Monday, September 30, 2013

Brush up on new IDFG motorized hunting rule before you go hunting; rule affects 30 units

General deer season opens on Oct. 10 statewide 
30 big game units are affected by the IDFG Motorized Hunting Rule 
Hi all, 

We want to give Idaho resident and non-resident hunters a head's up about a new "Motorized Hunting Rule" that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game has put into place for the 2013 hunting season. The Motorized Hunting Rule is similar to previous IDFG rules regarding the use of motorized vehicles on public lands, but a few changes have occurred.

Many OHV riders know that the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management either have travel management plans in place or are in the process of finalizing them. These plans guide the use of singletrack trails, ATV trails, two-track roads and primary access roads on public lands during the year. Many of these routes are restricted during hunting season or restricted to benefit wildlife; these restrictions affect all motorized recreationists.

The basis of trail- and road-restrictions benefit wildlife is primarily to reduce the disturbance effect of OHV's on wildlife, said Jon Heggen, chief of enforcement for IDFG. The disturbance from motorized vehicles may spook wildlife from cover habitat, but also disrupt the hunting experience of people hunting on foot or horseback.

It's getting to be time to gear up for rifle hunting season in Idaho ... 
A number of years ago, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission implemented specific restrictions for OHV use by hunters in various hunting units. These restrictions came on top of the OHV restrictions in USFS and BLM travel management plans to address harvest vulnerability during the hunting season.

"Vulnerability is an important management issue because OHV's can cover more ground than people hunting on foot or horseback, and this can lead to a higher mortality rate on deer and elk, Fish and Game officials say.  Additionally, research in Idaho and elsewhere has shown that managing motorized access can increase the number and quality of mature bucks and bulls.

The Fish and Game Motorized Hunting Rule restricts OHV use by hunters on certain roads and trails in 30 big game units statewide; all of them are south of the Salmon River in southern Idaho. See map. Hunters should check the IDFG web site for details. Some of these units have high road densities from logging projects conducted years ago.
Among the changes in the Motorized Hunting Rule this year:
·         OHV restrictions for the Boise River Mountains Unit #39 and Big Wood Unit #48 have been discontinued.
·         It applies to hunters pursuing all big game species, including those pursuing moose, mountain goats and bighorn sheep.
·         It is valid and enforced between the dates of Aug. 30 and Dec. 31. Therefore, it doesn't apply to spring bear, cougar and turkey hunts.  
·         It does NOT apply to bird hunters -- people pursuing blue grouse or chukars on public lands.
·         It does NOT apply to recreational OHV riders who are just out for a ride, and are not hunting.
Hunters can still use OHVs to pack in hunting camp and to retrieve game as long as these activities are done on designated trails. It's illegal to ride OHV's cross-country to retrieve game unless specifically allowed by the land manager.

Some folks in the OHV community question whether the IDFG has the legal authority to enact OHV restrictions over and above those already adopted by the Forest Service and BLM. The Idaho Legislature has been evaluating the issue for the last two sessions.

The new changes "doesn't change our opinion" about the rule, said David Claiborne, president of the Idaho State ATV Association. "I'd prefer to have one travel management plan guiding the use of OHV's on public lands, rather than having multiple layers of regulation. It'd be better to keep it simple for everybody. Fish and Game is adding another level of complexity."

The  Motorized Hunting Rule also is difficult to enforce, Claiborne says, because any hunter riding an OHV with a firearm during hunting season in a restricted hunting unit is subject to being stopped by a Fish and Game conservation officer.

Fish and Game officials say they need the additional restrictions on OHV use to maintain healthy populations of bucks and bulls and meet management objectives.

We expect the conversations between the Idaho State ATV Association and IDFG will continue about the Motorized Hunting Rule.
Forest Service Motor Vehicle Use Maps also are important to consult
for information about trail and road closures to hunters on OHVs

But in the meantime, hunters will need to do their homework and check on trail and road restrictions in their favorite hunting units before deer season opens on Oct. 10 statewide. This means checking the BLM travel plans, Forest Service Motor Vehicle Use Maps, and IDFG information if you're going to hunt in one of the 30 big game units affected by the IDFG Motorized Hunting Rule.

We joke inside the office that OHV riders almost have to have a Ph.D. in natural resource management to figure out where to ride legally in Idaho during hunting season. But seriously, take some time to pore over the maps and online resources before you go big game hunting to make sure you can ride where you want to hunt, or at least know what restrictions exist in your hunting area.

Hope you have a great hunt!