The drone use in hunting debate just got a little more complex.
Regardless of your conception of drones – whether you view them as little more than flying cameras or as objects of grossly inhumane warfare – there is little denying that they have the potential to change hunting in numerous ways.
Sure, it isn’t at all likely that any state will ever approve weaponized drone use in hunting purposes. After all, what fun would deer hunting be if you took the human presence out of it? Someone who would actually be interested in doing their hunting exclusively via drones could get the same experience from simply turning on a video game console and saving themselves some money in the process.
However, one other area where drones could really effect change in the hunting world is in tracking and observing deer behavior, and that particular use is far more practical, far safer, and far more likely to become a reality.
Indeed, some hunters throughout the United States have already begun implementing drones as new and improved trail cameras of sorts. It’s not difficult to see why this use of the technology is catching on. Trail cameras can be immensely helpful in gauging deer behavior and planning out hunts, but they have always had the inherent drawback of only being able to film a single fixed panorama of deer habitat. It doesn’t matter how expensive a trail camera you purchase: if the deer aren’t wandering past it, you’re out of luck.
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Drones correct this disadvantage, giving hunters the ability to search out deer herds or to follow big bucks as they make rounds throughout the woods. By allowing for these more intuitive searches, drones are therefore capable of telling a hunter a lot more about the deer they are tracking, from where the herd is feeding to which paths they generally take through the woods. This extra information, in turn, can translate to a tactical advantage for hunters, and can ensure more kills in the field.
However, traditionalist hunters and deer management officials believe that drones may actually give hunters too much of an advantage over the animals they hunt. In fact, some groups are so concerned about drones infringing upon “fair play” rules and regulations that they are fighting for bans on the use of the airborne cameras in hunting. One organization – Backcountry Hunters & Anglers based in Missoula, Montana – has proposed a drone ban to game managers and wildlife management organizations throughout the western United States.
From the looks of it, the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers organization has been largely successful in convincing wildlife managers that a ban is needed on drones. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission was set to vote on regulations regarding drones on Friday, January 10. Prior to the vote, the commission’s spokesperson, Randy Hampton, revealed the direction the group was leaning, implying that drones presented a threat to the ethical harvest of game animals.
Whether or not other wildlife management organizations will follow Colorado’s example remains to be seen. However, the predominant opinion of drone use in hunting seems to regard them as an unfair advantage rather than as a helpful new technology. In other words, try to get your drone-abetted hunts in while you still can. Soon, you may not have the chance anymore.