PHOENIX — As Arizona’s hunters head outdoors, there’s an increasing number of them using off-highway vehicles (OHVs) to aid in the retrieval of big game.
While OHVs can be helpful during a hunt, operators should keep in mind they are not allowed in any federally protected wilderness areas and proper care should be given to ensure they do not cause or exacerbate habitat damage.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department reminds those using any OHV — whether it’s an all-terrain vehicle (ATV), side-by-side or dirt bike — to ride safely and responsibly by following these 10 tips:
Know and follow all regulations and laws. OHVs used within Arizona must be equipped with a spark arrestor and muffler. In addition, all machines must be registered and have a current OHV decal, which can be purchased at any Arizona Motor Vehicle Division office or renewed yearly at www.servicearizona.com. Always wear a helmet. Whether you’re riding in a side-by-side utility-type vehicle (UTV), ATV or dirt bike, all riders younger than 18 years old are legally required to wear a U.S. Department of Transportation-approved helmet. However, helmets are strongly recommended for all riders. Eye protection is legally required for all riders if the OHV is not equipped with a windshield. Carry firearms unloaded and cased or in a gun rack. Never chase or harass wildlife. Doing so is against the law. Stay on roads and trails. Consider how you will retrieve your animal before you take a shot. It’s illegal to create your own trails as it can cause or exacerbate soil erosion and damage habitat relied upon by wildlife. Some national forests allow an exception for one-time motorized retrieval of a harvested big-game animal (limited to specific species); check with the forest you will be visiting before heading out. Check with local law enforcement, land managers and/or property owners before you head out. Area 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. 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. 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. Watch your speed. Keep your speed down to minimize dust and noise.
For more information about the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s OHV program and available safety courses, visit www.azgfd.gov/ohv.