ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Minnesotans cherish our great outdoors and the opportunities that brings.
But now two activities — hunting and a popular hobby — are coming together in concern.
The Iraq War introduced us to unmanned aircraft. Since then, drones have become a household name — hugely popular and widely available.
“They’re a lot of fun, the price points have come down,” Mike Danielson said.
Danielson is a vice president of Eidecom Creative Agency, which uses drones widely for its business.
But as drone sales soar, there’s also concern for misuse.
“It’s about fair hunting,” State Sen. Dan Schoen of Cottage Grove said.
Schoen is the author of SF 124. The recently introduced bill would prohibit the use of unmanned aircraft for taking or harassing deer and other wildlife.
“I think you could see bear hunting, I think you could see turkey hunting, where they might be at and how you might be able to get to them,” Schoen said.
It’s a concern because what can’t always be seen while sitting in a blind in the woods or on the water is easily spotted from the air.
And while it’s possible to mount a gun on a drone, many experts say it’s a long shot.
“Most guns have quite a bit of kickback. This is just hovering using these small propellers, and would essentially maybe even just knock it right out of the sky,” Danielson said.
Others wonder how drones are any different from other electronic aids, such as fish locators and underwater cameras.
“The [underwater] camera can’t make the fish bite on the lure or the bait, but a drone, you can swoop that thing down and push it in a different direction, if that deer were to start walking away from you and you wanted it to go back the other direction,” Schoen said.
Lt. Col. Greg Salo, with the Department of Natural Resources Enforcement Division, says technologies are constantly pushing the sporting concept of fair chase.
“Everything related to hunting and fishing that makes it easier, faster, doesn’t require as much time in the field yourself,” Salo said. “In the last five, six years it’s really been popping up in our radar and drones are just another addition to it.”
Leaving many to ask if drones are a mere toy or a harmful tool. On that question, the debate has begun.
The bill has been referred to the Senate’s Environment and Natural Resources committee. The initial public hearing has yet to be scheduled.