Hunters using all-terrain vehicles to get to remote game areas or to carry out their harvests are reminded to think safety when using these motorized workhorses and to make sure they only drive these machines where authorized.

Conservation Warden Gary Eddy, who also serves as the Department of Natural Resources ATV safety administrator, says the ATV and the utility-terrain vehicle (UTV) are becoming more popular with hunters. But with that use comes the hunter’s responsibility to get smart about safety and where they are driving.

“Some of the main complaints we receive involve these machines being operated in unauthorized areas on public lands,” Eddy says. “Hunters need to know if they are on county, state or national forest lands, and they need to contact the appropriate office ahead of time to find out the local rules and laws regarding their machine’s use.”

Eddy’s advice not only pertains to hunters but also to farmers and other citizens who use the ATV and UTV for farm work or simple travel on their land.

“The majority of the state’s ATV-related deaths have been on private lands,” Eddy says of the 2012 victims. Six of the 11 fatalities linked to ATV use reported to the DNR have occurred on private lands. “Sadly, the causes of the accidents whether out hunting, traveling on the trails or working on private lands, are the same – inexperience, going too fast for conditions or simply miscalculating the terrain. And often times the victims are not wearing a helmet.”

The victims have ranged in ages 9 – 62.

Earlier this week, a deer hunter from southwestern Wisconsin died in an ATV crash. The Arcadia man had gone out to move his tree stands and failed to return home. Buffalo County authorities found his body and said it appeared he crashed on a hillside.

In another case this year, the victim was checking on the family farm’s cattle when he attempted to back off a pile of dirt and the ATV rolled over. In another accident, the victim was traveling a steep slope in reverse and the ATV flipped. Speed and alcohol played a role in others.

Eddy says now is the time to get current on the rules and safety. Here are tips to remember:

  • New as of July 1 this year: All ATVs and UTVs registered for Public Use must display their registration ID number on a rear plate.
  • Always wear a Department of Transportation-approved helmet. Hunters are more apt to come across low-hanging branches, uneven or steep terrain. Serious injuries and death can occur even at the slowest of speeds.
  • Complete an ATV safety course. ATV riders at least age 12 and born after Dec. 31, 1987 must complete a course prior to operating an ATV. UTV operators must be at least age 16. This course may be completed either in a classroom or online.
  • Just as with other vehicles, long guns and bows/crossbows must be fully unloaded before transporting them in or on an ATV or UTV.
  • Remove mud, dirt and any vegetation from your machine before using it in other areas. Machines can easily transport invasive plant species or seeds that are harmful to local habitats.
  • Do not operate in or around waterways or wetlands. ATVs and UTVs are only allowed to cross waterways at bridges, roads or legal fords. Machine use in these areas is illegal and causes serious habitat damage that is very costly to repair.
  • Know before you go. Review all ATV/UTV laws, including recent changes at:, keyword “ATV.”

Logo courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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