What You Should Know Before Hunting With an ATV
Along With the Great Opportunities Come Some New ResponsibilitiesSteve Casper, NOHVCC Director of Communications (December 2012)
Over the past couple of decades, ATVs have embedded themselves deep into the
hunting culture. They’ve become such an important tool that many hunters now
wonder how they ever got along without them. However, the use of ATVs by hunters
has also sparked some controversy, and it usually is the result of some
riders not following common-sense courtesy rules or fair-chase procedures.
It is of course possible to keep other hunters, trail users, and land owners
content with your choice to utilize ATVs in your next big hunt while at the
same time maintain a good image in the eyes of the general public who often
raise eyebrows when the words “hunting” and “ATV” are used in the same
To enjoy a better hunt for everyone, follow these simple rulesCOURTESY
- Use common sense and respect other hunters; think about where you are
headed and try not to drive across someone elses line
- Keep your ATV properly tuned and muffled to reduce exhaust sounds and emissions. Keep your noise to
a minimum even if you are a long way from your hunting spot. The sound or
smell of your ATV chasing game away from other hunters is the quickest
way to create hard feelings.
- Operation of an ATV in areas where motorized vehicles are not allowed is
illegal and irritates other hunters who have specifically selected their
hunting area to avoid motorized vehicles.
- To increase your chances of success and cause less disturbance to hunters
around you, access your hunting area before shooting hours and then hunt on
- Retrieve harvested big game during the middle of the day (10 a.m. to 2
p.m.) to reduce conflicts with other hunters. Travel off trail only if travel
- Limit ATV use in and around campgrounds. Be respectful of other campers’
desires for quiet and minimal disruption.
- Slow down or stop your ATV when you approach others on the trail. When
meeting equestrians, approach slowly, pull over and stop, turn off your
engine, remove your helmet and ask how best to proceed. Keep scouting to a
minimum. If necessary, scout for hunting access on legal trails but don’t
penetrate hiding cover. It’s okay to use an ATV for access but “walk when you
- When overtaking others, pass in a safe and courteous manner.
- Increasing numbers of hunters are actually hunting from their ATVs rather
than on foot. This behavior raises concerns of “fair chase” and can reflect
poorly on hunting and hunters. While hunting from an ATV is legal and
appropriate in some states for certain people with disabilities, it is
generally accepted that able-bodied hunters should “walk when they stalk”
to uphold the “fair chase” ethic.
- Be legal and safe. Don’t shoot from an ATV. Instead, use ATVs to
access hunting areas or, where permitted, pack out your kill.
- Never chase wildlife with your ATV. It’s illegal and irresponsible.
- Know the vehicle-use regulations for the area you are hunting. Educate
yourself by obtaining agency travel maps to identify and learn legal routes.
Contact the local BLM Field Office, Forest Service Ranger District or State
Land Management organization for travel management information before you go.
Respect road and area closures.
- Stay on existing roads or trails. Cross-country travel on ATVs can create
a network of new tracks or trails that cause soil erosion and damage to fish
and wildlife habitats. Cross-country travel can also spread invasive species,
which can ruin habitat. Do not contribute to resource damage and habitat
destruction by creating new tracks for others to follow. When you drive off a
road, you leave a track that others will follow and you may be creating
- User-created trails are often poorly located
within riparian zones or on steep slopes creating vegetation and soil impacts.
Don’t make the problem worse by continuing to use these routes.
- Wheel tracks in wet meadows are like footprints in cement – they often
don’t heal. Avoid the use of ATVs in wet areas or during wet conditions. Even
though the lighter weight and low-pressure tires reduce impacts, ATVs
can still do serious damage to wet areas.
- Be prepared to backpack or horse pack game out of areas that do not have
existing roads or trails or allow travel off existing roads and trails for
- Don’t widen single-track trails by forcing your ATV down the trail.
- Cross streams only at designated trail crossings. Erosion from stream
banks and creek crossings can harm survival of native fish.
The National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (www.nohvcc.org) and Discover Today’s ATV (www.atvinfo.org) have taken the lead in the
education of hunters who use ATVs and have several new programs that are
currently in the works.