Officials with the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Idaho Department of Fish and Game say that hunters riding off-trail on ATVs or motorbikes continues to be a problem on public lands during hunting season.
"We are most concerned with instances where a hunter drives off-trail to scout for game or retrieve game," said Andy Brunelle, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service. "One set of tracks through the brush or in a meadow can invite others to do the same, and the impacts add up, damaging vegetation and causing soil erosion into streams."
According to the latest survey, approximately 70 percent of the 240,000 people who hunt in Idaho (residents and non-residents) during the fall months are using motorbikes or ATVs to access their hunting areas.
There are five ways that hunters can research what trails and hunting units are open to OHV use:
1. U.S. Forest Service officials encourage hunters to obtain Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM's) from the national forest where they plan to hunt. Hard-copy maps are available from national forest ranger district offices, IDFG offices, and in many cases, the MVUMs are online. The OHV Campaign's stayontrails.com web site has a link to all of the current online MVUMs at stayontrails.com on the Hunt page.
2. BLM travel maps. A comprehensive list of BLM travel maps statewide is located on stayontrails.com and on BLM web sites. Hard-copy maps are available at BLM district offices and field offices.
3. Check IDFG Big Game Regulations booklets (pages 79-80) to see if there are any restrictions on OHV use in specific hunting units. The IDFG OHV Rule affects 31 units statewide out of a total of 78 hunting units. The IDFG OHV Rule applies only to certain big game hunts.
4. The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation has a new online map resource that's great for researching new OHV trails and for checking on whether OHV trails are open during hunting season, and when. The web site is: http://trails.idaho.gov. The maps break down trail restrictions by OHVs, Utility Terrain Vehicles, ATVs and motorbikes.
5. YouTube hunting tips video. The video walks hunters through the multi-step process of researching whether trails are open or closed. Here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcsDxtNGG...
Under the Forest Service's National Travel Rule, "it's incumbent on the user to know if the trail is open or closed" regardless if the trail is signed appropriately, forest officials said. That's because people have been known to shoot signs full of bullet holes, remove signs or vandalize them.
Jon Heggen, enforcement chief for the Idaho Department of Fish and game, encouraged motorbike and ATV riders to be sensitive to the fact that some people may be hunting on foot in the same area where they are riding their trail machine. "We want to remind hunters to stay on trails and be courteous to other users," Heggen said.
Hunters also should be aware that a new state law requires youths who do not have a driver's license to take a free safety course before they ride OHVs on forest roads, and that youths under the age of 18 are required to wear a helmet when riding on an OHV or driving one.
Idaho OHV campaign officials recommend that hunters check out 5 hunting tips on stayontrails.com to make sure they have a safe and legal hunting season. IDFG also has a brochure that reviews motor vehicle and ATV regulations pertinent to hunting.
About the Idaho OHV Public Outreach Campaign: To help raise awareness about the importance of OHVs staying on trails, five state and federal agencies in Idaho work on a statewide campaign called the Idaho Off-Highway Vehicles (OHV) Public Outreach Campaign. The campaign encourages riders to ride safe, responsibly and reduce their impact on the land and other trail users. See www.stayontrails.com for more information.