It's a pretty well established fact that there are fewer and fewer places to ride off-road, but we need to realize there are fewer remote locations, period. The same developments that close places to ride also close places where people hunt, camp, and horseback ride. That puts more of us in smaller areas—areas that we often need to share. The correct term is "Multiple Use," and it isn't an easy thing to pull off. Everyone goes to the woods in the fall of the year, and thus the potential for conflict goes up. Parking areas get full, campsites get full, and everyone is trying to "get away."
Perhaps the single most important thing you can do to help preserve our sport is to have a quiet bike. Loud exhaust can be heard for miles when the leaves haves fallen off the trees. Keep in mind that we are the only people who don't mind an internal-combustion alarm clock. The majority of people hate it. If you have a group of hikers, a group of horseback riders, a group of hunters, and a group of dirt bike riders, what argument will we always lose? Noise.
Think about how many places you could ride if nobody ever heard you. Think of all of the campgrounds and state parks that could have dirt-bike trails around them if nobody could hear the bikes. In the future, electric bikes could be the best thing that ever happened to our sport, but for now we need to be as quiet as we can, and as courteous as we can.
We dirt-bike riders are fortunate in that there aren't any "seasons" where our riding is limited. If you want to ride in the middle of the summer, the dead of winter, or 365 days a year, you can. This is likewise true of other land-users, with the exception of hunters. Hunters are the folks who are most limited—and the most limited among them are the deer hunters who have seven weeks a year to hunt with guns, and eight weeks to hunt with bows.
There is one off-road motorcycle club in Middle Tennessee that leases several thousands of acres that they share with a hunting club. The hunters have the land four months a year, the dirt-bike guys get it the rest of the year. Some people would say that the dirt-bike guys miss out on some great riding weather, and they do. But without this agreement, nobody could afford to lease the property.
I'm by no means suggesting that you stay out of the woods altogether during hunting season, but I think a little courtesy (there is that word again) can go a long way. Hunters are every bit as passionate about hunting as we are about riding, and they have waited all year for opening day.
Maybe on opening day of the deer gun season or bow season, you go somewhere where you know there aren't hunters, or maybe you take that day to catch up on some honey-dos. I've had people tell me that they aren't worried about being mistaken for a deer, or being shot at by accident. My reply was, "I don't want to be shot at on purpose!" I've also been told by hunters that if they haven't shot a deer by 10 a.m., it ain't going to happen. I don't know about that, but waiting a little later in the day to ride couldn't hurt.
While we are on the topic of preventing lead poisoning (i.e., getting shot), if you ride on the North Cumberland/Royal Blue Wildlife Management Area during any big-game gun hunt, you are required to wear the same amount of blaze orange as hunters do. The fact that you are on an orange KTM with orange KTM gear doesn't matter. To meet the requirement, you must have not only a blaze-orange vest, but also a blaze-orange helmet cover. TWRA is serious about this rule, so if you ride during the gun season be prepared and save yourself the price of a ticket. I've seen people duct-tape orange toboggans over their helmets to meet the requirement.
Info on hunting seasons and apparel requirements can be found on the TWRA website: tennessee.gov/twra. You can also download a rail map of the Royal Blue OHV trails. Just for the record, opening day of bow season is Sept. 26, and opening day of gun season is Nov. 21.
Russ Townsend has been riding on and off road motorcycles for over 25 years. He has been active in promoting new legislation for OHV users, is a lifetime AMA member, former racer, and current Secretary of the Volunteer Riders dirt-bike club.