U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
|Hunting With ATVs - Responsibility or Regulation?|
The use of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) during hunting season has skyrocketed in recent years. ATVs offer several advantages -- they are easier than walking, they cause less impact than most other vehicles, they can access terrain that would turn back other vehicles, and carrying an elk out on the back of an ATV is easier than carrying it out on foot.
There are also disadvantages to the use of ATVs. Because they are easier than walking, more people are hunting from their ATV rather than on foot. The noise and smell of an ATV can alert game animals from a long way off so your chance of seeing game from an ATV is very small. And that same noise and smell that is chasing deer and elk away from you is also chasing them away from any other hunters in the area as well -- this can create very hard feelings among hunters who used stealth and stalking skills to get into good habitat only to have the deer and elk scared off by ATVs!
Because ATVs can get into terrain that other vehicles cannot, some riders are making improper use of that advantage and creating an extensive network of new roads and trails in areas that were previously roadless. This causes increased impacts to vegetation and soils. It also creates a path to tempt other recreationists to follow until those faint tracks through the meadow become a full-blown road. The elk in that area are then subject to year-round disturbance. Big-game hunters should be aware that a half-dozen studies have clearly shown that elk avoid vehicle activity associated with a road or ATV trail. Other interesting tidbits from these studies show that:
Responsibility or Regulation - The Choice is Yours!
So what does this mean for the typical hunter with an ATV? It's simple - it means responsibility versus regulation. If, as a group, ATV users are irresponsible with the use of their machines, then there will be increasing pressure on land management agencies to restrict ATV use during hunting season. Already there are groups, most notably other hunters, that are asking for a total ban on ATV use during hunting season. In other areas, regulations have already been established that limit ATV use to certain times of the day and then only to retrieve a harvested animal.
Nobody likes regulations, but if irresponsible ATV use continues to cause unacceptable impacts then regulations will become necessary to ensure the protection of the public lands. A better alternative would be for ATV users to recognize the impacts their activity can cause and voluntarily take steps to reduce those impacts. ATV users are not unique in this respect -- as more and more people use public lands for recreation, the potential impacts of these activities are growing fast. Virtually all recreation users -- jeepers, horse enthusiasts, rafters, snowmobilers, hikers, campers, rock climbers, motorcyclists, fishermen, and mountain bikers -- are being asked to reduce the impact of their activities so the public lands can be enjoyed by both today's citizens as well as by future generations.
What can you do to reduce the impact of ATVs during hunting season?
Here are a few tips.
These are simple things, but they can go a long way toward reducing the impact of ATV use. They will also help to protect the habitat and herd health of Colorado's magnificent elk & deer. And with diligent self-policing, they will help prevent the need for more regulation.
Point of Contact: Arden Anderson
Last modified: January 30, 2006