Drones and Hunting: Are They OK, or Do They Violate Fair Chase?

As technology improves in various segments of our society, hunters often are faced with decisions about how, at what lengths or even whether to use advances within the scope of our hunting pursuits.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems, commonly known as drones, are becoming popular with recreational users. These nifty flying machines are small, fun to operate and have myriad uses. As such, they are being looked at by state and federal wildlife agencies and wildlife organizations in regard to hunting.

The Pope and Young Club, established in 1961, has issued a position statement on the use of drones for hunting and the club’s views on fair chase ethics. The statement is printed below in full:

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The core values of the Pope and Young Club revolve around the principles of high standards of conduct and ethics in our bowhunting lifestyle. The Club believes that an ethical code is necessary for all responsible bowhunters and is the key to protecting bowhunting’s future in our society.

The concept of fair chase is a component of an ethical code. Simply defined, fair chase is the ethical, sportsmanlike and lawful pursuit of free-ranging wild game animals in a manner which does not give the bowhunter an improper or unfair advantage over the animal.

In addition to following all bowhunting laws and regulations, adherence to the Rules of Fair Chase is required by anyone submitting an entry into the Club’s Records Program. Though such rules focus on the pursuit itself, the spirit of fair chase is an attitude and a way of life based in a deep-seated respect for wildlife, for the environment and for other individuals who share the bounty of our natural resources.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems (commonly called “drones”) are familiar as a military aerial reconnaissance and weapons platform. They are increasingly playing a more popular role in civilian life. UAV’s have high potential to contribute to the fields of wildlife biology, search-and-rescue, agriculture and many other applications.

However, use of these highly sophisticated remote-controlled aircraft to scout, monitor and stalk North American big game to aid in bowhunting activities is a fundamental violation of the rules of Fair Chase. The Pope & Young Club believes the use of this technology as a bowhunting aid represents a significant threat to fair chase bowhunting and fair distribution of bowhunting opportunity.

We urge all Pope & Young Club members to refrain from using Drones/UAV’s to locate, monitor, scout or stalk any North American big game species. UAV-assisted bowhunting violates the existing rule that states, “you may not use electronic devices for attracting, locating, or pursuing game, or guiding the hunter to such game.”

While the Pope & Young Club acknowledges the potential use of UAV’s for purposes of science and game surveys and even to attain non hunting shots such as scenery, etc. for outdoor television shows, we feel strongly that in order to protect the principles of fair chase and fair opportunity, UAV’s may not be used as a bowhunting aid. We have a responsibility to make sure that bowhunting remains a primitive pursuit involving woodcraft and skill, not merely exploiting technology.

Accordingly, P&Y supports efforts by state wildlife authorities to ban the use of UAVs to aid or assist in bowhunting.

Established in 1961, the Pope and Young Club is a non-profit North American conservation and bowhunting organization dedicated to the promotion and protection of our bowhunting heritage, hunting ethics and wildlife conservation. The Club also maintains the universally recognized repository for the records and statistics on North American big game animals harvested with a bow and arrow.

What do you think about drones and their use in hunting? We’d like to hear feedback from DDH fans, so let us know.

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