Whitetail Hunting With A Bit Of Ranch Flavor – 2020 Yamaha Viking VI Ranch Edition Review
Just across the border from Mexico lies the Whitetail Diaries’ supreme hunting grounds and recreational opportunities.
Story: Casey Cordeiro // Photos: Van Holmes & Casey Cordeiro
Comfort zones are meant to be shattered. New Experiences are meant to be had. When opportunities come your way, you should do everything you can to take advantage of them. Life is a new adventure everyday. Join our Whitetail Hunt and 2020 Yamaha Viking VI Ranch Edition Review.
These principles are things that make all of us get up every morning and tackle the day and everything that it gives us with vigor. The first lesson in that list was to take our comfort zones and shatter them with every opportunity we have – doing this makes us better in every way with a more open outlook on life. My recent comfort zone that needed breaking was my life long hesitance with hunting. I’m just not excited about taking a life. However, I have realized over my years of meat-eating pleasure that I need to expand my horizons and be open to the idea of hunting. At the beginning of 2019, I decided that I would try it and get out to harvest my own animal if the right opportunity came around. I wanted to join an experienced group because I knew I could learn a lot, and I wanted to be sure that I could bring the meat home for our family to use for many meals. With those goals in mind, I was open to the idea.
Just by chance, the right opportunity came around to partner up with Yamaha and the extremely knowledgable crew at Whitetail Diaries for my first ever hunt. Whitetail Diaries, which is a TV show that you can find on your local cable network (check your local listings), is led by Wade Middleton. Wade is an extremely knowledge and experienced hunter who has been doing this for a long time. After my experience with going with this crew and, more importantly, a team who really knows what they are doing, I would offer my simple recommendation to anyone looking to do this: make sure you go with someone/a group who is very experienced with the sport! It makes your experience that much better. Wade started me out on the range and let me get comfortable with my 304 rifle in this environment. It was the perfect way to start out the trip and give me the knowledge I needed to have a successful hunt.
I’m forever appreciative of the experience that hunting brings to your life. Camaraderie, positivity, and thankfulness for the food on your table are just a few principles that hunting reminds you of – don’t take this life for granted. The buck that I harvested is going to feed my family for quite some time, and I’ll forever be thankful for that every time we sit down at the dinner table.
The other side to the hunting experience is the fact that you typically need a vehicle to get you to and from the best hunting spots. Your blind or secret spot could be a mile down the road, or several hundred miles there and back. With modern technology and vehicles, we can get there and back quicker and easier than ever before. On my first hunt, I quickly found out that a UTV is the BEST way to get there and back. During our hunt, we tested out the 2020 Yamaha Viking VI Ranch Edition, complete with the bed in the back to haul back our harvest. Man, was that ever handy to be able to load up the buck and get back to camp in time to dress it, clean it, and get it ready for processing.
HIGHLIGHTS of the 2020 Yamaha Viking VI Ranch Edition
- Ranch Edition-specific features: painted bodywork and matching interior, aluminum wheels, soft sun top, rear view center mirror, overfenders, underseat storage, a bed grab bar, front brush guard, and Ranch Edition-specific badging
- 10 YEAR BELT WARRANTY – standard!
- Very spacious and comfortable cabin with individual seats for all 6 passengers
- That exterior color (Copperhead Orange Metallic) looks fantastic in person
- Perfectly tuned clutching
- Quiet engine
- Full dumping bed with no rattles
- Very safe feeling from quality components throughout, large diameter ROPS cage, and half doors
- Excellent power steering calibration
- Smooth suspension setup
The Viking has the aging but still quite capable 700-class, single cylinder, EFI-controlled engine. This engine puts out plenty of power to tow the rated 1500 lbs or haul the load limit in the rear cargo bed (600 lbs) with a full load of 6 passengers. Hopping into the driver’s seat the first time, I was pleasantly surprised with the pep that this engine still delivers. If you’re used to other utility UTVs in the marketplace, then you’ll think that this engine is a bit down on power compared to the competition. However, the reliability and quietness of this bulletproof engine setup doesn’t go unnoticed, and that is why ranchers, hunters, and recreationalists are still attached to the Viking lineup. It’s hard to beat the reliability of this setup.
Our suggestion to Yamaha would be to drop in their highly praised 850 twin engine that is found in the Wolverine X2 and X4. This engine is a thing of beauty and one of the best power plants in the UTV industry, with power available nearly everywhere in the RPM range and a very quiet running demeanor. We hope they put this engine in the Viking in coming years.
One of the highlights of any Yamaha UTV is the transmission and clutching. No matter how much of a load you put on a Yamaha UTV, the clutching handles the takeoff and stops with such smoothness. They really are a pleasure to drive, and all of this rings true with the Viking VI. This Ranch Edition takes off extremely smooth in either low- or high-gear, and I can really appreciate how well tuned the clutch is for all kinds of different speeds. It doesn’t sound like you’re ringing the engine out at high speeds, and the power is there instantly when you’re cruising and need to mash the gas. Plus, every Viking comes with a 10-year belt warranty! Talk about confidence in your engineering and finished product…
Utility UTVs are known for their hauling capability, but molding in a smooth unloaded ride is hard to do when you need to retain the fully-loaded capacity ratings. Yamaha found the sweet spot with the Viking VI. It doesn’t ride the smoothest of all utility UTVs on the market, but it makes good use of the travel that it does have available. Plus, quite possibly the best part is that the vehicle doesn’t squat substantially in the front or the back when you have people on the inside and corn and a deer loaded in the back. Even fully loaded, the ride remained controlled and comfortable. Again, it’s not the smoothest ride in its class, but it’s really hard to match the capability and reliability of the Yamaha Viking.
Utilizing Maxxis Bighorn tires on all 4 corners with aluminum wheels and disc brakes, the Yamaha provides good traction in all situations. I’m a fan of Bighorns because of their great traction in so many different environments – hard pack, sandy conditions, trail loam, and a bit of mud. Yes, with their open tread pattern, they can wear out a bit faster than a tire with more compact tread spacing. But the tradeoff is good because of the traction they do provide.
With a bit of mud and several water crossings, the brakes also stayed fade free during our driving experience. They had plenty of stopping power to bring this long machine to a halt, and I thought that the pedal had a great feel to it. The throw wasn’t too long or too short, just right.
INTERIOR & EXTERIOR
The interior is one of the best highlights of the Viking VI, especially in Ranch Edition trim. Traditional utility UTVs have a bench seat for all passengers, but Yamaha went outside the typical box with the Viking lineup and included individual seats for all 6 passengers in the VI. The seats are well sculpted and definitely keep you comfortable for long hauls. The only thing about the driver’s seat that I didn’t like was the fact that the steering wheel isn’t adjustable vertically. That is such an odd feature to leave out that I hope they add it in the future.
Not only are the seats comfortable and plenty supportive for this type of vehicle, but there is plenty of leg room for the front and rear seats with abundant flat spots for your feet. I’m 6’2” and was surprised with all of the leg room available in all seats. Plus, with passengers right next to me, I didn’t feel like we were scrunched in this very open cab layout. Under the driver side rear seat, there is a sealed storage container that is perfect for extra supplies and smaller items. Yes, it would be nice if the lid was slightly larger so it could hold bigger items, but it will still be very handy to hold a wide range of supplies.
The exterior styling has been around for a couple years on the Viking, but it is still looking great and feeling fresh in a crowded industry. The latest Ranch Edition color way is spectacular in person!
With a longer overall wheelbase of 115.6” and a ground clearance of 11.4”, I could see how this long of a machine could get hung up on sharp obstacles like roots and logs on certain trails. Keep this in mind if you plan on doing much recreational riding in this machine; it is a bit long. Luckily, Yamaha did include their fully locking front differential (with twist dial actuation on the dash), so traction will never be an issue with the Viking VI.
At the end of the day, I’m hooked on hunting and can’t wait to get out there and harvest my second whitetail. It is such a wonderful, eye-opening experience, and it feels great when you open up the freezer and are able to feed your family with an animal that you personally harvested. A big Thank You to Yamaha and the entire Whitetail Diaries staff for the experience – it was truly an unforgettable trip! I hope this inspires you all to get out and share the experience with either friends & family or a hunting guide in the future. Either way, you can’t go wrong. Make sure you do it right and bring home your harvest for your family to enjoy, too.
When it comes to the Viking VI Ranch Edition, Yamaha really did a great job at making sure this utility UTV had so many of the features that ranchers, hunters, and trail riders want in a utility vehicle. There are a couple changes that would go a long way, but Yamaha really did a great job on this platform. Plus, in a world where high UTV prices dominate the market, the Viking’s price point, even in this fully loaded Ranch Edition trim, is more cost effective than many vehicles like this in the marketplace – the MSRP is $15,599. We can’t wait to hop back into the driver’s seat soon!