Sept. 23, 2008
Contact: Steve Stuebner, 484-0295; email@example.com
With big-game rifle hunting seasons coming up statewide in October, officials with the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Idaho Department of Lands encourage owners of UTVs, ATVs and motorcycles to check with land managers to determine which trails and roads are legal to use during hunting season.
Public use and regulation of off-highway vehicles is an important issue in Idaho because approximately 132,000 motorcycles, ATVs and UTVs were registered with the state in 2007, and that number is growing at about 10 percent every year. A cornerstone of the Idaho Off-Highway Vehicle Education Campaign is to remind people to stay on the trail.
“Some folks are buying these new recreational vehicles without being told at the dealer or learning what the rules are, and out of ignorance, they’re getting in trouble,” said Dennis Duehren, Montpelier District Ranger for the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. "The biggest growing issue is that motor vehicles over 50 inches in width are not allowed on ATV trails. I don't care what it looks like. If it's over 50 inches, then it's not allowed on our trails."
That’s why Patrick Baker of Caldwell bought a RZR. “I wanted to be legal. I wanted to be able to go on the Forest Service trails and the roads,” Baker said. “My wife and I love to ride in the forest, so I wanted to make sure that I was perfectly legal.”
The Polaris Rzr is a 50-inch-wide UTV that is legal for ATV trails.
The Polaris Ranger is more than 60 inches wide, and thus, is too wide, and not legal onATV trails.
Video of interviews and UTV action footage
Click on the video link below to view the different UTV models in action as well as some interviews with a UTV rider, ATV rider and motorcyclist on hunting season issues.
10 Tips for Safe Hunting
Tip #1: Cross-country use of trail machines is illegal in most national forests and BLM districts in Idaho. New travel management plans for many Idaho public lands have outlawed cross-country travel. Some travel plans are still pending. Again, check with local land managers on what trails/roads are open before you go hunting.
Tip #2: UTVs wider than 50 inches are restricted to open roads – old logging and mining roads, jeep trails and forest gravel roads. UTVs wider than 50 inches are not allowed on ATV trails or singletrack trails. Anyone who drives UTVs on major dirt roads that are open to normal motor vehicle use also needs a driver’s license and liability insurance or they could be cited by the county sheriff.
“The biggest growing issue is that motor vehicles over 50 inches in width are not allowed on ATV trails,” Duehren said. “I don’t care what it looks like. If it’s over 50 inches, then it’s not allowed on our trails.”
Forest Service agents will cite UTV riders if they are caught violating the 50-inch standard, he said.
Tip #3: More narrow UTVs, like the Polaris RZR, are allowed on most Forest Service and BLM ATV trails, because they are 50 inches wide, and thus, meet the ATV trail standard.
That’s why Patrick Baker bought a RZR. “I wanted to be legal. I wanted to be able to go on the Forest Service trails and the roads,” he said. “My wife and I love to ride in the forest, so I wanted to make sure that I was perfectly legal.”
Tip #4: Use your trail machine to travel to your hunting area, but do not hunt from your trail machine. That is illegal.
“You can use your ATV to move your hunting camp into where you want to go, but you can’t hunt from an ATV,” said Bill Jones, president of the Idaho ATV Association. “Set up your camp, throw a rifle over your shoulder and go hunting on foot,” he said.
Tip #5: Be sure to unload your rifle when you are traveling on an UTV, ATV or motorcycle to your hunting camp. It is illegal to carry a loaded weapon on a trail machine because it is considered “road hunting” and an “aid to hunting,” according to Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials.
Tip #6: It is legal to use a trail machine to ride on an open ATV trail to get close to where you need to retrieve a big-game animal, but it is not legal to ride cross-country to retrieve game. Keep your trail-machine on the trail, and park it if you need to leave the trail.
Tip #7: UTVs, ATVs and motorcycles are being built with more horsepower and speed every year, but riders need to remember that other people are using the trail. Keep your speed down at blind corners or in areas where visibility is difficult to avoid collisions.
“This is an issue that’s near and dear to my heart because I was run into in a head-on collision last year and ended up on the trail with a compound femur fracture from somebody who was going much much too fast,” said Mark Weaver, a Kuna-based motorcycle rider. “You have to remember these are two-way trails, and you have to use extra caution to ensure that you don’t get hurt.”
Tip #8: Use safe practices, wear a helmet and carry along plenty of food, water and overnight rescue gear in the event of an accident, breakdown or emergency.
Tip #9: Obtain a travel management map for the national forest or BLM area where you are hunting to determine if the road or trail is open during hunting season.
Tip #10: Watch for changes in OHV registration and licensing to occur on Jan. 1, 2009, when license plates and stickers will be required for UTVs and ATVs to operate on national forest and BLM trails and roads.
Idaho OHV Education Campaign web site.
Idaho Department of Fish and Game hunting brochure.
About the Idaho OHV Education Campaign: To help raise awareness about the importance of staying on trails, five state and federal agencies in Idaho joined together to create a statewide campaign called the Idaho Off-Highway Vehicles Public Outreach Project. Idaho-OHV encourages riders to ride responsibly and reduce their impact on the land. The website http://www.idaho-ohv.org/ is an excellent resource for OHV enthusiasts as it provides the rules and regulations during hunting season, trail maps, and important information and facts for riders before heading out into the backcountry.