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The Proper Use Of ATVs In The Hunt

Many hunters who own ATV's enjoy using their machines to get to the hunt during bow or rifle season. But for hunters who stalk animals and value stealth to get a good shot, an ATV is the last thing they want to see in the backcountry.

"We know from other states that ATV's used in hunting can create conflicts. In Montana, with more land base and fewer people, we can take steps now to head off some of the contentious situations other, more populated states, are running into," said Clint Blackwood, FWP Trails Program Coordinator.

Blackwood said conflicts increase as more and more people are involved in a sport. Increasingly hunters use ATV's for access into backcountry areas that once saw only walk-in hunters and hunters packing with or riding stock.

"We are at a place in our state where ATV users can set their own high standards and ensure that abuses and use conflicts don't occur. That's in their favor, because conflicts usually lead to more regulations," Blackwood said.

Blackwood said that hunters who plan to use an ATV in the hunt should use it to get to the hunting area before shooting hours.

Blackwood also suggested these guidelines for hunters with ATV's.

  • Know the vehicle use regulations where you are hunting by contacting the land-management agency responsible for the area. Off-trail use on most Montana public lands is illegal, even for game retrieval.
  • It is illegal to hunt from any motorized vehicle, including ATV's. This is one of the most common hunting violations. The only exemption is for disabled hunters who may apply for a Permit To Hunt From A Vehicle.
  • It is also illegal to use ATV's to concentrate, drive, rally, stir-up, corral or harass wildlife.
  • Retrieve harvested big game only from the nearest legal road or trail open to ATVs during the middle of the day to reduce conflicts with other hunters.
  • ATVs and motorcycles used off-road on public land trails must be registered as an Off-Highway Vehicle and display a decal. For non-residents, Montana honors OHV registrations in other states and offers a temporary non-resident OHV permit for those machines not registered in another state.
  • If you plan to ride on public roadways, including U.S. Forest Service roads, your ATV must be registered as a motor vehicle. The only exceptions are those U.S. Forest Service roads specifically designated for use by OHVs. In those cases the OHV must display an OHV registration decal.