A common complaint heard every hunting season by Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG) officers and biologists involves the violation of motorized vehicle restrictions. Few things are more frustrating for hunters than to rise well before sunup, hike to a favorite hunting spot – in a motorized restricted area – and just as the sun peeks over the horizon, hear a motorized vehicle approaching.
With 2020 hunting seasons in full swing, it is important for hunters to know where they can and cannot operate a motorized vehicle on US Forest Service (USFS) lands. To assist with this, the USFS publishes free motor vehicle use maps in various media formats. Electronic versions are available on the USFS website (https://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/programs/ohv/ohv_maps.shtml), the IDFG website, and on Avenza, a mapping application for smart phones. If your phone is GPS-enabled, you can download the vehicle use map to the Avenza app, then track your position in real time.
Hard copy motor vehicle use maps are available at all USFS offices, IDFG offices and some IDFG license vendors. Maps are also stocked at some of the information kiosks located at popular USFS entry points.
In addition, the USFS has signs at many other USFS portal points, there to remind visitors that they are entering a motorized vehicle restricted area. The signs state that motorized vehicles are limited to use on only official vehicle use map routes. Avoid third party trail and road mapping software; they are not official and often not accurate. The USFS publication is the only official motor vehicle use map.
You might also see signs at other high use areas, placed there as a courtesy. But don’t assume the absence of a sign equates to a green light to go traveling. One tactic repeated every hunting season involves a person tearing down a motor vehicle restriction sign, driving into the area, and claiming later that there were no signs in place regarding motorized use. Signs are not required along individual route closures, but are there only to assist the public with motor vehicle compliance. Just like Fish and Game regulations, hunters are expected to know the rules for motorized travel – “Know Before You Go!”
Wildfire activity across Idaho could further impact your backcountry travel plans. Keep in mind that there will be additional, temporary closures in some areas not reflected on travel maps. Contact your local USFS Ranger District office for all current fire closures, or visit the InciWeb site at: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov, or the IDFG Fire page at: https://idfg.idaho.gov/fire.