Following examples set by other states, Michigan lawmakers have drafted two bills that would ban the use of drones in hunting. Lightweight and equipped with video cameras, the small remote-controlled devices can offer a considerable advantage to individuals searching for game. Many hunters and sportsmen’s associations consider this advantage an unethical one, and have been calling for the vehicles to be banned from the field. According to state Senator Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair), it was hunters and conservationists who called for the bills to be sent before the House Natural Resources Committee.
“They felt (using drones) takes away from the spirit and tradition of what hunting is supposed to be about,” Pavlov told The Detroit News.
The bills, which passed out of the committee last Tuesday, would not only restrict hunters from using drones, but also protesters who plan on using the devices to harass sportsmen. Last year PETA announced that it would be selling aerial drones online for the purpose of tracking hunters and anglers.
According to the Detroit Free Press, one of the bills would make it illegal to follow a hunter with a drone and doing so repeatedly could result in a misdemeanor charge, up to one year in jail, and a $2,500 fine.
“It’s currently against the law to harass hunters,” Trevor VanDyke, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, told the Free Press. “This just clarifies the law. Currently, remote or computer-assisted hunting is prohibited, but drones are an emerging market.”
The second bill would make it a crime to hunt any game animal with the aid of a drone, with consequences ranging up to one year in jail and as much as $5,000 in fines.
Other states are also considering similar drone-banning measures and some, such as Alaska, Colorado, and New Mexico, have already barred use of the vehicles. Still, drones are not commonly seen as hunting devices and Michigan officials have received no reports of any hunters with drones—either using them or being followed by them. Yet many hunters are eager to prevent the practice from taking root in Michigan.
“Our members believe in fair-chase hunting,” said Drew Youngdyke, grassroots manager for the Michigan United Conservation Clubs. “We saw examples (online) of animals being harassed and where drones were following them. This (bill) is an effort by hunters and outdoorsmen to get ahead of a technology we don’t consider fair-chance hunting.”