My neighbor Boots Spellman says he was ready to quit hunting after an encounter with ATV riders last season. On opening day of Colorado’s elk season last fall, he rose at 3 a.m. to hike several miles at 8,500 feet to a stand he’d scouted the day before on private property where he had secured permission to hunt. He arrived well before daylight, found his spot and waited eagerly for elk to emerge from the trees into a meadow near his stand.
“Then, just as the sun came up, I heard them when they were still a mile away,” Spellman says, shaking his head. “Three guys on four-wheelers cut right across the meadow and stopped to ask me if I’d seen anything before they rode off.”
Disgusted at the intrusion and certain any elk in the area were spooked, Spellman walked back to his truck, put his gun away and drove home to Wisconsin. Needless to say, he doesn’t hold ATV-mounted hunters in high regard.
There’s no question an ATV can be a valuable tool for many hunters, but highly mobile ATV riders have an obligation to consider their impact on others, even when they are within their legal rights. Obviously you want to be courteous, and making a bad impression on other outdoor users, including other hunters, could eventually lead to loss of trail access for ATV riders.
The ATV-mounted trespassers that ruined Boots’s hunt committed at least four motorized sins. Make sure you don’t make the same mistakes by following these simple etiquette rules when hunting with an ATV. Stay on Designated Trails: Never ride off established trails on public land. Unless you are on private land and have permission, never ride off-trail to retrieve downed game-carry it out to the trail and your ATV.
Respect Private Property: Use a map and GPS to be aware of your position, and never trespass on private property or ride in wilderness areas where motorized vehicles are prohibited.
Tread Lightly: Always get clear permission to ride off-trail on private land. Then make as little impact as possible, avoiding wetlands and other terrain where you’ll leave lasting tire tracks. Steer clear of livestock and always close gates.
**Don’t Make a Disturbance: **To avoid disturbing other hunters, try to limit your ATV activities to midday.
Park your ATV on a main trail and walk in to reach a stand. When possible, avoid riding near camps set up by other hunters, or at least keep your speed and engine rpm low when passing to minimize noise and dust.
Be Courteous: Ride in control and slow down if you meet mountain bikers or hikers. If you encounter horses, pull to the edge of the trail, turn off the ATV and remove your helmet. (Horses might be spooked by humans wearing helmets.) If you overtake a group with horses, slow down and keep a courteous distance until the rider notices you and signals that it’s okay to pass. Then chug by slowly.