Setting Up A Yamaha Rhino For Hunting, Fishing

Other — on June 26, 2006 at 12:00 pm

Sure, our ultimate hunting and fishing ATV still sits in our shop, ready for solo excursions, but when we’re ready for an outdoor adventure and we have a partner tagging along, there’s no better choice than loading up an off-road utility vehicle. We selected the Yamaha Rhino not only for its ability to climb over just about anything but also for its compact size, which allows us to negotiate those tight tree-lined trails you find while out on a hunt. Its compact size doesn’t mean it can’t carry tons of gear, either. So take a look at how we spiced up a Yamaha Rhino 660 to meet our hunting and fishing needs.

One problem with utility vehicles is traction. There’s only so much traction an OEM tire can provide and that only covers basic all-terrain conditions. We, on the other hand, like to venture into places that will show the true potential of an off-road vehicle. That’s why we enlisted some help from the best in the track industry.
The Mattracks LiteFoot Ultra-Ride track system (about $5,000) is specifically designed for utility vehicles and uses some of the features on Mattrack’s original LiteFoot track system. A variable four-link, three-spring Shape Changing Suspension not only helps soak up the bumps, it contours the track to the trail, creating unbelievable traction. The four-link suspension provides cushioning to the internal track components and preload is adjustable. The Ultra-Ride system can be used in mud, sand and snow — anywhere you want to ride. Many other track kits are limited to snow use only.
The Ultra-Ride track system features the newly designed XT track, which contains 1-inch lugs for extra traction. Installing the tracks is pretty much like changing tires. The LiteFoot Ultra-Ride tracks come with a Polaris wheel bolt pattern. To mount on our Yamaha Rhino, wheel adapters were bolted to the Rhino’s hubs so we could then bolt on each track. An additional bracket is added at each corner of the Rhino so a torque link bar, from each track, can provide a link back to the Rhino and the track doesn’t roll over while in motion. Once the torque link brackets are installed, they stay on the machine so either the tracks or the tires can be used. Swapping between tracks and tires takes less than an hour. Only common tools are needed for installation. Each track weighs about 100 pounds.
When you’re using the tracks, you’ll feel a bit more resistance on the steering wheel when turning. However, even our smaller riders had no problem maneuvering the Rhino with the tracks on. You’ll lose some top speed, about 20 percent, while using the LiteFoot Ultra-Ride tracks. Driving over three-foot snow banks was a piece of cake and made up for the loss in top speed. When you have the LiteFoot Ultra-Ride tracks installed, you can’t haul your Rhino in the back of your pickup, however.

Another outstanding traction option, one that is not nearly as expensive as the track kit, is the newly released ITP TerraCross R/T 26-inch radials. They are mounted on ITP’s 14-inch C-Series Type 7 aluminum machined wheels. Not only did the TerraCross tires and C-Series wheels look awesome, they performed great, too. Designed specifically for side-by-side utility vehicles, the interlocking one-inch-deep tread and wrap-around shoulder lugs gave us very good traction in the dirt or snow; something we needed to transfer the Rhino’s power to the ground. ITP’s 6-ply construction design is heavy-duty and deters flats as well. After running the ITP TerraCross wheel kit, we came up with a few conclusions — the Rhino rode smoother, was more responsive in turns, was easier to maneuver on slow rock-crawling trails and supplied greatly needed traction in the slippery snow or soft sand than with the factory tires. Before, we had to put the hammer down and spin our way through some areas. Now, we simply crawled the Rhino through. Our TerraCross tires are 26/9R-14 in front and 26/11R-14 in the rear.
Since we had the extra traction, we knew we would be venturing into areas that might otherwise decommission any UTV. So, we searched for additional underside protection. The Rhino’s factory skid plate system does a decent job, but we would be traveling in areas with sharp ice heaves/chunks, hard-crusted snow banks, rocks, logs and branches; a lot of obstacles that would be scraping the Rhino’s belly. Our logic? We would rather replace a single section of skid plate versus repairing a welded-in factory section. Also, we did not want to rip a CV boot out in the boonies, so we always opt for more protection.
We tossed out the Rhino’s front and rear factory plastic skid plates and replaced them with a complete aluminum skid plate system from Pro Armor. A-arms, engine, mid section and the Rhino’s rear were completely covered with the custom Rhino-designed skid plates. The A-arm guards (about $100 for each end) are manufactured using .160-inch aluminum and the attaching hooks are CNC machined; not U-bolts from the hardware store. All other Pro Armor skid plate sections are manufactured using up to .190-inch thick aluminum. All of the mounting bolt locations are recessed so the belly of the Rhino can slide right over logs, rocks, ice heaves or dirt berms without shearing off bolt heads. We noticed Pro Armor paid special attention to the detailed fit of each skid plate piece — each piece overlaps the other so there are no edges to snag on obstacles. The side skid plates run $156 while the other underside plates cost between $75 and $255. Pro Armor gave our Rhino a custom sectional armored belly for when the tough get going. Installation uses the factory hardware and some additional self-drilling hardware.
Yamaha provides a long list of essentials for the Rhino. We selected a handful that not only did we need but wanted to test for fit and finish. The Deluxe Dual Gun Scabbards are superb. Not only did the scabbards mount perfectly, the area in which they are located offered easy access to the firearms from each side of the Rhino. Plus, the Rhino’s tilting dump bed can still be used for other jobs. Each gun scabbard has its own inner-soft case to transport the firearm without removing the entire gun scabbard from its mount.
Next we added a front wind deflector ($115) and roll-up rear window ($75) to help keep nature’s elements off us. We actually came to prefer a front wind deflector over a full windshield. The deflector sent the airflow just over our heads, not right into our face, yet gave us a clear view of what’s out in front of the Rhino. A full windshield, on the other hand, would have become quite dirty and blurred our vision of any hazards out front. When raining or snowing, the rear window, able to be rolled up and put out of the way, kept the moisture off our upper body. Each window was very easy to install and held up fine while trailering the Rhino at highway speeds.
To see more at night, we added the Yamaha PIAA Performance Lighting System. The system includes two lights (available in long range or wide beam patterns), light guards, lighted switch and wiring. We used the optional roll bar clamps and wire harness extension to mount the lights on top of the roll bar. They were perfect for lighting up the front sides of the trails when heading out in the darkest of nights. All of the PIAA components ran about $250. We also tested the Yamaha rubber encased spotlight that costs $75. The spotlight came in handy for checking out the bed contents at night or lighting up the area behind the Rhino when backing up.
Since we mounted aggressive tracks and tires, we needed some protection from the slop. Yamaha’s custom molded polyethylene Overfenders ($180) installed easily, helped give the Rhino a custom look but more importantly, kept us cleaner. To give the Rhino a little front-end protection from bumps and bruises, we installed Yamaha’s Front Bumper Guard ($165). It really added a custom look plus protected the Rhino’s snout and winch from branches and trail obstacles encountered. The black satin powder coated finish held up nicely, too.
When you equip an off-road machine like we have our Rhino, we’ll bet you are going to take some chances and wind up getting stuck. We installed the Superwinch ATV3000 to pull us out of trouble and to help free other machines that may become stuck. The ATV3000 comes standard with roller fairlead, 50 feet of 3/16-inch cable, free-spooling or power load in/out, compact Roogle switch (rocker/toggle switch) and metal planetary gears, to name a few features. The Superwinch ATV3000 mounted just behind the front bumper and the color-coded wiring makes for easy installation. We mounted the Roogle switch on the dash, on the driver’s left, so winch operations can be controlled from outside the Rhino or while seated behind the steering wheel. Our ATV3000 also came with the Freedom Switch Wireless Remote Control. The remote control is sweet! It allows you to operate the winch using a two-button key fob transmitter; just like the remote door openers on automobiles. The Freedom Switch option installs easily, too, a true plug and play installation that anyone can install.

We carry tons of gear while hunting and ice fishing. Even though the Rhino’s bed is large and a bed cover is available from Yamaha to keep its contents dry, we chose to keep gear dry a different way. We used the Rhino’s two-inch receiver hitch and slipped in a small Haul-Rite travel box, with frame, from Otter Outdoors. Not only did this free up the Rhino’s bed for bulkier larger gear like coolers, tree stands and a generator, on a big game hunt we were able to keep our spare boots and clothes dry in the Haul-Rite while leaving bed space open for our big game harvest. For ice fishing, we modified the Haul-Rite’s frame in the rear so we could pull our Otter Outdoors ice fishing shelter as well. And, we custom mounted an Otter Outdoors Ice Shield tube to the Rhino’s roll bar to carry our Strikemaster power auger, in order to free up the Rhino’s bed for other gear. The Haul-Rite box is polyethylene constructed, has molded hinges and the lid is double-walled for strength and durability. The Haul-Rite and frame run $249.

The way we have equipped the Rhino, we suspected we would be off the beaten path more than usual. This means we would find ourselves lost more than usual, too. We asked for help from the world’s leading GPS receiver company, Lowrance. They sent us an iFinder Hunt C, 16-channel GPS receiver to install in the Rhino’s cockpit to help keep track of where we were going and, more importantly, how to get back. The iFinder Hunt C contains a color screen, is waterproof and is perfect for off-road use. Not only does the iFinder Hunt C track your course, but highly detailed maps can be downloaded onto a MMC/SD media card and inserted into the Hunt C for unbelievable map detail.
While ice fishing, the resolution from the Hunt C and optional Lakemaster map card showed lake depth contours in increments as small as one-foot! When we travel eight miles from shore for fishing, we would sit and plan our route at home and then follow the directions from the Hunt C until we arrived at the lake destination waypoint we set. Just a few iFinder features include electronic compass, weather information, MP-3 audio capability and record audio notes using the built-in microphone. You can also search the iFinder’s internal memory for public land and waters, counties, streets and lodging, restaurants and so on. More details are available if you install the highly detailed map cards. For the hunters, zoom ranges under one mile are shown in yards for more accurate calculation of shooting distances. The Hunt C can store 2,000 waypoints and 100 routes with up to 10,000 points in any trail; all in a compact, easy-to-use case that will fit in your jacket pocket.
We feel we have our Yamaha Rhino 660 set up just how we like it so we can get into remote hunting and fishing areas.

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