miller’s Reach fire which was, as I recall, started by careless use of fireworks. I wouldn’t wish having to deal with a wildfire and potentially losing everything on my worst enemy. Please be safe and considerate of your neighbors.

In my travels out and about, I’ve seen a fair number of boats being towed either to or from a water destination. However, I’ve been seeing a lot more ATVs being towed for recreational use. That suggests to me that, with the fishing season progressing as it has, a lot of folks are recreating on the offroad trails with their four- and six-wheeled ATVs rather than fishing.

I received a phone message from a friend asking if he could bring a friend of his over to look at my Polaris side-by-side six-wheeler to see how I have “tricked” it out for hunting. My friend remembered seeing the unit when we went on a caribou hunt in Unit 13 a couple of years ago and mentioned it to his friend, who had just recently purchased his own Polaris.

More inside

We’re still playing phone tag to arrange a time for the two to come over to look at my machine, but I thought I would discuss the main upgrades I have made to the ATV over the years. To start, my machine is a 2015 model which came with a built-in 4500-pound winch on the front end. I had the dealer install a full, steel cab complete with a heater and fan, and a windshield wiper on the operator’s side. The extra weight of the cab required the installation of heavy-duty springs on the front axle. Power steering makes the almost 2,000-pound unit much easier to control. I added side mirrors to both doors.

The factory skid plate was “junk,” so I had CAC Plastics of Wasilla install a full coverage, ½-inch thick plastic-material skid plate. The next stop was the Fence Emporium of Alaska, in Palmer, where they custom designed and built a rack with storage shelf over the bed of the ATV. The shelf carries a spare tire and three 5-gallon gas cans, giving me some real range when I’m out driving remote trails. Over time, I added three curved bars, reminiscent of the old Conestoga wagon, to support the custom cover I had made to keep water from pooling up and items in the bed relatively dry during a rainstorm (and when doesn’t it rain during hunting season?).

The bed cover has a story. I had originally bought a heavy-duty canvas tarp which I asked Laurie at Blu Skye Industrial Sewing in Wasilla to make into the cover. She recommended against using the canvas, but I wanted it. That’s the cover my friend saw on the caribou hunting trip. However, the canvas ended up shrinking horribly when it finally dried out. I then asked Laurie if she would redo the cover using her originally suggested material. She did and I now have an improved design and waterproof cover.

I kept the factory tires figuring they would work well enough for the areas I planned to visit. The front and rear tires are different sizes. The dealer recommended the spare be a front tire size, since that would work either front or rear. A larger rear tire would not work on the front end.

I added a built-in battery charger to maintain the battery over winter. I had a short LED lightbar installed on the front end to aid running in dim light. I also found that it could become quite hot in the cab from engine heat on warm days. Polaris had no fix for that, but the dealer suggested installing a fan to blow air out of the cab and back through the engine compartment to aid cooling. I found a heavy-duty fan which the dealer installed for me.

I probably forgot a couple of small changes, but you get the drift of what I have done to customize the machine for my uses. None of these upgrades were cheap, but having the work done over a period of years helped offset the financial cost.

The next thing is keeping the machine properly serviced and maintained. Polaris no longer makes this model machine, so I need to take care of it for maximum usable life. For your ATV, you should too.

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