Keep it legal with ATVs during hunting season

Officials with the Idaho Off-Highway Vehicle Public Outreach Campaign are providing links to helpful websites so hunters can remain legal with their vehicles during the season. Remember that different rules apply to hunters than recreational ATV users, and some trails may be closed to hunters even if they are open to recreational riders. Idaho Fish and Game restricts hunters on ATV and motorcycles to roads in 30 hunting units. General deer hunting season opens on Oct. 10 statewide.

Hunters also should be aware that a new state law requires youths who do not have a driver’s license to take a free safety course before they ride OHVs on Forest Service roads, and that youths under the age of 18 are required to wear a helmet when riding on an OHV.

Here are five ways that hunters can research what trails and hunting units are open to OHV use:

1. U.S. Forest Service officials encourage hunters to obtain Motor Vehicle Use Maps from the national forest where they plan to hunt. Printed maps are available from national forest ranger district offices, Fish and Game offices, and in many cases, the are online. The OHV Campaign’s website has a link to all of the HERE.

2. BLM travel maps. A comprehensive list of BLM travel maps statewide is located at BLM district offices and field offices. To see more go HERE.

3. Check the IDFG Hunting page to see if there are any restrictions on OHV use in specific hunting units. The IDFG Motorized Hunting Rule affects 30 units statewide. See a map and get details HERE.

4. The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation has a popular 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 maps break down trail restrictions by OHVs, Utility Terrain Vehicles, ATVs and motorbikes is HERE.

5. YouTube hunting tips video. The video walks hunters through the multi-step process of researching whether trails are open or closed. Go HERE.

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. According to the latest survey, approximately 70 percent of the 240,000 people who hunt in Idaho during fall use motorcycles or ATVs.

“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.

Posted in Into the Outdoors