The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission has taken initial action on a regulation that would ban the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) for hunting or wildlife scouting, making Colorado the first state to address what will likely become a significant issue for game agencies across the country. In its regular meeting held last month in Lamar, the Commission began the two-step process of setting general regulations for 2014, approving regulations setting limits on the use of unmanned aircraft—commonly known as “drones”—for use by hunters to spot game animals from the air.
“Because [drone use] has become more prevalent, we want to make sure people understand it is still outside the bounds of what is allowed,” said Parks and Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton.
The use of aircraft to shoot or harass wildlife by anyone other than wildlife agencies is explicitly illegal under the federal Airborne Hunting Act, however, the law was created long before the recent surge in the use of unmanned drones. Many individual states have laws limiting the use of manned aircraft for spotting or scouting wildlife; however, a gray area exists with the use of unmanned drones and whether they are considered “aircraft.”
“There is a ton of technology available to people that would make it very, very easy for people to hunt. We try to hold the line to make sure that hunting is done in an ethical manner,” Hampton said.
The move by the Commission was applauded by some hunting organizations.
“Hunters are America’s first conservationists and we have a century-old tradition of policing our own ranks,” said David Lien, Co-Chair of Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA). “We’re pleased that the Parks and Wildlife Commission has stepped up to protect our hunting traditions, by ensuring fair chase and fair distribution of wildlife.”
The Commission will make its final vote at the January commission meeting in Westminster on regulation changes for 2014. If adopted, the restriction on drone use would take effect for the 2014 big game season, beginning the end of August.
“Drones are poised to be very popular among civilians and there are many legitimate uses in science, agriculture and search-and-rescue,” said BHA Director Land Tawney, of Missoula, Montana. “However, hunting should remain an activity of skill and woodcraft, not just technology. If drones take off in hunting fields, it will split the ranks of hunters between those who can afford and embrace the technology and those who do not.”