Using all-terrain vehicles to access the forest enables a wider range of people to enjoy big game hunting. For the Colorado Division of Wildlife, more people with guns looking for big game in the forest means a better chance at a good harvest. And as most people know, elk numbers in local herds are thousands above DOW-determined healthy levels.
But with the freedom that ATVs bring to hunters comes the opportunity for abuse that can affect the hunt. And when the hunting is impacted dramatically, that's when hunters will start seeing tighter regulations on ATVs.
What longtime hunters and wildlife officials have been seeing in the hunting season are people taking their motorized vehicles off the roads, into places they shouldn't be.
The result is that the machines not only tear up the environment, they spook the elk out of public hunting areas and down onto private land, ruining hunts for others.
Even in an instance when a hunter is taking the machine off the road and into the woods when he or she is sure that it won't spook a herd, for the new hunters in the area, seeing those tracks sets a precedence in their mind that it is OK.
Well, legally, it's not and breaking the law in this case also hurts the hunting experience.
But it's not only breaking the law that causes some of the problems, it's not knowing when and where are the right times and places to be on an ATV while hunting.
For example, as the sun is beginning to rise on the opening morning of the first rifle season is not a good time to be tooling around on your ATV making all sorts of noise, inevitably spooking animals and ruining the quiet, peaceful environment that hunters enjoy and need for a successful day.
An ATV needs to be looked at as a tool, just like a hunter's rifle is a tool. There is proper a way to carry, load and aim a rifle. There also is a proper time to shoot one. The good hunters know these things and the bad ones stick out like green thumbs until someone tells them to shape up. Not only because it's the right thing to do, but because it protects an image of hunting that often is put on a pedestal for people to throw rocks at.
ATVs should be looked at in the same way. A good hunter should know when, where, why and how to use one. If you don't know, ask.