ATVs are here to stay
Love ‘em or loathe ‘em, ATVs are here to stay.
Whether they are all-terrain or off-road vehicles, four-wheel drive pickups, motorcycles, dirt bikes or trail bikes, motorized backcountry carriers have earned a place in the outdoors.
Right or wrong, ATVS, and by extension those using them, get a lot of flack, not all of which is deserved.
Riding an ATV obviously calls for some common sense and common courtesy, and the 300-member Western Slope ATV Association isn’t shy about educating members and non-members about the etiquette of riding off trail.
The WSATVA does thousands of hours of volunteer work each summer, and among the members are many hunters who know and respect the proper use of ATVS in the back country.
A recent exchange of emails with Steve Chapel, president of the WSATVA (“The ATV Good Guys”) resulted in this story.
Dave Buchanan: What should all ATV riders know about back country motorized travel?
WSATVA: As you might know, we have quite a few hunters in our ranks and we have quite a few opinions.
Proper ATV use would have the hunter traveling from his camp to the area he intends to hunt. There, he would leave his ATV parked someplace near the trail and take off on foot in search of game.
As you know, there is now a policy of no off-trail use to retrieve game.Most of our members are OK with that, however, many still will gripe about it.
My guess would be that game retrieval with an ATV is probably one of the most abused rules in regard to ATV use during hunting season.
If hunters think they can get away with it, they do it.
DB: What about arguments pro and con on using ATVS during hunting season.
WSATVA: Some hunters — even some in our club — complain about ATV use during hunting season.
Other members — including other hunters — respond to them by saying, “If someone is hunting from a motorized route they have no reason to complain.”
They are told to “get off the route a hundred yards and put in some effort and the game is still there.”
Most people agree that a large and seemingly increasing portion of the hunting population has gotten lazy and follow ATV trails and roads to hunt instead of walking cross country or following game trails.
Of course, the blame is then put on the ATVs for the game not being on the trails.
I’ll be the first to tell you that there are jerks on ATVs.
I have come across them while performing trail maintenance or just riding, in hunting season or out of it.
There are also those out there that blame the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management for everything.
Those kind of riders have an attitude problem and will ride where they want, when they want, just to get even.
I personally know a few people like this and find their behavior disgusting.
DB: What should ATV riders be aware of during hunting season?
WSATVA: As you may know, most of the damage to trails and areas close to trails occurs during hunting season.
This, of course, is due in part because it is usually wet, rainy or snowy at the time and the ground is not yet frozen, at least not in the afternoon.
We tend to see more care taken by local hunters than by the out-of-state hunters.
Many of the out-of-state people will show up with every kind of vehicle imaginable, many chained up and will claw and dig their way any place they want to go.
Because after all, since they may never come back to that particular area, what difference does it make?
DB: What about those riders who only take out their ATVS during hunting season?
SWATVA: Then there is another group of hunters that bought their ATV or UTV (utility terrain vehicle) only to hunt and it doesn’t get used 10 or 11 months out of the year.
Unfortunately, these people tend to know a lot about hunting but little about OHV use, rules or regulations.
Many UTV users claim they have never heard of a 50-inch width (trail) policy even though it is now 4 years old.
They believe if there is a road or trail they are allowed on it, because, after all, there is no sign saying otherwise.
Most of us know the sign has to be there saying you are allowed.
What I find amusing, and it happens every year, over and over again, is that these people will destroy the use placards that show what the trail is open or closed to.
They actually believe that by removing the part indicating a route is closed to anything over 50 inches wide, they can then take an over-width vehicle there because the sign is gone.
In reality it is the Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) for a national forest that dictates what trail is open to what vehicle.
These maps are published every spring for each forest district and may or may not change annually.
DB: I know the WSATVA heavily emphasizes off-road education. How do you reach out to non-club members?
WSATVA: As you have heard before, both education and enforcement are important to us.
A club like ours fosters family use and community ownership. Kids learn at an early age what is right or wrong on an ATV.
The problem is that less than 5 percent of ATV users belong to a club like ours.
The Forest Service is getting better about enforcement but more needs to be done.
We are attempting to help them out with our volunteer Trail Patrol, which functions with or without Forest Service personnel.
We give out information, try to tactfully tell people why they are wrong and in some cases, radio in bad behavior to Forest Service personnel.
Our trail patrol creates an enforcement presence even though we cannot write any citations.
People can, and have been, written up with photo evidence and a written description of the violation.
What was Colorado Parks and Wildlife really needs is to get with the enforcement for ATV violations.
As long as people think they can play dumb and get away with it in regards to proper ATV use, they will continue the bad behavior.
More about proper ATV use and things like width restrictions needs to be published in all hunting information brochures or license packets.
(For membership and other information about the Western Slope ATV Association, go to wsatva.org).