Well equipped ATVs : great tools for Timber Stand Improvement work

Since it’s inception about twenty years ago, the ATV (formerly ATC-all-terrain cycle) has greatly evolved. From three to four wheels, it has progressivley gained the heart of outdoors enthusiasts. But in recent years, the advent of a new generation of powerful four-wheel drive machines convinced many that the playthings could also be put to work!

Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. These early users adapted tools and work methods to the ATV. NovaJack was one of the first companies to draw on the pioneers great ideas and develop commercially available ATV logging equipment around 1990. Today, ATVs are widely used and remarkably well adapted to small scale logging operations.

Light, versatile, economical, here are only a few of the ATV’s attributes. In fact, their lightweigth and small footprint make them remarkably agile in a forest stand! A direct consequence of this is very little soil disturbance and reduced percentage of the land required for trails. But can all ATVs work efficiently in the woods?

A good utility ATV must have four-wheel drive, and a low range of gears. Of course, the larger the engine, the bigger a load you can pull. And a heavier machine will have in theory more pulling capacity (more traction). But you must chose the ATV for your needs, and sometimes, it is desirable to use a smaller, more agile ATV. Again, in other cases, you will want to get the biggest ATV you can afford. No doubt, you will be able to do a lot with your ATV, with the proper equipment.

For example, the addition of continuous traction chains on the rear wheels will significantly increase both the pulling capacity and the braking ability of your ATV. They will help prevent the ‘jack-knife’ effect when going down steep hills with a loaded trailed by keeping the rear-end of the ATV stable. As well, the continuous contact on the ground assures smooth riding on harder trails, and smooth traction when pulling (no tire spinning). Not to mention the longer tire life.

The second piece of equipement you wont want to leave behind is the skidding cone. The cone allows for safe skidding of logs on the ground. It has a 20’’ (50cm) opening, and fits over the end of the log or bunch of logs to be pulled. On top of doubling the ATV’s pulling capacity, the skidding cone will also contribute to the operator’s safety. A log pulled behing an ATV without a cone is liable to get hung up on a root or a stump, stopping the ATV in it’s tracks! The cone will prevent such sudden stops, and will deviate the log when in contact with trees along the path, preventing bark damage. The skidding cone is used with a chain chocker around the log, then through the center of the cone.

It is then fastened to a rope or directly behing the ATV on the pulling plate that slides over the ball hitch. The rope used must be very strong to witstand the shockloading, but more importantly, it should be a low-stretch rope. This will prevent the whiplash effect if the chocker ever came undone, and there will be no wasted energy. The Kevlar™ or polyester ropes offer these caracteristics. Kevlar™ ropes, because of their stronger fibers, will last much longer than polyester ropes, but are quite a bit more expensive.

With a chain-equipped 4-wheel drive ATV and a skidding cone kit, you can now skid logs – a lot of logs.

If you need to haul logs over a long distance, a forestry trailer is the ideal complement to the skidding cone kit. A forestry trailer has many features that are not found on a standard ATV trailer. It should have high ground clearance to go over stumps and through wet spots. It should be roughly the same width as your ATV in order to travel almost in the same tracks. It should be extremely solid, yet as lightweight as possible in order to maximize the payload. It should have loading aids for efficient loading of small and large logs. It should also provide safety features such as a full-size protecton grating and swivel pole to protect the ATV and operator . As well, a low center of gravity, 4-ply tires (to avoid flat tires) and pivoting stakes will help you tackle the rougher parts of your woodlot. And you will propably be surprised yourself when you look at the pile of wood at the end of the day.

With the proper tools and techniques - and a strong dose of common sense – ATVs have been instrumental in helping landowners carry small-scale, low-impact forestry operations. And the future looks bright!


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