What You Should Know Before Hunting With an ATV
Along With the Great Opportunities Come Some New ResponsibilitiesSteve Casper, NOHVCC Director of Communications (January 2014)
Over the past couple of decades, ATVs have embedded themselves deeply into
the hunting culture. They’ve become such an important tool that many hunters now
wonder how they ever got along without them. Unfortunately, the use of ATVs by
hunters has also sparked some controversy, but it is usually the
result of a few riders not following some 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. Even
experienced hunters may be new to using ATVs and it doesn't hurt
to take a moment to review the current ATV hunting etiquette.
To enjoy a better hunt for everyone, follow these simple rulesCOURTESY
- Use your common sense to respect other
hunters; think about where you are headed and
try not to drive across someone elses likely line of
sight to reach your spots
- 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, you can access your hunting area
before shooting hours and then hunt on foot.
- 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 regulations permit.
- 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 stalk”.
- When overtaking others, pass in a safe and
- 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
- 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 resource
- 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
- 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 game retrieval.
- 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
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.