With a new model year comes two new bears from the Yamaha den. They’re restless and ready to dominate whatever stands in their way.

Yamaha has long been known as a company that builds some of the toughest, most dependable ATVs on the market. For 2016, they’ve completely retooled the extremely popular Grizzly ATV and come out with an all-new Kodiak ATV to boot. Between the two models, and the variations of each, you’re bound to find a Yamaha that fits you just right.

Yamaha used the engine designed for the new Wolverine in the new ATVs. It is the same 708cc dual overhead cam, single-cylinder monster. It made sense to put it in the Grizzly, but it also is the heart of the new Kodiak.

But wait, there’s more. The frames are also identical. For 2016, Yamaha completely redesigned the frame for the Grizzly, improving on the already outstanding handling and feel. The front and rear racks are the same, and they’re made out of steel. Even the fully-independent suspension front and rear with five-way preload adjustment and 7.1 inches of travel in the front and 9.1 in the rear is the same.

Don’t be fooled, though. These machines are two very different animals.

While the core of the machines is the same, the rest of the details are vastly different. Even though the engines are the same, the transmissions are not. Yes, mechanically they’re the same, but the setup isn’t, and that makes all the difference. Power delivery is altered by way of gearing in the CVT transmissions. The Grizzly is geared for a sportier ride. When you jump on the throttle, the Grizzly roars and you move–quickly. Bringing the front end off the ground to clear a trail obstacle takes just a chop on the throttle. The Kodiak 700 is mellower. You still have all of the engine’s horsepower on tap, but it’s delivered on a gradual curve. For less-experienced riders, or those looking for a more-work-than-play type ride, the Kodiak is definitely the way to go.

Kodiak_land_manager_600 The Kodiak is ideal for folks who are frequently jumping on and off their machine. Mending fences, checking trail cams … you get the drift.

Some other differences are in the seating and plastics. The seat on the Grizzly is taller and narrower, positioning the rider more upright. Yamaha did this because the more aggressive rider on the trail is going to be standing up more to handle the machine and terrain. The Kodiak 700 has a flatter and wider seat that’s designed for the rider who spends more time with their cheeks firmly planted on the machine. Both seats are very comfortable and can be interchanged if you find one fits you better than another.

The Grizzly is geared for a sportier ride. When you jump on the throttle, the Grizzly roars and you move–quickly. Bringing the front end off the ground to clear a trail obstacle takes just a chop on the throttle.

The fenders are also different between the two machines. The Grizzly has higher fenders that allow for more mud buildup and protection. The Kodiak’s fenders are lower. They still offer outstanding protection from slop and nastiness, but also make it easier to get on and off the machine. Yamaha’s product managers said this was designed with folks who do a lot of work with their ATV in mind. If you’re checking fences on your ranch, or running through your line of trail cameras swapping out memory cards, the Kodiak was designed to make your life a little easier.

Riding in the hills of eastern Tennessee, the differences between the machines were quickly apparent. The Kodiak’s trail manners are very nice. It tracks well and can be ridden hard and aggressive, or casual and laid back. Everyone from experienced trail riders to beginning novices will find the Kodiak appealing. You still get all the power and torque of the 700-class engine, without feeling like it’s going to rip the bars from your hands.

Grizzly2_rock_crawl_600 The Grizzly is a get-up-and-go ride. You’ll be hard pressed to push it to its full performance limits.

The Grizzly thrives on being ridden aggressively. Now, that’s not to say that you can’t ride very casually–you can. But you also never feel like you’re reaching the limits of what the Grizzly can handle as you speed things up. It’s an awesomely comfortable ride with a very controlled feel. Inexperienced riders might find themselves a little intimidated by the power delivery. This is not a machine for them.

The Kodiak 700 is mellower. You still have all of the engine’s horsepower on tap, but it’s delivered on a gradual curve. For less-experienced riders, or those looking for a more-work-than-play type ride, the Kodiak is definitely the way to go.

The two machines come in a wide range of colors, including the sweet-looking Realtree Xtra camo pattern. And there are options to be had including special editions (SE) with automotive paint finishes and additional accessories. The Grizzly is available in four trim levels, starting with a non-electronic power steering (EPS) model at $8,899. From there, you go to the EPS model for $9,699, the SE for $10,299 and the SE for $10,899.

Kodiak3_gun_boot_600 Both the Grizzly and Kodiak 700 come in a variety of color options, including Realtree Xtra camo.

Kodiak 700s start out with a non-EPS model at a low-price of $6,999. That’s comparable to other manufacturers’ solid-rear-axle machines with smaller engine sizes. Yamaha is going to sell a ton of them! Add EPS, a handlebar-mounted headlight and a 2-inch receiver hitch, and you’re bumped up to $8,199, which still isn’t bad. The Kodiak EPS SE model, which is a sweet-looking ride, costs $8,899.

The bottom line is simple: Yamaha has taken one basic platform and managed to create machines that fit just about every category in price and function. That’s not really something the industry has seen yet, but then again, Yamaha is no stranger to leading the pack.

Both the Grizzly and Kodiak 700 are available at your local Yamaha dealer now. Go take a look and pick the bear that’s just right for you.

When you can combine riding comfort with go-anywhere power and impressive cargo capacity, outdoorsmen everywhere need to take notice.

polaris-2016-3-600Have you ever been inside an ATV dealership, glimpsed all the hot-rod-looking sporty machines and thought, “Yeah, that looks fun, but I need something geared more for hunting.” Well, I’m here to tell you that looks can be deceiving. If you’re an avid hunter, don’t be so quick to dismiss a sporty-looking machine like the new 2016 Polaris RzR 1000S. My testing has shown there are quite a few scenarios where it would be just as good for hunting as a more “utility-type” machine—and some where it far outshines them.

Don’t overlook the idea of comfort when picking out a side-by-side. And I’m not trying to say that other machines aren’t comfortable—most all of them are. There are, however, a few comfort features that you simply can’t overlook. The RzR has 12.25 inches of suspension travel up front, and 13.2 inches in the back. The FOX performance shocks are riding in dual A-arms and soak up just about any obstacle you’ll find. On a recent ride, we drove these machines over fallen trees, through massive ruts, and across crater-sized holes. The suspension handled it all. Add to the mix some highly bolstered seating, and you’ve got a very comfortable ride.

polaris-2016-2-600 A big reason you’ll appreciate the RzR on a hunting adventure is that the handling and suspension seat won’t wear you out as you traverse rough terrain.

All the comfort means that at the end of the day, you’re not going to be as fatigued. Imagine riding back into the hill country to reach your secret deer hunting spot. When you get to the point where you’re ready to hop off the machine and start hiking the last leg, you don’t want to be feeling physically spent. And with some side-by-sides, it certainly happens. It’s the same reason people pay extra for first class when flying. The extra room and comfort pays in the end, when you still have a long day ahead of you.

A lot of us buy a larger-caliber rifle than we really need. Quite often it’s not because we know we need more firepower at the moment, but rather, it’s because of the gun’s “potential” uses we haven’t yet considered. Not to mention, the wise notion that it’s better to have more gun than you need, rather than not enough when you really do need it.  The same can be said about side-by-side engines. The RzR 1000S’ powerplant is one of the biggest, and most-powerful you can get. It pumps out 100 horsepower and can get you from Point A to Point B so fast your watch will have to catch up. It’s impressive, but here’s the kicker— it’s also one of the most-controllable big-bore engines we’ve tested.

polaris-2016-1-600 Trees, rocks, steeps and more—there’s not much that can stop the 2016 Polaris RzR 1000S. The ability to go just about anywhere makes it a great hunting rig.

Regardless of the terrain, the RzR really shined when it came time to go. By this, we mean that it always had power on tap. There was no “lull” when you gave it gas, the GBC Dirt Commander tires found traction anywhere, and we moved. This included some gnarly, steep, washed-out hills of sand and rock. Imagine riding into your area, only to have a massive hill separating you from the valley where you wanted to pitch base camp. What now? Well, you could hike up that hill, hauling all your gear, or take the time to ride around it on a lesser machine. Or you could simply “gas it and go” on the RzR. Which approach would you take? We’d rather go hunting with the RzR.

An interesting side note to having all this power, is that the RzR’s fuel tank holds 9.5 gallons of gas. After riding for 4 solid hours of fairly non-stop action, we barely used one-tenth of a tank of gas. Just one-tenth gallon. That kind of fuel economy is impressive.

When Polaris first released a RzR 1000, it was a beast. Huge shocks, and a wide stance made it most at home in open terrain. The new S model is narrower, at only 60 inches wide, making it far more trail friendly. The suspension, geometry, tires, and overall design make the RzR comfortable in everything from wide-open western country, to the tight wooded hills and mountains of the east. Deep mud is not a problem either, as we got into some seriously thick bogs that would otherwise have had a person wishing they had a winch and six buddies along to help with the drag-out.

The nearly “go-anywhere” appeal of the 1000 doesn’t just refer to the handling. If you’re wondering if you would ever need to travel at speed over terrain, imagine a pronghorn hunt in a state like Wyoming. Need to get ahead of a herd that was blown out of a valley by another hunter? No sweat. How about cruising down logging roads, heading back to a Upper Peninsula deer camp during a beautiful Michigan autumn? Let her rip, tater chip. It can go most anywhere, fast or slow, in open terrain or tight woods, and get you there without draining any extra energy out of you.

The cargo area is generously sized, with multiple tie-down points. It will haul up to 740 pounds of cargo in the 20.7 inches long by 37 inches wide by 7.9-inch-deep cargo bed. This size bed gives you enough room and capacity to haul enough gear for a decent camp, or a nice day trip. Need more cargo capacity? The RzR 1000S has a 1.25-inch receiver hitch and it can tow up to 1,500 pounds. If you need more stuff than that, it might be time to try a helicopter. That’s about the only other ride that can get you into the places a RzR can go.

Overall, if your hunting or fishing trips are a little on the adventurous side, and/or you desire an extremely capable machine that can get you just about anywhere, take a look at a Polaris RzR.  These machines can get you comfortably into places you’d be hard pressed to get into otherwise, and are plain fun for scouting, and other outdoor expeditions. And as an added bonus, during the off season, you can have a lot of fun simply joy-riding. That might help you swallow the $17,999 price tag, or at least keep you from sleeping on the couch. Quite a few hunters are seeing the advantages of going with a sport-based machine, over a strictly utility model. Find out more info at Polaris.com and decide for yourself. Better yet, go to a local dealership and drive one.

With power to spare, stand-out cargo capacity and respected pedigree, this Mule was made for hunting. 

Kawasaki’s Mule brand has been around a while. While technically not the first UTV (John Deere’s Gator holds that distinction) the Mule was the first modern UTV, or side-by-side. Known as the “workhorse” of the UTV world, there are Mules performing tasks all over the world, and with good reason. They are capable and extremely dependable. In fact, Kawasaki has one of the very first Mules still at work at its factory in Lincoln, Nebraska. That machine has logged over one-million hours of operating time and it’s still going strong. An original Mule helping to build new Mules—very cool.

The Mule’s downfall has always been off-road capability. Don’t get me wrong; they can be used in off-road situations, but there were always machines that did the job better. Kawasaki addressed that with the Mule Pro FXT last year, a beast of a machine with six-passenger capacity, towing, cargo, engine, and suspension enough to get the job done. But what if you wanted something a little different? Enter the Mule Pro FX. The FX is the same basic Mule as the Pro FXT, without the addition of the second row of seating. But it’s more than just a sized-down FXT. This new machine is much more.

The engine of the Pro FX is the same 812cc three-cylinder, automotive-style power plant of the FXT, with some year-over-year refinements. This is a good thing. The engine pumps out plenty of horsepower (although Kawasaki is pretty tight-lipped with a number); there’s plenty on tap for just about any job you can come up with. The engine has a throaty rumble, but is still very quiet compared to other machines. Getting the power to the ground is Kawasaki’s CVT transmission. Each manufacturer has its own version of a CVT (belt-driven automatic transmission). With some, you can noticeably feel the engine take the tension up in the belt, and there is a delay when you engage the engine. In other words, there’s a lag when you give it gas. The Mule’s engine and transmission don’t do that. You give it gas—it goes. But there is noticeably little wheel spin. You hook up and go.

kawasaki-mule-600-1The Kawasaki Mule Pro FX is available in Realtree Xtra Green camo, and in a Hunter’s Package that includes many popular accessories.

Along with the impressive engine, comes engine braking. For an outdoors person, engine braking is a very important feature. It is basically where the torque of the engine slows the wheel speed down when descending a hill. On machines where it’s done right, you can travel down a fairly steep hill, and never have to “hammer” the brakes. It is a really nice control feature. Imagine trying to haul your deer camp supplies back into the deepest parts of the forest. You’re going to want all the control you can get. A machine with good engine braking will help. The Mule Pro FX has outstanding engine braking, even under load. And with a machine that has this much cargo capacity, that says a lot.

Oh, you want to know about the cargo capacity?  How would you feel about a cargo bed that is over 54 inches long and over 53 inches wide? Would the fact that it has a 1,000-pound capacity make it just that much better? And would you appreciate the gas-assisted dump? You can even get hydraulic dump assist too, if you like. In a word, the massive cargo bed of the Mule Pro FX is awesome. You can haul all of your hunting/camping gear and still have room to pack out your game. And then there are the smart details. The sides of the box have rails for tying things down. Also, there are numerous slots built into the sides for dividers, and the flow of the box is metal for durability.

In a word, the massive cargo bed of the Mule Pro FX is awesome. You can haul all of your hunting/camping gear and still have room to pack out your game.

The Mule Pro FX has 8.7 inches of wheel travel in the suspension. And we found the shocks work very well to give you a soft, cushiony ride. At slower speeds, the ride is excellent. If you’re trying to “hot-rod” it over rough terrain, the ride is too soft, and you can get thrown around some. But seriously, if you’re into riding too fast over rough terrain, you’re going to want to look at a different style of UTV. The Mule is more for those who are into the job—not the ride to the job.

Other interesting tidbits include the 2-inch receiver hitch that lets the Mule tow a full 2,000 pounds. The receiver is kind of a gripe for me about Kawasaki. They always seem to position the hitch pin hole a little too far back for some hitches. Also, I’ve had to run an extension bar to use my GroundHawg Maxx plow. Not a big deal, but if I had to complain about something …

kawasaki-mule-600-3Handling characteristics of the Mule are very good considering that it isn’t a small machine. Steering is predictable, and the suspension soaks up rough-trail abuse.

On another positive note, the lighting system on the LE and camo models is awesome. You get standard halogen headlights, plus a set of LEDs, both with high/low beams. There’s a host of accessories too, including a Hunter’s package that adds a lot of neat stuff. And, one other big thing: the Kawasaki Strong three-year warranty. It always says a lot to me when a manufacturer puts a decent warranty on their product. I’ve toured the plant in Lincoln, NE, where Kawasaki builds the Mule as well as its other ATVs and UTVs. When this company says “Kawasaki Strong,” you’d better believe it means it.

So is the Mule Pro FX the ultimate hunting machine? With a massive cargo bed and capacity, a smooth ride that inspires confidence in the driver, coupled with the brand’s legendary reliability, it might just be. Whether you’re looking for a machine to work around the ranch, or haul all your gear as well as work on food plots or other habitat projects, you should definitely look into owning the newest Mule.