What Hunters Think of ATVs
The use of all-terrain vehicles among Idaho's hunters has grown dramatically in the last few years, a trend not greeted with enthusiasm by non-users.

Differences of opinion between those who use all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) or trail bikes and hunters who do not surfaced in a recent survey conducted in a collaborative effort to study ATV impacts by the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, Idaho Parks and Recreation, and the Department and Fish and Game.

A report on the survey was presented to the Fish and Game Commission at its July meeting in McCall. Researchers surveyed ATV (and trail bike, both referred to here as ATV) users selected at random from the registration database and a random sample of 1,000 Idaho hunters.

The survey showed that hunting is a major use of ATVs. About 70 percent of ATV owners do use the machines for hunting. About half of hunters reached through the hunting license database use an ATV when hunting.

In 1988, 80 percent of all hunters said they never used ATVs. Now, only about 33 percent say they never use the machines. ATV riders cited travel to hunting areas, travel on logging roads and retrieval of game as the three top uses for their machines while hunting. Off-trail travel was not given as a major reason for using ATVs. Compensating for age or physical limitations by using ATVs was important to a large number of users. A substantial number of users said they would be "somewhat likely" to cease hunting if ATV use becomes more restrictive.

About half of hunters who use ATVs said current management is too restrictive; 65 percent of hunters who do not use them thought management is not yet restrictive enough. Users and non-users disagree on the question of whether ATVs disturb big game: most non-users think there is disturbance while most users do not. But both users and non-users agree that ATVs disturb people.

If ATV use were more restricted during hunting seasons, non-users would be likely to hunt in different areas, indicating they may now be hunting in less-favored areas because of ATVs. Users and non-users agree that they would support restrictions to protect key habitat. The only other point of agreement between the two groups comes over the question of ATV riding being disturbing to those who do not ride them; both groups think riding can be disturbing.

Non-users think hunters should not be allowed to use ATVs while hunting, a position finding no favor with users. Restrictions in the way ATVs are used, such as requiring long guns to be unloaded and cased, find favor with hunters who do not ride but little acceptance among those who do.

The BLM currently has a national ATV strategy and is working on a state plan for Idaho. The same is true for national forests in Idaho, where only the Targhee Forest currently has a travel plan in place. The Fish and Game Commission continues to discuss how ATVs might be regulated to protect wildlife and habitat while still providing opportunity for those who use ATVs.

Fish and Game remains part of a task force that includes the Idaho BLM, Forest Service, and Idaho Parks and Recreation that will continue to deal with ATV issues.

The Commission has ordered no mechanized travel off main roads in one experimental area this fall. Brochures on ATV use and hunting are available at Fish and Game offices.

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