by Meghan Roos, Conservation Officer
Question: I have encountered upland bird hunters using ATVs to follow hunting dogs. When a dog would go on point the hunter would stop the ATV, get off and shoot the birds. Once the birds were picked up they would climb back on the ATV and continue after the dogs. Is this legal?
Answer: What they are doing could be a violation of a couple of hunting rules.
According to Idaho Statute 36-1101(b) 1 it is unlawful to hunt game animals and birds from or by the use of any motorized vehicle. The presence or absence of a road is a completely different rule and this law makes no distinction whether a hunter is on or off a road. When the hunters are on their ATVs following their hunting dogs, they are actively hunting, even though they shoot at the birds when they are off of the ATVs.
A careful distinction must be drawn between hunting and non-hunting travel. This law does not prohibit hunters from using motorized vehicles or ATVs to lawfully access hunting areas but it does prohibit their use for hunting. A friend of mind puts it simply, "If the vehicle takes the place of your legs during the hunt, then its use is unlawful."
A second rule that applies to hunting big game, game birds, and upland game in several big game units prohibits off-road use of a motorized vehicle when used as an aid to hunting. This rule is more restrictive than the previous statute and prohibits all off-road use of motorized vehicles when used for the act of hunting.
I suggest sportsmen try to objectively examine what they are doing through someone else's eyes. If it would appear they were using their ATVs in the act of hunting while off-road, they would be in violation of this rule.