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article imageIllinois lawmaker proposes ban on hunters' use of 'unfair drones'

By Megan Hamilton     Jan 30, 2015 in Environment
While some states have already banned or regulated the use of drones for hunting, even more states have bills on the books regarding the use of this controversial procedure.
Alaska is one such state that has banned the use of drones for hunting wildlife.
The state already has laws that ban using aircraft for spotting game and then killing it on the same day, but when Alaska's Board of Game got wind that a hunter was using a drone to spot and kill a moose almost two years ago, and after hearing additional concerns about the practice, the board voted to ban the practice, Ars Technica reported.
Hunting with drones is cheating, and the practice should be banned, says Illinois Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield), in a press release, The Dodo reports.
"Using drones to hunt makes the process too easy," Morrison said. "That's not fair for hunters and fishers who are seriously into the sport, and it's not fair for the animals that deserve a chance to escape."
Drones can quietly sneak up on animals, giving away their location to hunters, and large creatures like deer are "easy pickings," Morrison said. They aren't usually spooked by smaller aircraft, including drones.
In the safety of a state park  the deer have learned not to fear people.
In the safety of a state park, the deer have learned not to fear people.
Many hunters are also against using drones, because they think the devices offer too much of an unfair advantage.
"When you see these things work around wild animals, it's just scary," Land Tawney, executive director of the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Association told Field and Stream.
Forty-three states have proposed stronger legislation, but it's aimed mostly at law enforcement and privacy issues, not hunting. Tawney, whose organization is non-profit and dedicated to keeping public wilderness wild, has worked with Colorado and Montana officials to get drone laws on the books.
"There are existing laws in many states that regulate flying in and hunting — the 24- and 48-hour rules," Tawney said. "But airplanes are big and loud, (and) pilots are required to file flight records, so they're much easier to enforce. All that's out the window with drones. So we went out and asked the states if their existing laws apply to this technology, and if they don't, to consider action."
Tawney's organization has 15 chapters in 20 states, and all are talking to lawmakers, with Wyoming and Arizona poised to act quickly, he said. If all of these states prohibit drone use during the hunting season, it would effectively cover 97 percent of federal public land.
Morrison's bill would make it illegal to use a drone to kill aquatic creatures or any wildlife species that are protected by Illinois law. She decided to propose the law after talking to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, The Chicago Tribune reports.
The department decided to take these measures even thought the Illinois conservation police haven't received complaints or reports of anyone using drones while hunting, said Chris Young, a spokesman for the department. He said the legislation is a "proactive measure" because drones have become more affordable to more people.
Young says he can imagine in the short-term that hunters would be able to use drones to drive wildlife to them or locate wild creatures beforehand, and then go to that spot to hunt.
"So the use of drones would basically reduce the element of fair chase, which is an important principle of hunting," he said.
Montana and Colorado have restricted the use of drones in hunting, and these efforts have been welcomed by animal rights activists and hunters alike.
However, not everyone is on board with this.
Currently New Hampshire is also looking at legislation regarding hunting with drones, and Jason Parent, a state legislator who co-owns a hunting guide service, has advocated for the use of drones for scouting out creatures in his state. He says that using drones for this purpose could potentially save customers time and money as well as increasing the likelihood of coming into contact with wildlife.
He compared the use of drones to other commonly used devices like stand-alone cameras and tree stands. Hunters use these to watch for animal activity.
"Tell me, where does the cheating start?" he asked.
Morrison's legislation doesn't prohibit the use of drones for scouting for animals prior to hunting, according to officials at the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), The Chicago Tribune noted.
Morrison said that this was her intent. If needed, she added, she will "amend the legislation so that it speaks directly to that."
A press release from Morrison's office noted that if the legislation becomes law, conservation police and other DNR employees will be able to confiscate drones that are used for hunting. The hunter may also be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of as much as $2,500, up to one year in prison, or two years on probation.
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