Are Off-Highway Vehicles And Hunting Compatible?
The Montana Hunter Behavior Advisory Council reported ten years ago that motor vehicle use during hunting, including off-highway vehicles, is creating serious problems. Today the situation is magnified, as growing numbers of hunters use OHVs.
“An estimated 30,000 hunters used OHVs during Montana’s 2007 hunting season,” said Ray Paige, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks motorized trails specialist. “OHV registrations in Montana climbed from about 23,000 in 2003 to about 54,000 today.”
Paige said that hunters who obey the laws and regulations guiding the use of OHVs during the hunt are in the majority. However, only a few motorized vehicles can do real harm to wildlife, wildlife habitats and the hunting experiences of others when hunters don’t know the law or choose to ignore it.
According to a 2007 Montana Wildlife Federation survey of private landowners, ATV use and abuse is cited as one of the top ten reasons a landowner would not allow the public to hunt on their lands.
“OHV issues occur on public and private land, but this survey makes it clear OHV abuses hurt all hunters’ chances for hunting access to private lands,” Paige said. “If the trend continues, the FWP Commission has said hunters may see new restrictions on OHV use.”
FWP stepped up education on proper OHV use during the 2006 and 2007 hunting seasons, in a cooperative effort involving FWP, the Montana Trail Vehicle Riders Association, US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. One outcome, a brochure just for hunters titled Hunting and ATVs, is available at FWP regional offices and at many license providers.
MTVRA, with a Montana Trails Grant, administered by FWP, has also produced educational brochures, a youth education program in the schools and aired a television PSA promoting ethical use of OHVs.
Paige said it is a tough task to change the behavior of riders who knowingly violate the law. Enforcement is one answer, but enforcement budgets, such as FWPs, are limited to user fees from OHV registrations.
“The USFS and BLM participate in FWP’s TIP-MONT program and receive information directly from callers reporting OHV and other violations,” Paige said. “FWP game wardens work on the ground with USFS and BLM rangers to respond to these reports.
FWP encourages hunters and others who observe hunting violations involving OHVs to report them to 1-800-TIP-MONT, that is 1-800-847-6668, and to gather appropriate evidence when it is safe to do so, including license and registration numbers, photos of the OHVs with the license plate in the image, and photos of tracks and other evidence of damage. Callers may remain anonymous and could receive an award for information that leads to a conviction.
Here are some tips for hunters to help reduce the impact of OHVs during hunting season.
- Know the vehicle use regulations for the area you are in.
- Stay on designated public roads or trails. It is the law.
- Access your hunting area before shooting hours and then hunt on foot.
- Retrieve harvested big game from the nearest designated road or trail.
- Respect other hunters and recreationists by slowing down or stopping as you approach them on the trail.
- Avoid wet areas.
- Reduce emissions and sound.
- Pass in a safe and courteous manner when overtaking others.
- Limit OHV use in and near campgrounds.
- Report violations to TIP-MONT at 1-800-847-6668.