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by Dave ‘Coonbottom” O’Kane

ATVs/UTVs are a ‘must’ for mud lovers

As I was flipping through the 2012 Arctic Cat ATV & UTV catalog, it really made me miss my old 4-wheeler.

A lot.

The air has turned cool, the leaves are falling, and the old hunting trails are starting to get used again.

Normally, when you think of mudding you think of high-horsepower 4-wheel-drive trucks or swamp buggies on tractor tires. But there are still many of us who enjoy the freedom of getting on an ATV (or UTV) and hitting the trails. Before the mega truck craze ever took off, a lot of us discovered that those sometimes hard-to-reach deer stands could be accessed a whole lot easier with an OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) than in an old pick-up truck.

Many of us also quickly discovered that sometimes you just got to root up a little mud while riding one. You know...just to get it out of your system! Back in the 70s it was dirt bikes. In the 80s it was the 3-wheeler, and then came the 4-wheelers.

Today, having a UTV (or side-by-side, as many folks call them) is the way to go. Although it isn’t a replacement for a tractor, having a utility vehicle can be used for work just as much as it can be used for fun.

However, there is still just something about being able to hop on a ATV and ride off through some thick trails. It is something you just can’t do with any other vehicle. Sure, a dirt bike offers the same freedom, but it is hard to throw a large cooler on the back of one.

A side-by-side is great for loading up friends and cargo, but it isn’t easy to push one of those out by yourself when you stick it. An ATV really is a “must” for anyone who enjoys the outdoors, wants to get into the woods or simply wants to sling some mud without having the headache of working on a truck.

When I got done looking at the catalogue, I realized I had just caught the 4-wheeler bug. It made me think about all of the great memories I had when my friends and I would load up and head out – like riding the power lines during a full moon.

We would cut the headlights off and drive by only moonlight. It was such a rush – especially when one of those support cables or guy wires came flying by your tires a little too close! We quickly learned not to do that anymore.

There were also the times we would be stuck for hours in a Fuller’s earth bog (that white/grayish sticky dirt that becomes slick as snot when it is wet...some people call it potter’s clay) and having to snatch each other out or use a come-a-long to get unstuck.

We would sweat and cuss for hours, only to turn around and do it again.

We all had good laughs watching a friend crank a Honda 110cc 3-wheeler by leaving it in gear, then picking up the back tire and turning it forward. Redneck ingenuity at its finest!

I also learned a lot the day I was pinned underneath one after I rolled my 4-wheeler in a briar patch. I learned a lesson in how to straighten a handle bar using a pipe, and that – although it shouldn’t – duct tape can be used to quickly patch a gas tank for a short period of time.

Learning not to be dumb on one was the most important thing I learned. OK, so maybe some of those weren’t the best memories to reminisce about, but they will be the ones I will never forget.

Now, being older and wiser, I probably should just stick to something that has a roll cage.

However, the next time I am leaning halfway in a hot engine compartment while mud is dripping off the hood on my back, I might just reconsider just how I want to get “slinging some mud” out of my system.

Anyone want to look at my ATV catalog?

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Dec. 9-11 – Triple Canopy Ranch Toys For Tots Christmas Give-A-Way

Triple Canopy Ranch will be hosting its 3rd annual Christmas Party by giving away some incredible gifts, including: a CanAm ATV, a one-week camping trip with RV, hunting trips, hunting bows, a chance to win a 2012 Jeep Wrangler and much more. Get a chance to win just by attending! And for every unwrapped gift that you bring for Toys For Tots, you’ll earn an extra raffle ticket to increase your chances of winning. Enjoy karaoke on Friday night, ATV & truck races on Saturday, followed by the famous “Party After Dark” with live entertainment and traditional bonfire. What a way to end the year at TCR’s annual Christmas Party! For more details visit the TCR website at www.triplecanopyranch.com and see ad on page 71. Triple Canopy Ranch is located at 16950 County Road 630 in Lake Wales, FL 33898.

Dec. 10-12 – Mud Muckers Bring a Gift – Get A Gift!

MudMuckers, the world’s largest off-road family fun park in Bunnell, Florida will host a “December Chinese Christmas Gift Exchange” as well as numerous other events on Dec. 10-12. Everyone who brings a gift will get a gift, as well as a chance to experience live entertainment, truck races, Hill ‘N Hole race, mud drag strip, guided night rides, a new “party spot in the woods” and more. Gates will open on Friday at 9 a.m. Guests can enjoy free camping, free hot showers, free bike wash and truck and ATV pits, 5-acre play area, separate truck campground, ATV/UTV round pen, landing strip, obstacle course, balance beam and more trails than any other park in the world, in addition to food vendors, a general store and ice machine. MudMuckers consists of 11,000 acres of family-owned land in Bunnell, Fla. For more info, see ad on page 72. For more information, call Iron Horse Billy at (386) 566-1456 or check www.MudMuckers.com for updates.

Dec. 30 - Jan. 1 – Redneck Yacht Club New Year’s Mud Party!

Redneck Yacht Club in Punta Gorda will hold its next event on Dec. 30 - Jan. 1, 2012 when the park hosts a “New Year’s Mud Party” and special fireworks show to ring in the new year. The New Year’s celebration will include fireworks, games, races, entertainment, camping and lots of muddy fun. RYC was stacked and packed for the Nov. 11-13 Trucks Gone Wild weekend (which is coming back in March!), which included exciting mud racing and awesome live music from Craig Campbell and other bands. The RYC will crank it up again on Saturday night, Dec. 31, to ring in the new year.

Feb. 3–5 – Triple Canopy Ranch Florida Cracker Fest

Enjoy one of the biggest events of the year along with thousands of mudders at TCR’s 3rd Annual Florida Cracker Fest on Feb. 3-5. Enjoy a weekend of awesome weather, ideal for camping, riding and muddin’. There will be plenty of action on TCR’s ATV trails and challenging mud pits, including ATV and Truck races competing for $3,000 on the famous “Canopy’s Curse” drag strip. After you’re done playing, wash off in TCR’s drive-thru truck wash and ATV wash racks. Friday night, The Archery Shop will host karaoke along with TCR’s traditional bonfire that will light up the night sky. Top off the weekend at Saturday’s “Party After Dark” with another live performance on the new TCR stage. Visit the TCR website for more details, www.triplecanopyranch.com.

(For the rest of this month's scheduled events pick up the current issue of Woods 'n Water Magazine.)

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For more in-depth off-road coverage, pick up this month's issue of Woods 'n Water, click on our forums page http://www.woodsnwater.net/forums for the "Offroad" section and be sure to visit http://www.woodsnwater.net/boggin for awesome video and photos of recent events around the South!