ATVs can drive public land managers crazy 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.”
About 70 percent of the 240,000 people who hunt in Idaho (residents and non-residents) during the fall seasons are using motorbikes or ATVs to access their hunting areas, according to a state and federal survey.
With that many wheels on the ground, the potential is high for damage to public land, wildlife populations and the quality of the hunt for all sportsmen.
A person can be cited for being in a closed area even if it’s not signed, Forest Service officials said.
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.
Staying in bounds can be especially confusing for hunters because some off-highway vehicle rules change during hunting seasons, and hunters are often on a mixture of federal, state and private lands with differing rules.
Here’s where to verify where off-highway vehicle use is allowed:
• U.S. Forest Service Motor Vehicle Use Maps for the national forest where you plan to hunt. Printed maps are available from ranger district offices, Fish and Game offices, and some are available at stayontrails.com.
• BLM travel maps, available at BLM offices. See a list at stayontrails.com/blmTravel.
• Idaho Fish and Game Big Game Rules Booklet (pages 79-80) lists OHV restrictions in 31 specific hunting units.
• Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation has an online map database for researching OHV trails and checking whether they are open during hunting season at trails.idaho.gov. The maps also segregate which motorized trails are open to which vehicles because some trails are open to motorcycle, but closed to ATVs and UTVs.
Jon Heggen, enforcement chief for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, also encourages OHV users to be sensitive that some people may be hunting on foot in the same area where OHVers are riding their trail machines.