Last month, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission voted unanimously to ban the use of drones for the purposes of scouting, hunting, and taking of wildlife. The move makes Colorado the first state to address the issue of drone use by sportsman, but it certainly won’t be the last.
If you think the use of drones to find and hunt critters sounds futuristic, well, the future is now. First, check out this YouTube video (which has nearly a million views) in which some Norwegians use a drone to spy on a moose near Oslo. Second, consider that these unmanned aircraft are also being used, for example, by Louisiana Hog Control, a company that helps landowners get rid of feral hogs. According to this Fox News story, owner Cy Brown equips a drone with thermal imaging technology, and then flies the unit over a property. When pigs are spotted, the drone operator directs an on-the-ground hunter in for the kill. Brown’s company killed 300 hogs in a six-month period using this technology.
Of course, hog hunters aren’t the only folks who see the potential of drones in the outdoors. One of my friends attending the NRA Show in Harrisburg, Pa., recently told me that a booth rented by a drone company was literally jamming traffic in the aisles as folks stopped to watch a unit hover over them. The drone was about the size of a softball.
So yes, it’s entirely possible that a drone might be coming to the deer woods near you. The technology is obviously there, and it’s bound to get better, cheaper, and more user-friendly — just like your trail camera did.
But your trail camera isn’t mobile. It only takes pics of a whitetail if the deer walks past. A drone, on the other hand, can stick with a deer (or elk, or moose…), while a hunter slips in for the kill. It would, essentially, take the “spot” out of a spot-and-stalk hunt, which in my opinion makes a mockery fair chase.
I’ll be honest with you, I’m not at all thrilled that drones have flown into our sport. On the other hand, I’m never quick to hop on the ban-wagon. It is currently legal in many areas, for example, to scout via plane within a certain period prior to your hunt as long as you don’t communicate with a hunter on the ground. How would flying a drone over your property for a bird’s-eye view of the area be any different? Perhaps the best solution is not to ban drones altogether, but to simply put similar restrictions on their use, or limit them to the off-season and private land.