3 almost 4 years ago when I was in a similar situation I started by looking at Honda also. Honda is one of the few that actually has a transmission instead of a CVT and belt drive. Yamaha and Kawasaki were backup options along with John Deere, my FIL loved his Gator. I highly recommend that you actually drive them all. Most sales places have obstacle courses so that you can test them out. When it was all said and done I went with Polaris XP 1000 Northstar after driving each of the above and it wasn't even on my radar when I started. I have a full cab with heat and AC. The thing puts a smile on my face to this day every time I drive it. Especially in the summer shooting on Sporting Clay courses in heat and humidity. But also the cushy ride over rough terrain on the North Shore of Lake Superior and it will and has gone everywhere I have asked it to.
50 inch width restrictions exist on many NFS roads and I did consider a Honda Pioneer 500 but a friend of mine had just purchased one and it beat the snot of you with the short wheel travel. Lifting it and modifying the suspension helps but makes such a small vehicle even more unstable on rough terrain. He ended up selling it after a year. I left WNC where I had retired from the Navy in 99 so not sure what the restrictions on roads and NFS roads are now. Used to be able to drive the truck on most of the NFS roads but when the UTV and ATV's started to take off the Forest Service solved the additional vehicle traffic by gating and closing many of the roads to all vehicle traffic. In Mn. you can ride a UTV on pretty much all roads and most NFS roads too, hopefully the same applies to WNC by now.
There are a LOT of aftermarket accessories for Polaris more so than any makes due to the sheer volume that are made and sold. Wasn't going to pay $3-4K for a topper and dog box for the bed so built my own out of 1/2" exterior grade baltic birch and customized it to fit my needs.
I leave the box on in the winter for shooting and also to keep snow out of the bed LOL.
During the summer I use it for Sporting Clays and can carry a couple extra people in the bed. The AyA N°2 16 ga. on the rack in the bed belongs to a friend, it is not mine.
More times than not it is carrying SxS guns however
When you get over 50" width class you often have people saying why not just a Jeep? The ones that say that have never owned a UTV. Ride is hugely better in a UTV and doesn't beat you up off road. Lighter and can go places Jeeps can not
When meeting a vehicle coming the other way on a 2 track it is easy for me to pull over between 2 trees and do. The driver coming the other way invariable stops and rolls the window down to thank me saying they had no place to pull over. My friends FJ compared to the buggy and I almost went with a FJ.
I'm thankful that I didn't and extremely pleased with my choice. So are the dogs. I ripped the back seat out of the Taco and made a dog bench
But got real tired of getting beat up and also beating the truck up. it is now just a tow vehicle for the buggy. I should have gotten a UTV sooner not wait until I was 60.