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Ask the Conservation Officer (CO)

by Gary Hompland, Regional Conservation Officer Question: "I'm new to big game hunting in Idaho. As I read the 2008 big game hunting brochure special notes on some hunts denote a motorized vehicle restriction. What's this all about?" Answer: For many hunters, the rules you have questions about are referred to as the "Off-road ATV hunting rules." Several years ago the Department sought ways to improve opportunities for big game hunting. One of the issues that surfaced each year involved hunters and non-hunters using ATVs inappropriately. The inappropriate uses included off-road bush-whacking into roadless areas dispersing game animals and causing resource damage and unauthorized road/trail development. Within the off-road 4-wheeler groups these roads or trails became known as "troads." The impact of motorized vehicles on the distribution of big game animals is well documented in research in Idaho and the northwest. Motorized access by the general public to previously secure areas for wildlife has had a dramatic impact on animal distribution, population numbers, vulnerability to predation, and big game harvest. Some critical habitats for big game security, wintering, elk calving, and deer fawning are no longer useable and valued by wildlife because of the frequent disturbance by motorized recreationists and hunters. Public input from hunters supported a Fish and Game rule to restrict off-road use of ATVs and other motorized vehicles when used while hunting. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission adopted special rules about the off-road use of all motorized vehicles by hunters in specific big game units for big game and upland game hunting. The current rules say, "Motorized vehicle use as an aid to hunting for wildlife is restricted to established roadways open to motorized vehicle traffic capable of travel by full-sized automobiles- any motorized vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of 1,500 pounds." In a nutshell, if you use a motorized vehicle (motorcycle, ATV, or truck) in certain big game units while hunting, you are restricted to driving on roads capable of travel by a full sized vehicle. Off-road use is prohibited. As with all rules there are a few exceptions: 1) Holders of a valid Handicapped Person's Motorized Vehicle permit may use a motorized vehicle as allowed by the landowner or agency manager. 2) Hunters may use a motorized vehicle to retrieve downed game if such travel is allowed by the landowner or agency manager. 3) Hunters may use a motorized vehicle to pack camping equipment in or out if such travel is allowed by the landowner or manager, however hunters may not use the motorized vehicle to hunt from while packing camping equipment. 4) Private landowners, their agents and persons with written permission, may use a motorized vehicle on private land, but they may not hunt from or by the use of any motorized vehicle. I strongly urge all sportsmen and women to consult the Idaho Fish and Game hunting brochures for clarification of these rules about the use of motorized vehicles. If you still have questions feel free to call your nearest regional office. If you have any further questions you may call the Magic Valley Regional Office of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at (208)324-4350 or e-mail us at the Fish and Game web site at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov.