Hunting help or hindrance? Use ATVs properly

Hunters on ATVs who venture off roads and trails in national forests and, in most cases, Bureau of Land Management land are subject to citations and fines. Wildlife officers patrol the backcountry and are authorized to write tickets. Enlarge photo

JOE LEWANDOWSKI/Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Hunters on ATVs who venture off roads and trails in national forests and, in most cases, Bureau of Land Management land are subject to citations and fines. Wildlife officers patrol the backcountry and are authorized to write tickets.

Editor’s note: This is one of several articles from Colorado Parks and Wildlife that will run in the Outdoors section in the next several weeks to prepare hunters for the upcoming fall big-game hunting season in Colorado. For this and more stories, visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website at http://wildlife.state.co.us/NewsMedia/PressReleases/pages/pressrelease.aspx?PressId=7907.

By Colorado Parks and Wildlife

The number of all-terrain vehicles used during hunting seasons has been increasing steadily during the last five years. While the vehicles can be useful tools to aid a hunt, some hunters are using them improperly and causing a variety of problems.

Hunters must be aware of Colorado ATV rules, local regulations and new federal travel-management regulations for national forests and Bureau of Land Management lands.

All ATVs must be registered in Colorado – an out-of-state registration is not valid here. To register an ATV, call the Colorado Parks and Wildlife office at (303) 791-1920 or visit www.parks.state.co.us and click on the “Registrations” tab.

On national forest lands, and generally on BLM lands, ATV travel is allowed only on roads and trails designated for such use. Roads and trails open to motorized use will be signed as “open” or be shown as open on Forest Service and BLM travel maps. It is recommended that you consult with the local forest service or BLM office before your trip to make sure you understand travel regulations in your hunting area. Federal fines, up to $500 per incident, may be levied for violations of travel-management regulations.

Colorado wildlife officers are authorized to write tickets for illegal ATV use. Besides the federal fines, violators who are using ATVs while hunting, fishing or trapping will be assessed penalty points against their license privileges: 10 points for most violations, 15 points for riding into wilderness areas. Hunters who accumulate 20 penalty points lose their ability to buy hunting or fishing licenses for at least one year.

Cary Carron, a district wildlife manager in Bayfield, said that hunters must get off their ATVs if they expect to see any big-game animals.

“There are some hunters who drive around on ATVs all day and then they complain that they’re not seeing any animals,” Carron said.

The constant drone of ATVs also causes problems for other hunters. ATVs are noisy and cause animals to move deep into inaccessible territory. Just one vehicle can cause problems for numerous hunters.

“There is getting to be a real backlash against ATVs from people who actually get out there and hunt the way they’re supposed to,” Carron said.

Big-game hunters who wish to be successful must walk slowly and quietly well away from roads. It is unlikely during hunting season that a hunter will see a big-game animal from the road. And if an animal is spotted, a hunter doesn’t have time to get off the vehicle, take a rifle or bow out of its case, load the weapon and move off the road to take a shot.

Besides disturbing animals and other hunters, ATVs used improperly can cause resource damage when they are driven off established roads and trails. That action can destroy vegetation, compact soil and lead to stream and water-quality degradation.

Remember these rules and guidelines:

Rifles and bows carried on ATVs must be completely unloaded and secured in a case.

Check with local Forest Service and BLM offices for the local travel-management plans on the national forest or for the BLM district in which you will be hunting.

Game retrieval off roads and trails designated for motorized use is not allowed on national forests in Colorado, with the exception of limited allowances on the Rio Grande National Forest. Check with local BLM and Forest Service offices for specific game-retrieval policies.

ATVs cannot be driven into designated wilderness areas.

Do not trespass onto private roads.

Be considerate of other hunters. Drive slowly to reduce noise; drive only to areas where you will begin to walk; don’t hunt from the road.

Explain these rules and guidelines to young hunters and those unfamiliar with proper ATV use.