In a rare sign of unity, hunting organizations and animal rights advocates are calling on states to ban the use of drones in big game hunting, which manufacturers see as a new market for the pilotless aircraft.
National conservation groups that promote hunting like the Izaak Walton League of America, the Pope & Young Club and the Boone and Crockett Club, and anti-hunting organizations like PETA and the Humane Society of the United States, are all asking states to discourage the use of drones to help hunters spot game such as elk, deer and sheep.
“To be an ethical hunter, you need to maintain a sense of fair chase,” Izaak Walton Outdoor Ethics Committee Chairman Lee Hays told Secrets. He said using drones to track game is no different than using small aircraft, also considered unethical.
“Using them to spot game – or one day to spot and shoot animals – is beyond the pale. Responsible hunters and the HSUS agree that there’s no place for this remote-controlled killing,” said Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle.
PETA told Secrets, “Hunters who use drones to track and kill deer, elk, and other animals do no service to hunting, showing that they are just like hunters who enjoy point-and-click hunting—in which couch potatoes stalk and kill animals from a computer.”
Pope & Young and Boone and Crockett have declared that animals hunted with drones will not be eligible for their records program.
The Interior Department doesn’t have a position on using drones because it is a state regulatory issue. But Democratic sources said that there are efforts being made to include a ban in a “sportsmans package” of pro-hunting legislation on Capitol Hill.
Several states have already acted, including Colorado, Alaska and Montana.
Drones are being used more by hunters to locate animals, partly because the costs have dropped to under $500. It began as a legal way to hunt feral pigs states wanted to weed out of the countryside and morphed into more traditional hunting.
PETA also uses drones to hunt hunters. “PETA's hobby drones allow true wildlife enthusiasts to gather and share video footage of illegal or cruel hunting practices, such as failing to follow an injured deer, laying bait to lure geese, or leaving bear cubs orphaned, and it may end up saving lives,” the group explained.
The Humane Society’s Pacelle said that in 2005, they joined with hunting advocates to win a ban in 40 states of so-called internet hunting that lets a user shoot an animal remote-controlled weapon.
“I am not surprised by the opportunists who would use drones to make the odds even more lopsided in favor of the hunter,” he said on his blog. “Obviously, our standards must reflect an awareness of technologies that turns hunting into slaughter.”Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.