Ride your ATV courteously

A good friend of mine bought a new toy. He’s excited to get out and use it, but he asked me if I had any advice for him when it comes to safety and responsibility with ATVs.

My friend Tim just bought a new ATV. Tim’s a pretty ethical guy, and he’s got a really good grasp on how to ride an ATV responsibly. But he still asked me for my thoughts on it, even though I don’t have an ATV of my own.

He asked me because he knows I see the bad side of ATVs all the time. I spend a good deal of time outdoors, and there’s always some joker out there doing something he shouldn’t be doing.

But for every irresponsible ATV rider, there are probably 20 or 30 who ride them right. You just don’t see the good riders, because they’re not doing things that make you notice.

That’s what I told Tim. Stay on the roads, don’t drive too fast, wear your helmet, and you’ll probably be fine. But once you start getting off the road, riding through marshes, and flying up and down the road, that’s when we’re not going to get along very well.

This time of year, we start to see more and more ATVs out in the forests. They’re very useful tools for hunters, as long as they’re used responsibly. They make retrieving downed game relatively easy, and more importantly, they get the meat back to camp quicker than you can do it if you’re on foot. The faster you get the meat taken care of, the less likelihood it’ll spoil on you.

The trouble is, a lot of hunters go too far with their ATVs. Studies have shown that ATVs spook elk and even deer a whole lot more than a pickup or a person on horseback does. The animals can hear these contraptions from a long way off, and they’ll start moving away from the sound before they can see what’s making the noise. That alone can turn other hunters against an ATV rider in a hurry.

But when the riders cut across areas where there aren’t any roads, or come ripping up forest roads in an attempt to get to the good hunting spots before the people who left camp hours earlier, tempers really start to rise.

My advice to Tim was simple. Ride that new ATV the way you’d like to see other people ride it, if you were the one on foot.

And don’t forget to wear your helmet.