Disclaimer: This article is not legal advice. You should consult the regulations with your local fish and game, law enforcement, department of transportation, and/or land management agency before using a UTV while hunting. Consult a qualified licensed attorney for legal advice.
Hunting animals, large game, in particular, can be a lot of work. From tracking, hauling gear, and packing out, there are a lot of steps in the hunting process. So, you might be wondering, can you hunt from a side-by-side vehicle?
If you’ve traditionally walked in and out of a hunting area, switching over to hunt from a UTV or side-by-side might seem like a significant change. While that’s true, it may also be beneficial for you.
The use of a side-by-side for hunting is typically allowed to haul gear, pack out game animals, or for transportation so long as you remain on designated roads or trails. You cannot shoot a gun from a UTV on a roadway or use a Razor to chase, trap, or herd game animals.
Keep reading if you’re interested in learning whether it’s worthwhile and legal to hunt from a Razor or other UTV.
Why Hunt with a UTV?
Bringing your UTV on a hunting trip offers several advantages. In particular, they make it easier to transport, haul and pack out.
A UTV provides quick, all-terrain transportation that makes it easy for you to get from one place to another. Mobility is especially useful if you’re hunting on a large swath of land.
When you go hunting, especially for a big game, you’ll have a lot of equipment to haul. Weapons, ammunition, sustenance, and any other gear you might need for a long trip into the woods can get quite heavy. A UTV will make it easy for you and your companions to lug your gear around.
Once a hunt is done, a UTV will make bringing your game home simple. This is especially true if your vehicle is equipped with a winch and straps. Chances are you’ll still have to drag or pack your game to a designated road or trail first, but UTVs can certainly make it up some trails that a pickup cannot.
Can You Hunt from a Side-by-Side?
In most cases, you can hunt with a UTV or side-by-side, but not from one. As you can see from the previous list of advantages, hunting using a UTV can make hunting more convenient.
However, there are a few things you should be aware of before deciding to take your vehicle on your next hunting trip. These include legalities and best practices of choosing to hunt with a UTV.
Is it Legal to Hunt from a UTV?
In many areas, you can legally and ethically use a side-by-side or UTV for transportation while hunting. You should always confirm with local law enforcement, fish and game agencies, and land owners or managers the exact rules for the area where you will be hunting.
There are at least three hunting-related activities that are illegal, not to mention unethical, in nearly every location and scenario.
1. No Traveling Off Designated Roads or Trails
Although you might come across side-by-sides in the woods or on trails, in many states, that type of activity is illegal unless it’s expressly stated somewhere that those areas are open to UTVs.
Not only can this behavior damage the environment, but it can also be disruptive to anyone else who might be in the area. The noise alone will likely perturb any other hunters within earshot, let alone game animals.
2. No Shooting Game Animals from a Vehicle
The other case where hunting from a side-by-side is generally illegal is when a hunter shoots at a game animal from the UTV from a roadway. There may exist some exceptions to this rule in your state, such as if you have a legal, physical disability.
You should confirm the rules for your hunting area with your local fish and game authority in your state.
3. No Using a UTV to Chase, Trap, or Herd Animals
Illegal, not to mention unethical, hunting activity includes using your side-by-side to chase, trap, or herd game animals. This act violates the principles of fair chase hunting. Humans should not have an unfair advantage over game animals during the hunt.
Despite whether it’s legal to hunt from a Razor or another UTV, there are specific regulations that apply no matter where you live. A hunting license and proper tags are required before you can go out on a hunt, and in some states, you’ll need a specific permit to operate your UTV on hunting grounds.
What are Best Practices for Side-by-Side Hunting?
As with any outdoor activity, hunting has its own set of best practices that dictate how hunters can hunt responsibly. Even if the laws state you’re allowed to hunt from a UTV, you should always be courteous to those around you.
You don’t want to be that guy that scares off all the game for other hunters. And be conscious of the fact that hunters don’t have exclusive rights to nature. Let’s not give hunters a bad name in the eyes of non-hunters by rallying around the hills obnoxiously in a Razor.
When you go out hunting, you may find yourself needing to cross private land. Some homeowners may be okay with this, but that’s not always the case. Always check with landowners before crossing their property, and when in doubt, try to go around to avoid any problems. Also, remember that no matter where you live, firing within 500 feet of a residence is prohibited.
Safety is paramount when it comes to hunting. Not only are you using deadly weapons for hunting your prey, but you’re doing so in an area where other hunters may be present. Therefore, you should always practice proper safety, including wearing eye and head protection, choosing bright clothing, and making sure you have a clean shot before firing off your weapon.
Hunting etiquette extends to both fellow hunters and any other people or wildlife who might be in the area. You should always give other hunters a wide berth to avoid any accidents. Stay away from camping areas, and leave endangered animals or dens alone if you happen to come across them.
Each state has its own set of regulations that you should be aware of. If you plan to travel to another state to hunt, always find out what rules are in place and whether you need any specific documentation.
Here are a few common examples of the rules you should expect to adhere to when you go out to hunt from a UTV.
In New Jersey, to acquire a permit for authorized off-road vehicle use, you have to satisfy specific requirements. These requirements include proof that you won’t cause adverse impacts to the environment, documentation that you’ve had safety training for your type of vehicle, and proof that you won’t interfere with the use of the area by the locals.
The state of Florida requires all UTV and ATV riders and operators under the age of 16 to wear a helmet and eye protection. In addition, before getting your license, you must also pass a Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services safety course.
In Wyoming, off-road vehicles, including ATVs, dirt bikes, and UTVs, are only allowed on roads and trails that are a part of the Wyoming ORV Program. You must have an ORV permit to drive on roads or trails within the ORV program. This rule applies even if your vehicle is street-legal.
Before taking your side-by-side out, make sure to check your state’s regulations to make sure you and your UTV meet all the legal requirements. Polaris offers a comprehensive list of rules by state, or you could check with your local Department of Environmental Protection or the equivalent.
For an experienced hunter, choosing to hunt from a UTV can make getting into your hunting grounds and carrying out big game easier. However, it’s essential to be aware of the legalities and ethics of choosing to use a motorized vehicle on your hunt. And remember to be courteous and respectful of other hunters and non-hunters in the area.
Once you’re aware of what you are and aren’t allowed to do, you’ll be on your way to a fun and exciting trip!