Off-road hunting rules are confounding at best (in MN)

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Off-road hunting rules are confounding at best (in MN)

Postby h2ofwlr » Sun Sep 21, 2008 8:49 pm

Off-road hunting rules are confounding at best
The DNR announced rule changes Thursday designed to avoid conflicts between recreational riders and those pursuing game. Some make sense; others do not.

Last update: September 19, 2008 - 1:56 AM ... LanchO7DiU

Hunters, hunters who ride off-highway vehicles (OHVs) and recreational OHV riders can be forgiven if they're confused by the Department of Natural Resources announcement Thursday that OHVs will be banned from "DNR forest trails'' during most upcoming firearms deer hunting seasons.

The DNR said the action is intended to reduce conflicts and potential conflicts between firearms deer hunters and recreational OHV riders -- the latter defined, for this purpose, as OHV riders during most firearms deer seasons (the restriction won't apply during the October antlerless season or the muzzleloader season) who do not hold deer hunting licenses.

Let's break it down:

• First, if you purchased a firearms deer license last year and also have registered an OHV with the DNR, you will soon receive in the mail a brochure that clarifies and explains many regulations affecting you and use of your machine while big-game hunting.

• Details about Thursday's announcement restricting OHVs (meaning all-terrain vehicles, off-highway motorcycles and off-road vehicles such as Jeeps) during firearms deer hunting seasons is not included in the brochure, however.

• In the northeastern Minnesota 100 series deer season, the recreational riding restriction will be in effect Nov. 8-23. In the 200 series deer season, the recreational riding restriction will be in effect Nov. 8-16. For season details, go to

• Thursday's restriction on recreational OHV riding during firearms deer seasons applies to state-owned land within state forests. This includes mapped and designated OHV trails (listed on, which takes you to the DNR website) on these lands, as well as tote trails and any other trails on state lands within state forests. (Private, county and federal lands often also lie in state forests -- the restriction does not apply to these.)

• Nor does the restriction apply to "grant-in-aid'' trails that lie outside state forests. These trails are on land owned by counties, among other entities. The Soo Line Trail, for instance, which is one of the state's longest, running from Onamia to Moose Lake to Cass Lake, is grant-in-aid, and Thursday's restriction does not apply to it.

• DNR trails and waterways division policy and program manager Ron Potter estimates that about 40 percent of Minnesota's designated OHV trail miles lie outside of state forests and are not covered by Thursday's restriction. The DNR website will be updated with current closures before the firearms deer seasons.

• Thursday's restriction also does not apply to what officially are known as state forest roads or minimum-maintenance state forest roads. Potter said these roads should be designated by a number or name, but might not be. All mapped and designated OHV trails are marked by signs, however,

• In all, the state owns about 4.5 million acres of forest lands, almost all of it in the 100 and 200 series deer hunting zones. By comparison, the Superior National Forest encompasses 3.85 million acres, and Chippewa National Forest is 1.6 million acres.

• Meanwhile, if you are a deer hunter -- defined as someone who holds a license -- you can ride on these and other trails during deer season provided you do so before legal shooting hours, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and after legal shooting hours.

• The same restricted hours of OHV use by deer hunters apply to all public lands in the state. However, hunters who own OHVs can use them on private land any time they want, provided they own the land or have been given permission to ride there by the property owner.

• Thursday's OHV restriction during firearms deer seasons should be a win-win for everyone. Most recreational OHV riders don't want to be in the woods during deer season, and most deer hunters don't want them there.

• The same can't be said for a law passed by the Legislature last session removing a restriction requiring OHV riders to be 20 yards from their machines before shooting at ruffed grouse. Now they can pop these birds as soon as they dismount and uncase their guns.

Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, carried the bill in the House. The measure was never heard in the Senate, but won approval by a House-Senate conference committee.

What a shame that the state with the best grouse hunting in the nation, and that otherwise prides itself on a population of hunters who honor in most instances not only the spirit but the letter of fair chase, would kowtow to those for whom such a regal bird is so cheaply regarded.

Dennis Anderson •

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New off-highway vehicle riding restrictions during 2008 deer hunting season (September 19, 2008)

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commissioner Mark Holsten announced new restrictions for off-highway vehicles (OHV) to be in effect during part of the 2008 deer hunting season.

The Commissioner’s Order effects recreational riding on DNR forest trails but does not impact OHV use for big game hunting. Vehicles affected by the restrictions include all terrain vehicles, off road motorcycles, and off road vehicles such as jeeps and four-wheel-drive trucks that are not being used in conjunction with deer hunting by a licensed deer hunter.

The purpose of the restriction is to protect recreational OHV riders from potentially unsafe riding conditions and, to minimize conflicts between deer hunters seeking a quiet deer hunting experience and recreational riders who may inadvertently interrupt the hunt.

In the northeastern Minnesota 100 Series deer season, the recreational riding restriction will be in effect Nov. 8 through Nov. 23. In the Minnesota 200 Series deer season, the recreational riding restriction will be in effect Nov. 8 through Nov. 16. See the 2008 deer season map at

There are no recreational OHV trails in southeastern Minnesota that remain open during the deer season so no additional restrictions are necessary in the southern part of the state.

This new restriction is in addition to the restricted hours of use that have been in effect in previous years. Deer hunters possessing a valid deer hunting license can operate an OHV 1) before legal shooting time (one-half hour before sunrise), 2) from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and 3) after legal shooting hours (one-half hour after sunset).

While many recreational OHV riders have voluntarily opted not to ride forest trails during deer hunting and small game seasons, OHV riding has become a year-around sport for many. That’s why Commissioner Holsten, reminds everyone who visits state forests in the fall to always consider safety first.

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New DNR brochure provides hunters and trappers with information regarding ATV use (August 19, 2008)

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a new brochure that discusses changes that will affect the use of vehicles (ranging from highway licensed cars and trucks to all-terrain vehicles or ATVs) for hunting on public lands across the state.

The brochures will be mailed to about 130,000 people who have a registered ATV in the state and also purchased a big game hunting license last year. Brochures will also be available at the DNR Building at the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul, Aug. 21 - Sept. 1.

Using ATVs while hunting big game is a privilege, and the responsibility belongs to each hunter to protect that privilege, said Forrest Boe, DNR Trails and Waterways director. Many big game hunters who use ATVs do not consider themselves to be ATV riders; however, they are. This brochure will make the hunting public more aware of the changing rules regarding ATV use on public lands.

Every year hunters, trappers and anglers need to review the new synopsis to see what has changed. Likewise, those who use ATVs for hunting need to consider changes as well, and make sure they are familiar with the current laws.

The DNR strives to provide a range of hunting opportunities,” added Dennis Simon, DNR Wildlife Section chief. “Some of those may involve the use of ATVs, which certainly can assist big game hunters and help disperse the use. We ask that hunters to be sensitive to others and familiarize themselves with current laws that apply to that hunting activity.

Minnesotas hunting and trapping regulations as well as Off-Highway Vehicle regulations are available at the DNR Web site and at licensing centers. For complete regulations, consult the state statutes and rules.

Hunting and trapping regulations information is available at

Off-Highway Vehicle regulations are available at

Go to for details regarding use of ATVs while hunting.

This information is available in an alternative format upon request. Contact the DNR information Center by e-mail at or by calling (651) 296-6157 or 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367.)


Hunters cheer new ATV limits
Chris Niskanen
Article Last Updated: 09/20/2008 11:52:21 PM CDT ... ck_check=1

Last fall, while rifle hunting for deer in Nemadji State Forest, our hunting party had a crew of dirt-bike riders scream past on a forest trail. I only heard the motorcycles, but friends told me the dirt bikers sprayed dirt on them as they passed.

It was just one incident in the Nemadji, where off-road motorcyclists have harassed deer hunters. Never mind that, in order to give hunters peace and quiet, it is illegal to ride a motorcycle or all-terrain vehicle during certain hours during the deer season. These guys claimed they were from Wisconsin and didn't know the deer season was under way in Minnesota.

Past and present Department of Natural Resources employees who hunt in Nemadji have seen first-hand the illegal riding in the forest; some have complained personally to DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten.

At the end of last year's deer season, I called Holsten, too, and gave him an earful about the illegal riding. I reminded him that deer managers are counting on hunters to keep the herd down and if illegal motorcycles were scaring deer away, how did the DNR expect deer hunters to have successful hunts?

"I know about the problem," Holsten said. "We're working on a solution, but we're not ready to release it yet." In January, Holsten was not ready to talk about the new plan.

Last week, Holsten announced his decision: Riders of ATVs, off-road vehicles and motorcycles who don't have a deer license are banned on state forest trails during the firearms deer season. Licensed deer hunters still can use vehicles under existing rules (mostly special hours of operation) to access the woods and retrieve deer.
The rules still allow licensed deer hunters to use off-road vehicles before morning shooting hours, which are a half-hour before sunrise; from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and after evening shooting hours (a half-hour after sunset.).

Holsten's decision is a victory for deer hunters fed up with non-licensed hunters who tear around the woods illegally during the firearms deer season. Even among Nemadji hunters who legally use ATVs, there was outrage over the reckless riding that occurred during hunting hours.

One Nemadji hunter last year said the motorcyclists were lucky they didn't get shot — by accident or not.

Holsten said the new rules were designed for safety and to not disrupt deer hunters and deer.

The rules don't alleviate the deep fissure in the hunting community over off-road vehicles.

There are deer hunters who still yearn for the days when you could walk deep into a state forest and not encounter ATV trails; where solitude could be found by a hunter willing to burn off a little boot leather; and where an archery deer hunter could sit quietly in a stand without hearing the buzz of ATVs.

A fledgling group in Minnesota, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, got its start on the West Coast by hunters frustrated with ATV trails cutting into remote areas. You can read more about the group at

Some grouse hunters on foot still get red-faced when ATV-riding grouse hunters scream past them on trails, effectively ruining the trail for the foot hunter. A rule prohibiting hunters from shooting grouse within 20 yards of an ATV was quietly eliminated by the Legislature this spring, though it's arguable whether the law ever was obeyed or effective.

Despite five years of new regulations and ATV management, the DNR has given its state forests over to off-road riders, and the incidents at Nemadji finally made the right people mad enough to push the DNR into action.

The foot hunter is an endangered species. The days of hiking back into the forest with a rifle over your shoulder are gone. Many of those hunters have given up. You can do it, but you're likely to cross a well-worn ATV trail and maybe a rider or two.

I have had enough hate mail from ATVers over the years to expect this column will solicit a few more. So be it. A few hunters would still like to have a quiet hunting experience in a remote area, but I doubt we're ever headed in that direction.

Chris Niskanen can be reached at
The Audacity of Bull Crap.
"Typical: Gun-loving, bitter bible-thumping white person" Barack Obama.
Hey I resemble that comment!!! Those are FIGHTING WORDS!!!
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