HUNTING – The Idaho Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Public Outreach Campaign is urging people who use ATVs or motorbikes during hunting season to stay on designated trails and do their homework to ensure that the trails they plan to ride are open.
New resources are available to help OHVers learn which routes on public lands are open and closed.
About 70 percent of the 240,000 people who hunt in Idaho (residents and non-residents) during the fall months are using motorbikes or ATVs to access their hunting areas, according to the latest survey cited by campaign officials.
Here are five ways that hunters can research what trails and hunting units are open to OHV use:
1. National Forest Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM's) from the national forest where you plan to hunt. Hard-copy maps are available from national forest ranger district offices (that is, when they reopen from the current federal shutdown), IDFG offices, and in many cases, the MVUMs are online. The OHV Campaign's stayontrails.com web site has a link to all of the current online MVUMs: http://stayontrails.com/mvum/.
2. BLM travel maps defined route open to motorized use. See a comprehensive list of BLM travel maps statewide online at http://stayontrails.com/blmTravel/ and on BLM web sites. Hard-copy maps are available at BLM district offices and field offices (but, again, remember the shutdown).
3. Idaho Department of Fish and Game's website Hunting page has a big game unit map that lists restrictions on OHV use in specific hunting units. The IDFG Motorized Hunting Rule affects 30 units statewide. Here's a link to the big game unit map of the units affected by the rule.
4. Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation has an online map resource that's great for researching new OHV trails and for checking on whether OHV trails are open during hunting season, and when. The web site is: http://trails.idaho.gov. The maps break down trail restrictions by OHVs, Utility Terrain Vehicles, ATVs and motorbikes.
5. YouTube hunting tips video walks hunters through the multi-step process of researching whether trails are open or closed. Here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/edit?ns=1&video_id=dTgL0ZH41i8&o=U
Officials with the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Idaho Department of Fish and Game say that hunters riding off-trail on ATVs or motorbikes continues to be a problem on public lands during hunting season.
"We are most concerned with instances where a hunter drives off-trail to scout for game or retrieve game," said Andy Brunelle, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service. "One set of tracks through the brush or in a meadow can invite others to do the same, and the impacts add up, damaging vegetation and causing soil erosion into streams."
Under the Forest Service's National Travel Rule, "it's incumbent on the user to know if the trail is open or closed" regardless if the trail is signed appropriately, forest officials said. That's because people have been known to shoot signs full of bullet holes, remove signs or vandalize them.
Jon Heggen, enforcement chief for the Idaho Department of Fish and game, encouraged motorbike and ATV riders to be sensitive to the fact that some people may be hunting on foot in the same area where they are riding their trail machine.
"We want to remind hunters to stay on trails and be courteous to other users," Heggen said.
A new Idaho state law requires youths who do not have a driver's license to take a free safety course before they ride OHVs on forest roads. The law also stipulates that youths under the age of 18 are required to wear a helmet when riding on an OHV or driving one.