CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) _ Vice President George Bush, saying he doesn't want ''a big running fight'' with CBS anchorman Dan Rather, returned to familiar campaign themes on Tuesday and called for further limits on strategic arms.

Bush said he wanted to put his tense television confrontation with Rather behind him, as he made a 24-hour round of appearances in this heavily Republican state.

''It's kind of like combat,'' he said. ''He's got to do his thing, he's got to do it his way and I've got to defend my record and get my case to the people.''

The vice president donned goggles for a science experiment with Cheyenne Central High School honor students and told them he is a strong support of the U.S.-Soviet treaty banning intermediate-range nuclear missiles.

''That's the first time in the history of the nuclear age that something limits how fast these bombs can be stacked up,'' he said.

''I think we've got a good chance to achieve a strategic arms deal, I think that the conventional force deal is essential, and I'd love to be the president to achieve the biological and chemical (arms) elimination,'' said the vice president.

Reforms instituted by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev will make it easier to achieve arms limitation agreements, Bush said, but he still wants to see proof that conditions have improved in the Soviet Union.

''I think we ought to be pushing to see evidence of how well reform is working,'' he said.

Bush, questioned about his battle of words with Rather, said of the incident, ''It's all history.''

''I don't want to have a big running fight with Dan Rather or anybody else. I have no hard feelings about it,'' he said.

Bush said he was surprised by the public support the incident has generated for his Republican presidential campaign.

''There's amazing interest out there, amazing to me, manifested in phone calls to headquarters, the White House, and all those kind of things,'' Bush said.

In Washington, President Reagan refused to comment on the Rather-Bush encounter, ignoring reporters questions on the subject during a picture-taking session in the Cabinet Room with members of Congress.

However, he endorsed Bush's refusal to reveal the substance of his private conversations with Reagan on the Iran-Contra affair.

''I think he has been exactly right,'' Reagan replied. ''That would set a porge Shultz argued against the secret sale of arms to Iran.

Shultz, appearing on CBS' ''This Morning'' program, said Tuesday, ''As far as my recollection is concerned, he was there.''

On another matter, Bush said he backs efforts to continue aealistic,'' said the vice president.

Bush minimized recent comments that the Republican race for president has narrowed to a contest between the vice president and Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole.

''I'm not quite egotistical enough to claim this is a two-man race,'' said Bush.