copyright the Chronicle September 24, 2014
by Tena Starr
The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board will hold a public hearing next month on a new regulation that would prevent people from hunting with drones, or any other aircraft.
The rule is being considered more as a precaution against future problems than a remedy for any existing one.
“I don’t believe it’s been a problem in Vermont,” said Catherine Gjessing, counsel for the Fish and Wildlife Board. “We haven’t had any formal complaints about it.”
But, she said, the board, which has jurisdiction over how animals are hunted, wants to be on top of the issue.
“The board discussed the matter and decided it was appropriate,” Ms. Gjessing said.
The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board’s decision to implement the regulation came after it received a petition from Orion the Hunter’s Institute and from the New England Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers arguing that the use of drones in hunting violates the rules of fair chase.
Hunting with drones has not been an issue in Vermont, so far, said Grant Spates, Orleans County’s representative to the Fish and Wildlife Board. “But we’ve seen it in other states.”
“We’re just trying to get ahead of the curve with it,” he said. “We were getting a heads-up from other states, so we figured we might as well get something in place so if it does arise people know what the rules are.”
Basically, the rule would ban using drones or other aircraft to look for game, harass game, assist in hunting, or harass other hunters.
“It’s kind of crazy we even have to think about this stuff,” Mr. Spates said.
In fact, the Fish and Wildlife Board hadn’t thought about it until the petition brought it to their attention.
“It didn’t occur to us,” Mr. Spates said.
But drones can be bought fairly inexpensively these days, he noted, and it’s certainly not out of the question that someone would think to use one to hunt.
A hunter could attach a camera to a drone and use it to search for game, for instance.
“Instead of traditional scouting, you could be flying your drone around,” Mr. Spates said. “It just really doesn’t fit with traditional hunting.”
“It’s not consistent with traditional hunting methods,” Ms. Gjessing agreed. “It takes the challenge out of the hunting process if somebody can actually pinpoint where an animal is.”
The rule is specific and would prohibit taking, or trying to take, any wildlife from an aircraft, or through the use of an unmanned aircraft.
It would also prohibit the use of aircraft or drones to “locate, surveil, or aid or assist in attempting to locate or surveil any wild animal, for the purpose of taking or attempting to take the wild animal.”
And it would ban the use of drones to “drive or harass any wild animal, or otherwise aid or assist in taking or attempting to take a wild animal.”
Calls to Orion the Hunter’s Institute, were not returned by press time. However, its website says the organization’s position is that using drones in hunting “gives an unfair advantage to the hunter over game and is therefore a clear violation of the principles of fair chase.”
The Hunter’s Institute says its mission is to provide leadership on the ethical and philosophical issues related to fair chase and responsible hunting. It was founded in 1993 and provides education and consulting services.
It is urging all states to ban the use of drones in hunting.
The public hearing on the new rule will be on Tuesday, October 21, at 6:30 p.m. in the Pavilion Auditorium at 109 State Street in Montpelier.
Also, comments may be submitted to the board until October 29.
Ms. Gjessing said that, so far, comments have been overwhelmingly in favor of the new rule. Out of about 200 comments, only one has been negative, she said. And that was because the person simply did not want any more rules, of any kind.
Mr. Spates said he believes that anyone who’s an avid sportsman would not want to see drones used in hunting.
“We really don’t want to be in aerial hunting surveillance,” he said.
contact Tena Starr at [email protected]
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