I hate ATV's. I'll say that right up front so that there isn't any question of bias. No question, there's bias. I say this as a person who admires the ability to travel bad road, to know where your wheels are and ease over rough spots while dodging rocks and avoiding high-center. I admire that ability in outdoorsfolk so long as those bad spots consist of roads. Damned 4-wheelers, though, that is, the ATV variety, don't stick to roads. I recognize the usefulness that 4-wheelers provide for folks who work outdoors and have haul stuff to out of the way locations. My dislike springs from the fact that, regardless of the restrictions placed by the Forest Service or BLM on off-road vehicle travel, I frequently find ATV's or signs of ATV's well off roads or well down closed roads. I guess the temptation to ride rather than walk is just too much for most folks.
If you think that the motorized travel actually ended 100 yards from this sign, you're sadly mistaken. Nearly every one of these signs I saw last week had similar tracks around them.
Most amazing to me is the number of bow hunters I see driving ATV's. I've encountered bow hunters putt-putting along open meadows, bow in hand, presumably vehicle hunting. Maybe vehicle hunting with a bow works, as I've also seen guys riding along with an arrow knocked as they stand in the back of a pickup.
This fall, while looking for grouse I walked down a steep timber ridge, across a saddle, then up another ridge of broken timber to some meadows on the east edge of that ridge. From the saddle on up I found the well trodden tracks where a bow hunter had gone up there on his ATV at least three or four times, parking to overlook the meadow. I fancy he would have had a much better chance at success if he had left the smelly machine down in the saddle (already well off a road) and hiked up quietly. Later, in the meadow photographed from the top which you can see few posts down, I found where another bow hunter had run his ATV along one tree line to the top, parked, and eaten a candy bar. Snickers, by the way. Of course, my tracking skills are not so marvelous but neither Leatherstocking-like ability nor Holmesian deduction was required when the wrapper was right where he'd tossed it. I had to wonder, given that he was carrying a weapon with a fifty-yard range (being generous) what success he hoped for sitting on his machine overlooking about 10,000 square yards of open meadow full of knee high grass. How do I know these guys were bowhunters? I don't, for sure. However, bow season was the only thing open at the time, apart from grouse, dove, and squirrel. The areas were wrong for dove and squirrel and sitting in one place while grouse hunting is neither the usual practice nor a recipe for success.
I wonder, too, at the hunters I see heading up into the mountains every fall with trailers crowded with their ATVs. Where do they put other necessaries? I see and hear them buzzing up and down the forest roads in the dark, heading to their hunting spots. While an ATV might use less gas for such chores, my pickup is far more comfortable and will get me to anywhere I need to start walking. For that matter, an ice chest, shovel, rope, and a bunch of other stuff travels along in the truck.
I know you can drive up on game. We've all done it. I wonder about ATV's well off-road, though. I recall a hunt hears ago where I was sitting and watching a hillside opposite a good size draw. A dozen deer browsed as the evening progressed. Suddenly, the deer stuck their heads up, looking at the top of their hill. They broke into a trot and made their various ways off down the draw, the last disappearing just as I could make out the putt-putt-putt of a slowly firing four-wheeler that shortly crested the ridge. I was a good ways off any road, though in the driver's defense, there weren't any restrictions on off-road travel in that area at that time. Given that he turned and putt-ed down the ridge, moving any game along the route I planned on hunting out, he managed to confirm a convert to the school of "no off road travel". Every year I hunt big game it seems I see at least a couple of guys who've just made some horrible amazing hike away off somewhere in my binos and I stop a second and admire their effort. I'm not saying everyone should do that, but I do wish the ATV yahoos would keep their stinky, noisy, annoying machines on the roads and leave the rest of the country to those of us who will take shank's mare.
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