ATVs for rabbits: Toeing fine line of legality

Using an ATV for an elevated shooting position while rabbit hunting is legal, according to the MDWFP law enforcement chief. However, at no time with the motor running is a hunter allowed to have a loaded firearm in his/her hands.

It’s OK to stand on one with motor off, but gun must be unloaded while running

In Mississippi, according to the law, hunting from a motorized vehicle is illegal, which, with rabbit season opening Oct. 18 will soon come into play.

The law: “It is illegal to hunt or kill any game animal, furbearing animal or game bird from any motorized vehicle or boat. However, squirrels and game birds may be hunted from a boat if the motor is off and the progress of the boat has ceased.”

However, according to the chief of enforcement for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, the intent of the law is to prevent hunters from riding in an automobile or ATV/UTV with a loaded firearm and looking for a deer, or a rabbit for that matter.

“That you cannot do, legally,” said Steve Adcock. “But, if you are just using the ATV, or UTV, to stand on, and the motor is off, that is OK. The intent of this law is to prevent people from riding and looking for game, actually using the vehicle to hunt.

“But, there is something else to consider. If you are riding in or on a motorized vehicle during the hunt and your gun is loaded, then you could be cited for hunting from a motorized vehicle.”

Adcock said that is illegal to use an ATV or UTV to push the dogs or rabbits, but it would be legal to use the vehicle to stay ahead of the dogs, as long as the firearm is completely unloaded. 

To use it as a hunting stand, a hunter would have to park, kill the engine and then load his or her firearm.

“That is OK, as long as you are on private lands,” Adcock said.

Regulations prohibit ATVs/UTVs on most public lands, like the big Wildlife Management Areas and National Wildlife Refuges of the Delta.

Bobby Cleveland
About Bobby Cleveland 1145 Articles
Bobby Cleveland has covered sports in Mississippi for over 40 years. A native of Hattiesburg and graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Cleveland lives on Ross Barnett Reservoir near Jackson with his wife Pam.