There's a lot of debate now days on whether technology is helping or hindering the hunting industry. Bows are shooting faster than every, optics allow us to see further than ever before, and trail cameras allow us to be in the woods even when we're not in the woods. There is one area of technology that is at the top of the hot topic list, and that is the use of drones for hunting. By drones, I mean a quadcopter that has a camera attached to it. There are several blogs out there that talk about the different kinds of drones. From the DJI Mavic Air, to the DJI Mavic Pro 2, or the more affordable option, the Parrot Bebop 2.
When it comes to these different types of drones though, the question always comes up, is it ethical and is it legal? In today's post, I'll discuss the laws that surround these drones, and where they can be a benefit to you.
In Colorado, the law is basically that if it's related to hunting, you can't use it. If it helps with scouting, locating, harvesting, or it harasses the animals in any way, it is illegal. Colorado also comes with a pretty stiff penalty for the use of drones. The fine can be anywhere from $70 to $125,000. To receive the full penalty of $125,000, you would have to use the drone to locate the animal, follow the animal, and then harvest that animal. However, if your drone redirects an animal, makes an animal run, or stops an animal from eating, that is considered harassment. Flying a drone is also prohibited on any CPW lands. The only place they can be flown is at specific model airplane fields, like the one at Chatfield State Park.
It should also be noted that if you are found breaking the law with your drone, not only will you receive a fine for flying it, but they can also seize your quadcopter. They are not cheap!
When drones became popular, Utah lumped their laws into the same laws applicable to most other aircraft. Administrative rule R657-5-14 states that a person may not use an aircraft (including a drone) from 48 hours before a big game hunt to 48 hours after the big game hunt. That doesn't just mean your big game hunt for which you have a tag, that means all big game hunts in the area in which you're flying your drone. It continues on to say that a person may not take protected wildlife being chased, harmed, harassed, rallied, herded, flushed, pursued or moved by any vehicle, device, or conveyance listed.
This law is a little more lenient than those of Colorado, but they are still quite restricting, and you'll want to make sure you're following the rules.
Most state laws are similar to these listed above, and I would be sure to check those specific state laws before flying a drone in the mountains.
Where and when can we use drones?
If you have a drone, and want to use it in the field, I have a few points that I would recommend following:
Don't fly during or within several days of a hunting season
This may prove to be difficult as there are so many hunting seasons throughout the year, but it is possible. Drones can be a great tool to help you learn new country, terrain, and find areas that you'd like to study more. If you fly your drone during a hunting season, I can promise that a game warden will be quick to find you, and I'm sure there will be a fine coming your way.
Don't harass animals
If you are flying your drone, and you happen to see an animal, fly in the other direction. I know that sounds simple and like common sense, but it will be tempting to go in for a closer look. Don't do it. The cameras are amazing on these new drones, and you can fly high enough that you won't bother the animals at all. If you need a closer look, go check out my article on Phoneskope.
Contact your local fish and game department
If you're concerned about flying in an area, you really probably shouldn't be flying there. However, if the itch is too strong, and you really want to do it, reach out to your local fish and game and ask them if it's an approved time to fly your drone in that area. Again, these drones do have some positive uses, and there are times in which you can use them. Also, the old quote that it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission is not applicable in this situation.
Drones really do have a place in the outdoors. They give you a view of the mountains that is really hard and expensive to obtain otherwise. One area that I'd like to research more is the use of drones for shed hunting. During my study for this article, I didn't find anything that said whether it could or couldn't be used. If you know that it can or can't in your area, leave me a comment below. Also, please share your drone photos with me either on here, or on social media. I'd love to see them.