- Associated Press - Monday, September 29, 2014

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Vermont is poised to become the latest state to ban hunting with the help of aerial drones.

The state Fish and Wildlife Board is considering a rule that would prohibit people from using drones or manned aircraft to locate game animals or herd animals toward waiting hunters on the ground.

Hunting from drones or aircraft hasn’t been a problem in Vermont, but the board is expected to implement the new rule by the end of the year to make sure drone-assisted hunting doesn’t become an issue. A hearing, as part of the rule-making process, is scheduled for Oct. 21.

“We’re just trying to stay ahead of the curve,” said Vermont Game Warden Lt. Curtis Smiley. “Most ethical hunters do not agree with it at all and do not think they should be used. Sometimes if you get ahead of them, you can get the law in place before it becomes an issue.”

A number of states, including Alaska, Colorado, Montana and New Mexico, already have outlawed the use of drones in hunting. Michigan also is considering a ban.

The Montana-based Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, which has representatives in 21 states, is promoting the ban in all the states or regions where it has chapters, said Executive Director Land Tawney.

“We realize there are plenty of practical uses for drones, especially in wildlife management,” Tawney said. “But really when it comes to hunting and fishing, there couldn’t be anything farther from fair chase.”

The use of drones in hunting is yet another aspect of the technology that many are questioning. Last year, the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union demonstrated what it saw as the threat drones can pose by flying a videocamera carrying drone around the Statehouse dome.

Tawney said he felt few people would be willing to speak publicly in favor of hunting with drones, but in some cases people spend large amounts of money to find game.

In a statement, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International didn’t specifically mention drones for hunting, but said they have many beneficial uses such as search and rescue, helping to fight wildfires, monitoring crops for disease and surveying wildlife populations.

“As states consider legislation, it is our position that manned and unmanned aircraft should be treated the same, focusing laws on the particular action in question, and not on the platform being used,” the statement said.

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife board began drafting a ban after receiving a petition from representatives of Back Country Hunters and Anglers and Orion-The Hunter’s Institute, said Catherine Gjessing, the state agency’s general counsel who helped write the proposed rule.

“We’re just saying you can’t use this device for hunting and scouting and that it’s just not consistent with Vermont hunting traditions,” Gjessing said Monday.

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