Hunters riding off trail continue to create problems during hunting season, according to officials with Idaho Fish and Game and public land management agencies.
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.
Staying in bounds can be especially confusing for hunters because some off-highway vehicle rules change during hunting season, and hunters are often on a mixture of federal, state and private lands with differing rules.
Fortunately for hunters, there are a variety of ways to know where off-highway vehicles are allowed during hunting season.
Hunters should use these tools while planning their hunts, and also have ways to doublecheck when theyre in the field. Ultimately, they are responsible for avoiding riding in the wrong places.
Heres how to check:
Get a U.S. Forest Service Motor Vehicle Use Maps from the national forest where they plan to hunt. Printed maps are available from ranger district offices, Fish and Game offices, and some are available at stayontrails.com.
BLM travel maps. A comprehensive list of BLM travel maps statewide is available at stayontrails.com/blmTravel. Printed maps are available at BLM offices and field offices.
Check Fish and Games Big Game rules booklet (pages 79-80) to see if there are any restrictions on OHV use in specific hunting units. Fish and Game restricts OHVs to roads in 31 hunting units during certain big game hunts.
Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation has an online map database for researching OHV trails and checking whether they are open during hunting season. Go to trails.idaho.gov. The maps also segregate which motorized trails are open to which vehicles because some trails are open to motorcycle, but closed to ATVs and UTVs.
A 6-minute YouTube video shows hunters a process for researching whether trails are open or closed at http://bit.ly/V9bDkE.
A person can be cited for being in a closed area even if its not signed, Forest Service officials said.
Thats because people have been known to shoot signs full of bullet holes, remove signs or vandalize them, officials said.
Jon Heggen, enforcement chief for the Idaho Department of Fish and game, also encourages OHV users to be sensitive that some people may be hunting on foot in the same area where they are riding their trail machines.
We want to remind hunters to stay on trails and be courteous to other users, Heggen said.
Young hunters also should beware that a new state law requires youth who do not have a drivers license to take a free safety course before they ride OHVs on forest roads. Youth under age 18 are required to wear a helmet when riding on or driving an OHV.
Roger Phillips: 377-6215, Twitter: @rogeroutdoors