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ROOSTING & SHOOTING: 2017 YAMAHA GRIZZLY & WOLVERINE

December 19, 2016
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Grizzly EPS SE and Wolverine R-Spec EPS SE at Gunsite By Mark Kariya, Photos by Adam Campbell and Mark Kariya

 

 What do ATVs and UTVs have to do with the Gunsite firearms training school? They’re great ways to get around, simulating how lots of owners might use them, like getting from the campsite to the drop-off point for a hunt.
What do ATVs and UTVs have to do with the Gunsite firearms training school? They’re great ways to get around, simulating how lots of owners might use them, like getting from the campsite to the drop-off point for a hunt.

 

While Yamaha didn’t make huge changes to the Grizzly and Wolverine for 2017, both machines received enough subtle refinements to warrant an introductory ride by the manufacturer that we were only too happy to attend, especially when said ride happened to take place at the world-famous Gunsite Academy in Paulden, Arizona.

As its name implies, Gunsite is better known in the shooting sports world as one of the oldest, most famous facilities for tactical firearms training. Located in the mountains north of Prescott, it’s not normally open for riding, and the network of trails and dirt roads spread over some 2000 acres isn’t especially hard-core, though it is fun. However, it’s an ideal venue for replicating the type of use many utility ATV and UTV owners put their own machines through—quick and enjoyable transportation between your campsite and, say, the drop-off point to start a hunt. That’s how we used them for three fun days at Gunsite: loaded up a Grizzly SE or Wolverine R-Spec SE with whatever Ruger American Predator rifle or Ruger American pistol was appropriate for a particular exercise and headed out to whatever range the instructors had chosen for that exercise. In addition, Garmin provided Virb video cameras and a variety of mounts to get different viewpoints, as well as incredibly full-featured watches that even included GPS, to allow us to follow or create waypoints.

It ended up being a great experience, not only because we got to try new machines on new trails, but each of the invited editors from both ATV/UTV enthusiast and outdoor media received quickie preview blocks of instruction in the proper use of firearms—from almost contact-distance pistol work in a shoot house to ringing small steel plates at distances up to 1000 yards.

 

 Mud in Arizona? Yes, we hit Gunsite at the right time to experience Arizona’s monsoon season. It made the trails and two-track roads a bit sloppier than expected, but the Wolverine R-Spec EPS SE was more than up to the task.
Mud in Arizona? Yes, we hit Gunsite at the right time to experience Arizona’s monsoon season. It made the trails and two-track roads a bit sloppier than expected, but the Wolverine R-Spec EPS SE was more than up to the task.

 

THE YAMAHAS

Both the Grizzly and Wolverine have been in Yamaha’s model line for several years, and there’s not a huge difference in the 2017s. The most noticeable change for 2017 is cosmetic, as both the Grizzly EPS SE ($10,299 MSRP) and top-of-the-line Wolverine R-Spec EPS SE ($14,799 MSRP) are identified by nice Matte Silver-painted bodywork and SE graphics. There are additional new features for the Wolverine, though, and these include genuine beadlock wheels, added chassis and A-arm protection, extended over-fenders, soft-grip steering wheel, and handy under-seat storage.

Both employ a torquey, dual-overhead-cam, four-valve, fuel-injected, 708cc, single-cylinder engine tuned for the unique requirements each is likely to face. After all, the Grizzly’s wet weight is a claimed 692 pounds, while the Wolverine’s is 1404. In the same manner, the Ultramatic transmission and On-Command 4WD system in both are optimized for the likely demands each might tackle—no one-size-fits-all mentality in these areas is acceptable to prospective Yamaha owners. This CVT-type transmission has high and low range, as well as reverse, neutral and park, and you can lock the front differential on demand for those gnarly situations that demand it. We really like the way the transmission remains engaged and doesn’t freewheel on downhills, thus letting engine braking help you remain in control on steep descents.

Most of the features on both remain the same, and among them are Yamaha’s excellent Electronic Power Steering (hence the EPS model designation) that provides excellent feel and accuracy even in 4WD; disc brakes; 26-inch Maxxis tires at all corners (the Grizzly gets an exclusive model, while Bighorn 2.0s adorn the Wolverine); and full-length skid plates in case more than 11 inches of ground clearance isn’t enough. In addition, both models are assembled in Newnan, Georgia, and come with a six-month, limited factory warranty.

 

A mild update to the existing model, the Grizzly EPS SE is a capable yet fun-to-ride utility-style 4WD ATV. It can tackle more technical trails with ease, yet is more than willing to do work.
A mild update to the existing model, the Grizzly EPS SE is a capable yet fun-to-ride utility-style 4WD ATV. It can tackle more technical trails with ease, yet is more than willing to do work.

 

THE RIDES

Out on the trails both units proved very capable. The steering provided great feedback without being too sensitive and responded readily to input, though steering definitely requires more effort in 4WD but not in the least heavy. While neither is classified as a sport unit, you can up the pace to very respectable levels before you should start to get nervous. The Grizzly is pretty easy to throw around in corners, while the suspension soaks up larger hits well at sane speeds through a fairly generous 7.6 inches of wheel travel in front and 9.1 inches in back via its independent double-wishbone suspension at both ends.

Same for the recreation-targeted Wolverine. It’s designed more for tight trails (compared to, say, the three- or six-person Yamaha Viking), so its two-person, compact and centralized layout allows it to sneak around those confined turns that’d force longer, wider sport side-by-sides to complete in three-point operations. Its turning radius is a fraction over 181 inches, with a relatively short wheelbase of 81.3 inches. Its suspension is courtesy of fully adjustable KYB shocks, including clickers for rebound damping, plus both high- and low-speed compression damping, as well as the usual five-step preload adjusters. Listed wheel travel is 9.7 inches in front and 10.6 inches in back.

 

Cup holders, a glove box, power point—the Wolverine cabin packs a lot of car-like features into a pretty compact side-by-side.
Cup holders, a glove box, power point—the Wolverine cabin packs a lot of car-like features into a pretty compact side-by-side.

 

Over the three days at Gunsite, we logged a respectable amount of time in both and appreciated the comfort each machine provided. The Grizzly’s seat is well proportioned with foam density that makes it easy to pound out mile after mile. Also, the standing position is comfortable for the average-sized rider, as all controls are within easy reach. Same with the Wolverine, though the left-front wheel well intrudes into the cab (a concession to the compact, centralized cab designers sought), so the driver’s feet have to assume different reaches. It feels slightly odd at first, but you learn to live with it by resting the left braking foot on the wheel well. Both seats provide a decent amount of support for long-term comfort, and the Wolverine’s standard roof helps keep the sun from beating directly onto the occupants.

 

The independent rear suspension on both units worked well, keeping the wheels planted and driving, whether on flat roads, rocky off-cambers or in the mud.
The independent rear suspension on both units worked well, keeping the wheels planted and driving, whether on flat roads, rocky off-cambers or in the mud.

 

While we didn’t expect Arizona’s traditional summer monsoons to make such an impact, they did, providing some welcome precipitation pretty much every day of our stay. In fact, it dumped hard the first few days, leading to some awesome trail conditions. (Those who had to lay in the mud while sighting in rifles may have been less happy.) That gave us something else to observe. Even with the increased traction in prime dirt or reduced grip in sloppy mud, neither the Grizzly nor the Wolverine exhibited unpredictable behavior or a feeling of top-heaviness. We did notice, however, that as you went faster, both will fling mud forward and just high enough to give the operator a nice mud bath.

Naturally, cargo capacity counts with those who might be considering these machines, and while we didn’t load them fully, we’re confident in their ability to handle the added weight. The Grizzly’s front rack is rated for 110 pounds, with the rear being claimed to handle 198 pounds. If you want to tow a trailer, a ball-hitch mount comes standard with a towing capacity rated for 1322 pounds.

The Wolverine’s bed is rated for 300 pounds and boasts a clever design that allows you to reposition the tailgate to accommodate different-sized loads, in addition to having six steel tie-down points, plus a 1-inch divider notch. Should you wish to haul more, the standard 2-inch receiver hitch has a towing capacity of 1500 pounds.

 

Naturally, Yamaha offers a number of accessories for both the Grizzly and Wolverine. We found the Grizzly’s trunk offered a bit more room than that of the Wolverine. Both sealed well against the rain.
Naturally, Yamaha offers a number of accessories for both the Grizzly and Wolverine. We found the Grizzly’s trunk offered a bit more room than that of the Wolverine. Both sealed well against the rain.

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

While neither the Grizzly EPS SE nor the Wolverine R-Spec EPS SE breaks revolutionary new ground, the evolutionary refinements they offer help keep them at the forefront of machines to consider if you’re looking for an ATV or UTV that can both work and play. Yamaha has a good reputation for reliability, so we’re sure that both will provide years of service and smiles.

GUNSITE FIREARMS TRAINING

• An integral part of the Yamaha Grizzly and Wolverine intro was the firearms training provided by Gunsite (www.gunsite.com), which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2016. Originally known as the American Pistol Institute when Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Jeff Cooper founded it, it’s become one of the go-to schools for military, law enforcement and civilian shooters who wish to improve their skills with handguns, rifles or shotguns. Tactical/defensive training is the specialty; however, Gunsite also offers a hunter-prep course and even non-firearms courses like emergency medicine, disaster preparedness and edged weapons.

All are very thorough, with five-day classes the norm. Given our limited time, Yamaha arranged for an out-of-the-ordinary introductory curriculum with Gunsite’s outstanding cadre of experienced, personable instructors. While most come from a military or law-enforcement background, there’s no drill-instructor-type attitude, except when it comes to enforcing safety protocols.

 

One of the last exercises was taking the Ruger American Predator rifles in 6.5mm Creedmoor to the long-distance range where the experienced spotters helped us hit small steel targets from 400 to 1000 yards away.
One of the last exercises was taking the Ruger American Predator rifles in 6.5mm Creedmoor to the long-distance range where the experienced spotters helped us hit small steel targets from 400 to 1000 yards away.

 

Since Ruger (www.ruger.com) is located in nearby Prescott, it made sense for Yamaha to ask that company to provide the weapons needed for the rifle and pistol classes. Though not brand new, the American pistol in 9mm Luger and American Predator rifle in 6.5mm Creedmoor (fitted with a Leupold scope [www.leupold.com]) are pretty recent introductions and represent great value. Prime (www.primeammo.com) supplied all the ammunition, except for the frangible rounds used in the shoot-house exercise.

After our safety briefing and distribution of equipment, our range time flew by. For the pistol portion, Gunsite’s instructors took us from the basics of weapon operation to grip to sight alignment to trigger press to presentation from a Galco (www.galcogunleather.com) holster. For some, this represented their first time receiving formal handgun training, while for others, it was a good refresher course. Either way, it was a fun learning experience, and the Ruger American pistols proved good tools for the job.

 

Gunsite maintained a good ratio of instructors to students. Though condensed, our courses were thorough and transitioned from safety protocols, introduction to shooting and presentations from the holster to selectively engaging targets in a shoot house.
Gunsite maintained a good ratio of instructors to students. Though condensed, our courses were thorough and transitioned from safety protocols, introduction to shooting and presentations from the holster to selectively engaging targets in a shoot house.

 

The rifle instruction was likewise very enjoyable, if you overlook having to lay in the mud when sighting in at 100 yards. But here again, Gunsite’s instructors took us from crawling to walking at a fast pace, as it were, getting us comfortable with the basics before moving on to extended ranges. The 6.5mm Creedmoor is a new offering in the Ruger American Predator rifle and is ballistically superior to cartridges like the .30-06 Springfield or .308 Winchester; its .264-caliber bullets flying flatter and faster at long distances while kicking less at the outset.

Though more of a hunting setup, the American Predator/6.5mm Creedmoor/Leupold combination surprised many by being able to regularly engage small, steel targets up to 1000 yards away from the prone position off a bipod. (One instructor did have one of Ruger’s Precision rifles in 6.5mm Creedmoor, and it was indeed an even more impressive shooter, though those are in very short supply in the marketplace and are more of a match-type rifle.) Probably more important than the rifle/ammo/optic, though, was the experience of the spotter giving the shooter the necessary adjustments to make, then calling out corrections after each shot.

In all, it was huge fun, and while we’re unlikely to attempt shots on game animals at such distances, it imparts a great sense of accomplishment. (The hunter is ethically responsible for quick, clean kills, and just because you can hit something a long ways away, doesn’t mean the bullet will strike the correct area with enough energy to guarantee that.) •

 

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2017 YAMAHA GRIZZLY EPS SER

Engine type 708cc OHC 4-stroke single

Bore x stroke 103mm x 85mm

Fuel system EFI

Fuel capacity 4.76 gal

Starting system Electric

Final drive Shaft

Suspension/wheel travel:

Front Independent double-wishbone; 7.6”

Rear Independent double-wishbone; 9.1”

Tires:

Front 26×8-12 Maxxis

Rear 26×10-12 Maxxis

Brakes:

Front Dual hydraulic disc

Rear Dual hydraulic disc

Wheelbase 49.2”

Ground clearance 11.3”

Seat height 36.1”

Turning radius 137.8”

Total capacity 308 lb. (rack)

Towing capacity 1322 lb.

Curb weight 692 lb

Color Matte Silver

MSRP $10,299

Contact www.yamahamotorsports.com

2017 YAMAHA WOLVERINE  SPEC EPS SER

Engine type 708cc OHC 4-stroke single

Bore x stroke 102mm x 85mm

Fuel system EFI

Fuel capacity 9.7 gal.

Starting system Electric

Final drive Shaft

Suspension/wheel travel:

Front Independent double-wishbone w/ fully adj. Kayaba shocks; 9.7”

Rear Independent double-wishbone w/ fully adj. Kayaba shocks and sway bar; 10.6

Tires:

Front AT 26×8-12

Rear AT 26×10-12

Brakes:

Front Dual hydraulic disc

Rear Dual hydraulic disc

Wheelbase 81.3”

Ground clearance 11.4”

Seat height N/A

Turning radius 181.1”

Total capacity  300 lb. (bed)

Towing capacity 1500 lb.

Curb weight 1404 lb.

Color Matte Silver

MSRP $14,799

Contact www.yamahamotorsports.com

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