Anderson: Opinions vary on using drones for hunting

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 17, 2014 - 9:36 AM

Using drones as a hunting aid has sparked a nuanced electronics-vs.-ethics debate.

You and a buddy are on Swan Lake, in southern Minnesota. Or maybe on Lake of the Woods, near the Northwest Angle. Or perhaps you’re in the western part of the state, in Lac qui Parle County.

Wherever your location, you’re planning to hunt ducks the next morning. And you’re wondering where you’ll find birds.

Are they in this bay over here? Or that one over there? Or perhaps neither.

To increase the chance you make the best possible choice, you assess the weather and other variables, and combine that information with intelligence gained through earlier scouting trips.

Then you head out, hoping for the best.

How old-fashioned of you.

Wouldn’t you rather greatly increase your odds of bringing home a few birds by flying a camera-equipped drone over the area to take a peek before you hunt?

If so, welcome to the future.

Maybe.

• • •

Worldwide, drones are becoming a fact of everyday life. The Wall Street Journal reported last week, for example, that Yamaha has sold drones to Japanese farmers for 20 years, and that an estimated 2,400 unmanned helicopters spray rice fields there.

Similarly, drones used by movie companies overseas have filmed James Bond chase scenes, and an oil company uses a drone in the Arctic to survey the ice pack and whale migrations, the Journal reported.

In the United States, where privacy proponents are attempting to prevent drone use by law enforcement and other government officials, commercial interests are awaiting detailed rules expected next year from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that would govern use of drones in a wide variety of businesses.

Drones also are making news in the outdoor world, particularly in hunting, as states such as Colorado pass laws to prohibit their use in pursuit of elk and other game.

In January, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission banned the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in that state for hunting or scouting.

“As America’s first conservationists, hunters have a century-old tradition of policing our own ranks,” said David Lien, co-chair of Colorado Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. “The regulations adopted by the Parks and Wildlife Commission protect our hunting traditions, by ensuring fair chase and fair distribution of wildlife.”

No specific Minnesota laws address drone use while hunting, fishing or trapping. But a range of laws on the books restrict their application in these activities, said conservation officer Capt. Greg Salo of the Department of Natural Resources.

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  • Star Tribune reporter Dennis Anderson caught the returning drone. No specific Minnesota laws address drone use in outdoors activities, and opinions vary on their use and practicality.

  • Here’s how a wooded area near Stillwater looked from Star Tribune photographer Brian Peterson’s GoPro camera, hovering overhead in a four-rotor, battery-powered drone.

  • Star Tribune photographer Brian Peterson has been experimenting with a drone to take aerial photographs

  • Star Tribune photographer Brian Peterson’s drone cost about $3,000, but there are limits to its ability to take detailed or wide-angle shots.

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