Most bowhunters celebrate technological breakthroughs that help them bag their game. Many agree that game cameras have revolutionized scouting—with some that can even stream “real-time” photos of trophy bucks directly to our computers or cellphones.
And how about our cellphones? They can increase backcountry safety, film our hunts, or they can be used to alert an unseen buddy that deer are headed his way. And though using a cell phone to tip off a fellow hunter may violate game laws where you hunt, it also breaches what many would consider the boundaries of fair chase.
The more-advanced the technology, it seems, the more ethical dilemmas crop up. When it comes to unmanned aerial vehicles, or “drones” (essentially small flying robots with photo/video capability), the Pope & Young Club in late January took action to snub their future use by current or aspiring Club members. In a statement, the Club basically calls drone use for bowhunting a breach of the rules of fair chase.
Drones aren’t brand new. A few years ago some hunters in Louisiana developed a controversial thermal-imaging drone that can quickly spot wild hogs for hunters on the ground. And an animal rights group made news a while back by purchasing drones to harass hunters they deem unethical.
Meanwhile, some scientists have lauded a drone’s abilities to advance animal research and conservation initiatives, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currently working out how drones should be integrated into commercial airspace, given the availability of the technology to civilian hobbyists.
As technology continues to advance at such blistering rates, bowhunters will likely be faced with the question: At what point do devices introduced with the apparent goal of improving bowhunting actually do more harm than good? In this case, the Pope & Young Club has made quite clear its stance on drones.
Here is the Pope & Young Club drone statement in full:
POPE & YOUNG CLUB POSITION STATEMENT: DRONES
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.