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Ask the Conservation Officer (CO)

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.

In units containing this rule, motorized vehicles are restricted to roadways capable of being traveled by a full-sized vehicle weighing more than 1,500 pounds. There are some exceptions for retrieval of game, transporting equipment, private land, and handicapped individuals (please refer to the motorized vehicle restriction rule on page 14 of the 2007 big game regulations for these exceptions).

Handicapped hunters may qualify for a special permit that exempts them from some of these motorized vehicle rules. However, handicapped sportsmen, even with a permit, may not to go off road unless rules from the land management agency allow it and not are allowed to shoot from or across a public roadway.

Finally, all other state, federal and local laws must be followed. For example, in the Jarbidge area there is a Wilderness Study Area that has been designated by the BLM. In this area all motorized travel is allowed only on existing roads. The BLM has also closed all burned areas to cross country travel.

Reference Idaho Code 36-1101(a) and 36-1101(b)1 and IDAPA 13.01.08411.