Is it unawful to carry a firearm on an ATV?

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November 24, 2016 12:00 AM

Hunting has changed greatly in the past number of years with many more people using vehicles to help them with their success rate.
Aside from trucks, hunters are now using ATVs, side by sides, Argos and even horses.
It should be noted in some situations there’s a difference in how the use of a vehicle to hunt is regulated.
One is during an open big game season, and the other is outside of the big game season.
The open big game season starts on Sept. 1 of every year and goes as late as Dec. 19 this year.
The first thing everyone should know is it’s unlawful to carry a firearm on an ATV in wildlife management zones 1 to 47, 52, 54 and in both Duck Mountain and Moose Mountain Provincial Parks (basically the southern part of the province) during an open big game season.
This restriction applies to all firearms, including crossbows and bows, and includes all ATVs, such as side by sides, snow machines, Argos, motor bikes and three wheelers.
ATVs may be used with the permission of the landowner to retrieve big game by the most direct route.
However, firearms are not allowed on the vehicle or even in a trailer attached to the ATV.
Outside of an open big game season, firearms can be carried on ATV, but they cannot be loaded.
The use of trucks and cars to hunt is a bit of a different story.
In many zones, use of vehicles off roads and trails looking for game is legal.
In zones 15 to 18 and 30 to 34, no person hunting big game shall drive off roads or road allowances with trails without written consent from the landowner.
This means the act of driving around tree bluffs, sloughs and fields in search of a deer is unlawful unless you have written permission from the landowner.
A person can drive trails provided the trail follows a road allowance.
Road allowances are surveyed strips of municipal land situated every mile on the extreme eastern side of the province, and every mile going east and west and every two miles going north and south in the remainder of the province.
An RM map available from the local rural municipality office is of great use for locating road allowances or determining who owns an individual parcel of land.  Retrieval by the most direct route is OK.
One other item of note is vehicle use on Fish and Wildlife Development Fund Lands, commonly known as Wildlife Lands, is limited to the retrieval of lawfully taken big game.
These lands have been purchased by a portion of hunter’s licence fees and new regulations generally prohibit any vehicle use in order to protect habitat.
The only exceptions are permitted agricultural activities and retrieval of big game.
In zones 1 to 47, 52 and 54, vehicles can be used to retrieve legally harvested animals by the most direct route.
Most of the land out there is private land so we must ensure that we are treating it with respect.
Driving on posted land without permission is one way to guarantee refusal of access in the future. When out driving you must be aware of residences, roads and seeded fields.
Hunters, while driving their vehicles, are responsible for damages and could face possible charges.
Can I use a horse to hunt wildlife?
Yes, horses can be used to hunt as long as the firearm being carried is unloaded. You also cannot shoot from a horse.
Can I use an ATV to put out decoys to hunt geese?
Yes, a side by side, ATV or other machines may be used to take your gear out into the field, but someone has to carry the firearms as they cannot be in contact with your machine.
Are there any rules around hunting game birds with a vehicle?
As always, we suggest that permission be granted by the landowner.
Remember that it is an offence to have a loaded firearm in a vehicle or to shoot from a vehicle including the box of the truck.
What if I’m hunting pheasant during the rifle season? If I see a deer while hunting pheasants can I shoot it with my rifle?
If you see a deer while hunting game birds and you have permission to hunt on that land, then legally you can shoot the deer.
Of course you’ll need to have your deer tags with you and remember that it’s illegal to shoot the deer with bird shot.
A shotgun slug or buckshot can be used or a rifle with a calibre greater than .23.
Lastly, it is a violation to shoot across or along a provincial highway, provincial road or municipal road.
These roads are shown on Saskatchewan’s Official Road map.
Hunters are advised to be extremely cautious when shooting near any road.
The rule of thumb is to take one step into the ditch, ensure you properly identify your target as legal game, that it is safe to discharge your firearm and that you are aiming away and not along or across the road.
Good hunter ethics include always obtaining landowner permission before hunting on private land, especially if you are going to use a vehicle, and minimize all vehicle use on agricultural lands.
Until next time, keep your rod tip up.

Ministry of Environment conservation officer Lindsey Leko has spent more than 25 years as a conservation officer in Saskatchewan. If you have questions, please contact lindsey.leko@gov.sk.ca.

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