Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Access Is a Privilege: Tread Lightly!

Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Access Is a Privilege: Tread Lightly!

Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Access Is a Privilege: Tread Lightly!

By Bob Humphrey:

Hunting and ATV/OHV riding have a lot more in common than you might at first think.  I recently enrolled my kids in an ATV safety class and decided to sit in myself.  Being a volunteer hunter safety instructor for the same organization that conducts the ATV class, I found several areas of common ground in the curriculum.  One that particularly stood out though, is the distinction between rights and privileges. 

A right, we instruct our students, is a power to which a person has just claim, is granted to us by the Constitution or Bill of Rights as citizens of the United States and cannot be revoked. A privilege, on the other hand, is an extra benefit given to a person or group that may have certain conditions or requirements and can be revoked.

We ask students to name examples of rights.  They begin with the obvious, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and so on.  Then some astute student usually adds: the right to bear arms.  Moving on to privileges, the answers don’t come as quickly.  Driver’s license is often one of the first.  The lights start going on and someone proudly announces, “hunting license.”  Less than half the time however, will a student mention access to private land; and I live and teach in a state where more than 95 percent of the forested land is in private ownership.

We sometimes take things for granted, like access and the behavior of other hunters and riders.  Furthermore, we assume non-participants share the same positive view of participants as we do.  All the folks I hunt and ride with are safe, responsible and ethical. 

Unfortunately, the same is not always true for others.  Abusers may be in the minority, but far too often they get the attention of irate landowners, and the general non-hunting, non-riding public.  Their image of a deer hunter or dirt bike rider is far different from ours.

That’s why it’s critically important that whether riding or afoot, we should all respect the privilege of private land access by treading lightly.  Tread Lightly! is a national non-profit organization devoted to promoting responsible outdoor recreation through ethics education and stewardship.  They’re most often associated with motorized, non-consumptive recreation such as ATVs, OHVs and snowmobiles.  But their principles apply to hunting as well.

Travel Responsibly on land.  When accessing land by vehicle, and traversing it by foot, always be aware of, and try to avoid habitat degradation.  Stay out of crop fields.  Don’t over-use stream crossings or areas of exposed soil, especially on steep ground. 

Respect the Rights of Others, including (especially) private property owners, but also recreational trail users including hikers, joggers, mountain bikers and ATV/OHV riders, so others can enjoy their recreational activities.

Educate Yourself prior to your day afield.  If you haven’t already done so, take a hunter safety class and know how to operate your equipment safely.  Have a plan.  Stick to it and let someone else know where you are going and when you plan on returning.

Avoid Sensitive Areas.  This is less applicable to the hunter on foot, but still worth heeding.  Keep off posted ground unless you have landowner permission.  Avoid houses, buildings, school grounds or other areas where non-hunters may be intimidated by the presence of hunters.

Do Your Part by modeling appropriate behavior and leaving the area better than you found it.  Take out any trash you bring in as well as that left by others.  Don’t field dress game unless you receive landowner approval first.

While it doesn’t fit into the TREAD acronym, policing our own ranks is also an integral principle of acknowledging and appreciating the privilege of private land access.