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November 25, 2008

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Chad Love: ATVs in Wilderness

Of all the innovations that have shaped modern big-game hunting in the past 20 years or so, perhaps none have had more of an impact - both literally and figuratively - on the hunting landscape than the rise of the ATV. Judging by the hunting shows on television and the countless quad-hauling trucks we encounter every fall you might think we'd become a nation of knobby-tired centaurs.
However (and there's always a however), there remains a sizeable contingent of hunters who believe hunting should remain a leg-borne activity and if ATVs are to be used then they damn sure need to stick to the roads.

So it comes as no real surprise that "Four-Wheel Driver's Ed" in the December issue of F&S provoked this letter...

"As an avid Idaho mule deer hunter I appreciate true wilderness and untrampled terrain. A pristine environment means a strong eco-system which is great for wildlife,hikers and hunters. As a true outdoorsman you love nature and adopt a leave no trace attitude. When I saw in your December issue on page 52-53 the article,Four-Wheel Driver's Ed, I was furious. ANYONE who gets out into the backcountry has seen for themselves the massive damage done by ATVs. Not all ATV owners are irresponsible, but with great accuracy you can safely lump over 90% of them as over- weight gear heads who do not care about ripping up a meadow, running through spawning beds,  leaving beer cans and cigarette butts and scarring up the terrain. They should be used on existing roads only and not taken off road. Your article instructs them on how to drive over logs, climbing and descending hazardous hills and basically how to drive off road. It is very apparent that you and your magazine are hypocrites and do not support untrampled backcountry where you don't hear or smell vehicles."

Thomas Kehrer

Mr. Kehrer raises some legitimate points. There's no question that ATVs - when mis-used - tear up the environment. The only real question there is whether you fall into the "it's a small minority" camp or the "most of them are ignorant lead-footed jackasses" school of thought.

But there are deeper underlying issues at the heart of the ATV debate as well, issues that - to me, anyway -speak to the core of why we hunt in the first place: Do ATVs cheapen the hunting experience? Do they degrade it? Enhance it? Particularly on public land, do we have a "right" to drive ATVs into the woods? Are ATVs simply a natural progression in the evolution of the modern hunter or are they one more symptom of a culture that places more value on results, ease and convenience than on hard work, sacrifice and the quality of the experience itself? Is the magazine doing its readers, the environment and the hunting tradition a disservice by publishing stories on ATVs or is it simply reflecting the interests and values of a changing demographic?

I have to admit I personally have very little real-world experience with ATVs. I'm a public-land hunter who lives in a state that has banned them on its public hunting areas. I've never hunted with one so I'm in no position to say one way or the other.   

What do you guys think?


Jim in Mo

One of the reasons I don't hunt public land is because of atv's. Some riders have no limit to how far in the woods they'll go or who's hunt they'll ruin tearing thru. An atv is to get you close, then walk in.


The problem with atv's in the public wilderness revolves around the users, not the machines. The fools who take their atv's off of the designated areas and destroy habitat are worthless and should be prosecuted. But remember, proper atv use on designated areas is still just as legal as carrying a firearm into the woods. The answer isn't in passing more laws, but in better education of the public.

Also, I enjoyed the article on basic atv use, especially on the correct ways to use your atv when maneuvering obstacles. Often, someone will encounter a fallen log laying across an atv trail and rather than go around it, creating new paths, they can go over it. Furthermore, not everyone hunts public land and those people who hunt their own private land are free to make their own paths or trails.
Thank you, Field and Stream, for publishing a very informative article that will help many beginner and intermediate riders. Please continue the good work. BTW I have never hunted off of an atv, but do use public trails for family recreation. I also teach basic and intermediate atv courses and realize that most of the public are very uneducated to the proper use of ATV's.


i am not lazy. my son and myself work hard for what we got. an atv is one of them. i am for staying on trails, just stop reducing the number of trails. we need more trails, not fewer of them. we get mad ourselfs about riders being riding too early of a morning and late of the evening during the hunting season. i am not going to argue with the so-called sportsman about keeping atvs off the land. if you are using public land, get used to them. there is enough fussing and fighting about this and it needs to stop. this is what gets recreation use closed for us all. for or against is up to you. if they bother you that much go pay the big bucks on some ranch if that is what you want, but leave THE PUBLIC ALONE!!!!!! this is our tax-paying right to be here the same as the other guy. everyone needs to respect the other.so please, if they bother you, go pay the money and hunt privite. you can fuss and fight all day and it will not do no good except fuel the fire for the antis. if there where thay are not supposed to be use your CELL and report them and leave us all alone, please. and i hope that if anyone that does not like the atv does not need rescue/help in the woods because they will have to use them, safely of course. have a safe and wonderful camping, fishing, hunting, hiking, vacation season.

James Westbrook

All of you are right and young, short sighted or just ignorant. Respect for the environment and others is part of a person's makeup or not. I would much rather walk through the world at large, but after two hip replacment ,a spinal fusion ,a shoulder replacement and three other orthropedic procedures I depend upon ATVs four-wheelers and the like allow me some access to otherwise unreachable places.


just remember that we do have wildlife officers that can take care of it they have something called cellphones and they have a number u can call when you are watching trouble happen dont set here and gripe about it do something about it call the wildlife people there may be alot of people tearing up the forest but theres alot of people thats not we all need to pull together and start geting ahold of the right people and turn them in for it

Blue Ox

What about horses?
A good draft horse can carry or drag most anything one can bag in N. america. Yea, they may be pricey to house and maintain, but they're quiet and don't tear up the woods like a careless atv-er might. A horse can go where most atvs can't- they can step right over blowdowns and even swim across rivers if need be.
Them's my 2 cents.

Dr. Ralph

Where I hunt the deer know ATV's. The area is extremely unpopulated and when they hear that ATV they disappear. It makes it tough for everyone as they gain popularity. I have one friend I hunt with that carries an ATV in the back of his truck and only uses it after a deer has been shot in a remote area. He has had two stolen from him while in the woods. The world is going to hell fast.

The people I know who live on farms in these desolate areas hate ATV's as they hear them creeping around in the middle of the night doing who knows what. Just another tool for the criminal/poacher/slob/fatass hunter. Maybe they should pass a law making them legal for the elderly and disabled but other than that they cause many more problems than they solve...

Curt R

While ATV's are noisy, smelly, and tear up the ground, horses and mules also stink and muck up creeks, trails, and meadows, and are not native to the land! Why not ban them all? Then we can leave the woods to the little forest critters, and all their environmental whacko friends! If you don't hunt on "public lands", limit your opinions and comments to the bar area of your "high fence hunt clubhouse".


Just catching up on blog reading after a week in the woods. Why do people need a truck or ATV to retrieve a deer or any creature? In my hunting career there have been only two methods of getting a deer back to the truck. Method one drag the sucker, method two frame pack and quartering in the field.


I can't begin to count the number of hunts that have been ruined because of ATV's loud, identifiable sounding engines. I read lots of comments about other people using ATV's to retrieve fallen game. Remember that when you go to pick up your downed animal that there are other hunters that haven't bagged anything that are still hunting. More times than any the part that ruins the hunt is when an ATV rider is "just trying to pick up his downed game" and everyone else gets the shaft. Luckily on the public land that I hunt ATV's generally aren't allowed. The problem is that noise knows no geographic boundary so the hunt can still be ruined by other people in surrounding areas that are out joy riding.

Mike Diehl

90% of 'em are lazy, overwight slobs. I see dozens every hunt. These guys are pretty much all obviously road hunting. Most of 'em will toss empty bottles right off the quad rather than carrying them home to a trash can.

Yeah, it's a stereotype. It's also an ACCURATE stereotype.

Thing I don't understand is the combination of fashion-chic camo clothing and the quad. Most of these guys are driving dark colored quads, wearing camo bush hats, camo clothing, camo packs on their cargo deck, with a camo gun case (probably carrying a camo-synthetic-stocked yahoo supershort magnum) while they cruise around on their loud, obnoxious, landscape destroying machinery. Nothing says "I'm a dumbass yahoo slob" better than a camo-bedecked guy who "hunts" the entire day from his motorized toy.

Mike Diehl

"if they bother you, go pay the money and hunt privite."

I'd rather see them banned entirely from public land.

"you can fuss and fight all day and it will not do no good except fuel the fire for the antis"

It's the guys riding the quads who give ammo to the antis. If you want to do something for real sportsmanship, get off your bike and walk off some of that lard.


Sadly, even though there is an overwhelming amount of commentary opposed to ATVs, they will still show up as advertorial in F&S because ATVs buy the advertising, regardless of reader input.


Hey, I hope I'm looking at this realistically! We hunters, as group, are aging. ATV's are a tremendous asset for hauling game. If you're not in a wilderness area or an area posted against ATV's, I see nothing wrong with using them for that purpose. Michigan has laws that prohibits riding ATV's in hunting areas except when going in, coming out, and transporting game. I think that's a good common sense approach. While I don't agree with a lot that many of you write, I do look forward to reading your posts. I shudder to think that you might not be writing anymore because you passed away, dragging that buck.


John C's comment:
"I once heard it said that while not everyone who plays golf is an "***hole," every "***hole" plays golf. Well, I feel exactly the same way about ATV riders."
about sums it up for me. I feel the same way.

Justin T

ATVs destroy streambeds and cause erosion and siltation of streams. As an AVID fly fisherman, I have seen how ATVs can destroy a brook trout stream. Another annoyance of these machines is that my quiet wilderness experience is rudely interrupted by the noise of engines and jackasses screaming. Where I hunt, we have 600 acres leased and I walk to my stand and only use ATVs to bring a deer out. In my opinion, if you are too lazy to walk to your stand, you should not be hunting anyway.

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