Top 10 ATV Safety Tips for Hunters

Giving or getting an ATV for Christmas? Here are 10 ATV safety tips for hunters.

Top 10 ATV Safety Tips for Hunters

Featured photo: No helmets, bow being carried by hand. These are not recommended ways to safely retrieve an animal. Photo: Bob Robb

ATV’s have become a fixture with today’s outdoorsmen. And why not? They’re great for getting in and out of hard-to-get-to places, and even better for aiding in game retrieval. However, there are some dos and don’ts when using ATVs afield.  For example, operators should remember they’re not allowed in any federally-protected wilderness areas and proper care should be given to ensure they do not cause or exacerbate habitat damage, especially right after a good rain or snow.

Mostly, safely enjoying your ATV is simply applying common sense, as well as courtesy towards others. The last thing you want is to be the butt of one of those, “Hey Bubba, watch this stuff!” jokes. Here are 10 tips to keep you riding safely and responsibly:

1) Know and follow all regulations and laws. 

For example, most states require an OHV be equipped with a spark arrestor and muffler, and some states require they be registered with the state DMV. Some states require additional steps if the machine will be ridden on the highway. 

2) Wear a helmet. 

Whether you’re riding in a side-by-side utility-type vehicle (UTV), ATV or dirt bike, helmets are strongly recommended for all riders, even if they are not legally required. Also, if the vehicle is not equipped with a windshield, eye protection is strongly recommended, even if not legally mandated.

3) Carry firearms unloaded and cased or in a gun rack. 

The same goes for bows and crossbows.

4) Never chase or harass wildlife. 

In some cases doing so is against the law; in all cases it’s just bad manners.

While side-by-wide vehicles like this Polaris Ranger are more stable than four-wheelers, they can still be dangerous when driven carelessly. Photo: Bob Robb
While side-by-wide vehicles like this Polaris Ranger are more stable than four-wheelers, they can still be dangerous when driven carelessly. Photo: Bob Robb

5) Stay on defined roads and trails. 

Consider how you will retrieve your animal before you take a shot. In most western states, for example, it is illegal to create your own trails as doing so can cause soil erosion and damage habitat. Some national forests allow an exception for one-time motorized retrieval of a harvested big-game animal, usually limited to specific species, such as elk; check with the forest you will be visiting before heading out.

6) Check with local law enforcement, land managers and/or property owners before you take off. 

Seems unnecessary, right? But in some areas national forests are in different phases of implementing travel management rules that place restrictions on motor vehicle use within U.S. National Forest boundaries. In addition, OHVs are never allowed in federally-protected wilderness areas. It’s always up to each hunter to know who owns a particular property and to determine whether there are special hunting, access and/or traveling restrictions.

7) Respect other hunters. 

To minimize conflict with others, do not ride your OHV during prime hunting hours or in areas where others are hunting. Also remember to yield the right-of-way if you encounter other hunters on foot or with pack animals. Pull to the side of the trail, turn off your engine, remove your helmet and allow them to pass safely. 

8) Be prepared and equipped. 

Take area maps and guides, and have a compass, first aid kit, whistle, tire repair kit, tow rope or chain and other basic tools on hand. Also make sure to bring sunscreen, water, extra fuel and food, and an extra layer of clothing. Being prepared for the worst and not needing it is better than having a problem without the proper equipment.

9) Watch your speed. 

Keep your speed down to minimize dust and noise, as well as for safety’s sake.

10) Ride in a group. 

If you’re heading into the rugged backcountry, it’s always better to ride with another vehicle, “just in case.” If that’s not possible, be sure to tell someone where you’re going and when they can expect you to return.


Featured Photo: Bob Robb


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