I would rather not have ATVs out there at all but in most public land areas in New Mexico, you can use your ATV to retrieve your animal after you have killed and tagged it.
In my line of work, we use ATVs all the time. I have seen first hand what they do to the country and I am sorry to say (for the elderly folks) that the land is better off without ATVs going through it. We have access to all public land (anytime) and most private land (if we have to). We stay on roads though until circumstances take us off of established roads and then we will go off road.
After a while, ATVs do tear up land and it takes a while for the land to repair itself. At work, it is quite rare that we go over the same tracks over and over. But hunters all want to go to the same areas where the game is and it causes people to follow old ATV tracks which makes the ground worse and worse. New roads are made because one person rode their ATV through an area and now other people are trying to go the same way and see that trail and take it. So, it gets used over and over. I am sorry but ATVs are much more destructive than any horse. Horses have been going down those trails that you see for more than 100 years and the trail is not that wide. Just think if you had a 100 year old ATV trail going through an area. It would look much worse than the horse trail.
Like I said before, its the rejects that happen to own atv's and 4x4s, etc that ruin it for everyone, and its up to us to self police, and discourage behavior when possible. In some cases, the atv's are better suited to trails, etc. then vehicles. What annoys me, is the guys who seem to just cruise up and down the roads all day, and in some cases, speeding excessively over the unposted speed limit. I can certainly understand the OPs frustration, not knowing ahead of time that there has been closures. It sure puts a damper on things. Did you guys check the MVUM ahead of time? If you go to the national forest site, you can find a link to it. It should show what trails and roads are open and closed.
Well,I just got back from unit 67. Porcupine Gulch to the Old Agency was the bulk of our hunting. We were standing around camp one evening and I mentioned I thought it would be good to close the trails 200 yds off the main road. I got every kind of response from the 5 other fellas in camp. Now don't get me wrong,I'm asthmatic and 49. A flat lander to boot. I would be one of the ones to benefit the most from ATV access. My thoughts were with a little less pressure,maybe the elk would be more prone to bugle. We had to get up around 10,500 to 11,000 ft to find vocal elk. The few we encountered down between 9,000 and 10,000 would sneak in down wind for a look,then bust and run. Seems they have adapted like our eastern wild turkey. Every time they open their mouth, someone is calling to them or shooting at them. The bulls (3) up higher we worked were classic elk hunting. I personally didn't score,but another fella in camp managed a 4 X 5 Monday in the sleet and snow we were lucky to have. Hot and dry otherwise. Another side note. The road up on Porcupine sucked! Very few hunters back at the gulch the first couple days. We walked in for a mile ourselves. I guess they didn't like the rough ride,so they hunted someplace else. I personally liked the solitude. Just an observation on my part. No harm intended.
The biggest problem with ATV and off roading in general is that this occurs year round in Colorado's high country. This is not a seasonal problem here with JUST hunters causing the damage. My guess is that the GMU road was closed long before hunting season even started. They will go through and close roads/trails that are being overly used/abused or even for erosion. Many times these are not permanent closers but can be in affect for years.
As often times occurs a few bad apples ruin it for the good ones. I see it all the time ATV on trails/roads clearly marked that would not allow travel otherwise.
I'll chime in. I live & hunt in Western CO. I Elk hunt where I do specifically because there's no motorized travel permitted. Nothing ticks me off more than the sound of a truck or an ATV when I'm trying to hunt Elk! Does doing it on foot make it harder? Definitely. But, if I wanted it easy I'd go hunt deer...
I think what really ticked us off was the fact that we thought we had properly planned our annual trip and showed up and the rules changed. If you did that for a vacation and found out the beach was closed when you arrived, you'd be ticked too. Why must we accept incompetence because it's government. Maybe it's not DOW' fault but some other alphabet agency. There's so many and they are uncoordinated, how the hell can you keep up. How hard would it be to to place a notice of changes and a link to check them on the DOW website. How hard would it be to have all these agencies list their changes. People spend a lot of time and money planning their trip,and it's not just hunters. This stupidity causes people to be upset with the state and all these agencies.