States are acting on drones used in hunting

A number of states have banned use of drones-

Whether by passing a new law or the state wildlife agency making a new rule, the use of drones in hunting is being shot down in the states.

Low cost drones continue to infiltrate our lives and the economy, and hunting is no exception. A common perception is that drones can be very useful to a hunter, so useful that they violate the rules of fair chase. This year many states are acting to ban use of drones to assist hunters (or to hunt). Michigan also just banned another possible use, drones to harass hunters.

Alaska, Montana, and Colorado too banned them this year. Other states indicate they are already banned through earlier rules or legislation that prohibits use of conventional aircraft to spot wildlife and shoot from the air, or land and shoot. Idaho and Wisconsin are examples.

Drones are being used in some countries to detect poaching. States are beginning to use them to count wildlife and investigate their behavior. This use might conflict with some recent laws, such as Idaho’s to prohibit surveillance of farming and ranching property.

There is an on-line guide to the various states laws or rules on the use of drones. This new technology is obviously going to face more and more rules and restrictions.






  1. Pamela W Avatar
    Pamela W

    Use of drones violate “fair chase” principles? Hunting and trapping inherently violate “fair chase” principles. There is nothing fair about high-powered weapons, scopes, ATVs, snowmobiles, lures, snares, legholds, etc.

    I’m not disputing the unfairness of drone usage, but I’m also not willing to pretend that the way hunting and trapping are conducted complies with any element of fair chase principles.

    1. rork Avatar

      “complies with any element” – no fear of vast overstatement I see.
      Have trappers ever had fair chase concepts, or is mixing that in just a convenience?

    2. JB Avatar


      Fair chase is usually defined as pursuit of wildlife which does not give the hunter an unfair advantage. Clearly, having any weapon at all is an advantage; therefore, the question is–what constitutes an “unfair” advantage? Answering that question means operationalizing fairness to the satisfaction of most people. Where I’ve seen discussions of such, it is typically operationalized as a reasonable chance of escaping. Given that most hunters (at least big game hunters) are unsuccessful, and most animals are left alive, it doesn’t seem that our current policies provide hunters with an unfair advantage.

      Okay, that’s the logic behind my opinion; what’s the logic behind yours?

  2. rork Avatar

    I’m not a lawyer, but it wasn’t clear to me the extra harassment law was needed – you aren’t allowed to harass hunters or anglers already, no matter what the means (in MI). Harassing anyone not in public debate seems wrong. I’m not saying any harm was done. I’m a practitioner of redundancy myself, but not in the cause of grandstanding.

    Locally some discussion on the use of fishfinders (sonar or such) and trail-cams did ensue, and that was healthy. We don’t want to employ every means possible, particularly if it’s not for a cause (like quicker death). I personally find trail-cams on public lands to be cheating if it’s to help with hunting – it can compensate for lack of effort, and skills it’s taken me a long time to acquire. You are supposed to know how to scout and track.

  3. WM Avatar

    I don’t know if there is anything else in the works for ID Fish & Game, but here are the current regulations, which have been in place for several years, if I recall correctly. I think we even discussed it on this forum in the last two years or so. They would appear to be quite broad in their prohibitions, but some moron will come up with a rationale that drones aren’t covered for some reason, and of course other sleazeballs will say
    “It ain’t illegal ’til ya git caught.”

    Quoting from the 2015 Big Game Regulations:

    [p. 95]

    • To use aircraft, including unmanned aircraft, to locate
    game or furbearing animals and communicate location
    to persons on the ground, or to use any helicopter to
    transport hunters, gear, or game except at established
    landing fields.
    • Make use of any aircraft, including unmanned aircraft,
    to locate any big game animals for purpose of hunting
    those animals during the same calendar day those
    animals were located from the air.

    And, here is a related provision if such a flying device is used to harass others:

    • Intentionally interfere with the lawful taking of wildlife or lawful predator control by another.

    Some who see these devices used in any of the above unlawful ways might be attempted to remove them. And, a hovering craft just might make an interesting target for a few to challenge their marksman skills.

    1. Nancy Avatar

      “Some who see these devices used in any of the above unlawful ways might be attempted to remove them. And, a hovering craft just might make an interesting target for a few to challenge their marksman skills”

      Funny you should mention that WM. Recently had a conversation with a long time resident the other day who said she’d have no problem shooting a drone down if she saw one. Then she said she’s also had a problem with the local outfitter, who has no problem hiring “local flyboys” to locate elk and other wildlife, his clients might be interested in.

      My guess is, he’s already looking into getting a drone ($700 will get you a basic drone) verses the price of a pilot & aircraft for a few hours.

      I just hope she’s sitting outside when he makes a few practice runs 🙂


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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