Dr. John Woods 02.10.15
A time in the not too distant past, most of us probably considered the use of unmanned aerial drones to be the sole domain of the military. It’s a new technology that’s now in use across battlefields around the world.
Drones vary in size from small disks like flying saucers to large enough to be small aircraft with highly sophisticated navigational and communications gear aboard. Their effectiveness to gather surveillance information, aerial photography, mapping, and the delivery of weaponry systems on targets with pinpoint accuracy is now well documented. Drones have become a whole new dimension of threat for the U.S. Military. But does the use of this technology stop there?
I was still operating under the limited knowledge that drone use was concentrated on military applications. That was until I saw a guy flying a small drone over the soccer field where my daughter was playing. He flew the drone some 100 feet over the field, back and forth in a sort of grid formation. He told me he was filming the game.
Within minutes the city’s parks and recreation officials, including a backup law enforcement officer, confronted the drone flyer. He was instructed to stop flying the drone over the fields and/or stop filming or whatever he was doing. I have no idea about the city’s legal right to stop the drone pilot from flying over public property or the rights of the drone flyer to be able to do what he wanted.
He packed up the 18-inch diameter drone with four propeller motors on wing struts with an obvious mounted camera and left the scene. I was able to snap a couple photos since I was photographing my daughter playing soccer after all.
Then I had a conversation with an old high school buddy in Missouri who sells insurance primarily to farmers. He was telling me that one of his customers had purchased a drone, learned to fly it by himself, and was now filming his agricultural fields for added information to monitor his farm crop developments.
I was amazed that a private citizen would be doing this. He obviously went to the trouble of researching drones, shopped and bought one, and then self taught himself to fly it. Though his farming application may be limited at present, he has the option to do other things with the drone as one would imagine.
Next up a report came from Louisiana supposedly claiming that the Louisiana game department was already using drones to monitor wildlife resources. I am not sure of their application use or purposes. On the surface I am not bothered by a government wildlife agency checking up on wildlife so long as it says in that realm.
Now, I have read of reports on some outdoor related web sites and magazine sites that some outfitters and hunters are using drones to fly over hunting areas to spy on the whereabouts of big bucks. When one is spotted, then they dispatch hunters to the hunting area in an attempt to harvest the buck or elk bull or just as likely go after the game themselves. What are your thoughts on that?
I admittedly do not know the truth of these reports but there is a really good overview of the subject on the Field and Stream website.
Apparently such actions have already prompted the enactment of new legislative legal measures to restrict such activities on using drones for hunting or scouting wildlife. Colorado and Montana game and fish departments have already passed measures, and I certainly expect more states to follow.
As a hunter with fifty plus years of experience hunting all over the U.S. and the world, I am amazed that some hunters still try to find a short cut to tracking down the trophies they want. Seems to me using these artificial ways to locate game then hunt them lessens the bragging rights considerably, but that’s just me.
Using drones for hunting purposes is just a wider view of the same argument against all kinds of technologies that are impacting our sport. What about using laser rangefinding riflescopes so fine tuned to the rifle and cartridge that all the hunter has to do is “paint” the target and the rest is history. Is that hunting? Not in my book it isn’t. But, then I am admittedly old school.
There are many other more subtle examples of technology assisting unscrupulous hunters to cut short the true art of hunting. We’ve just about lost the whole entire skill set of scouting, tracking, patterning, stalking, and old fashioned woodsmanship among the present generations of hunters. Many of our “trophy only” focused hunting TV shows don’t help much either.
So, should drones be used to spot and stalk trophy game animals like white-tailed deer bucks, elk bulls, or other game? I think in short time we will find that such practices will be universally outlawed. We can only hope so anyway.
Are there legitimate uses for drones when it comes to wildlife management, controlling out of control species like wild hogs, or just monitoring game resources for research purposes? I think there are. Let’s not turn our backs on technologies that can benefit sport hunting by extending our knowledge base.
But likewise, let us not support the use of technologies that ruin our sport or detract from the real skills needed to be an effective and successful hunter.