Legislature looks at banning hunting with drones

    A bill to ban the use of drones while hunting or fishing is sailing through the Oregon Legislature as hunting groups and others join to ensure the principles of outdoors fair-chase keeps up with technology.

    House Bill 2534 is getting close to hitting a full vote by the Oregon Senate after a hearing Wednesday in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee that resulted in a recommendation for the Senate to pass it.

    The Oregon House unanimously passed the bill in March. It is set for a third reading today.

    The bill specifically bans drones for hunting or fishing, as well as for harassing or tracking any fish or wildlife in the state. Moreover, the bill would ban the use of drones for interfering with lawful fishing and hunting activities.

    Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division officials say they have not yet encountered drone use by hunters or anglers and supporters say this bill would ensure that here.

    Supporters fear using drones, also known as "unmanned aerial vehicles," armed with cameras will give hunters an undue edge when looking for deer or elk herds prior to or during their time afield.

    It has enjoyed broad support from sportsmen's groups like Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and the Medford-based Oregon Hunters Association.

    "Fair chase is a crucial element of modern-day hunting, and drones don’t fit within the definition of fair chase," OHA state coordinator Duane Dungannon says. "Technology is advancing so fast that it's difficult to stay out in front of it. This is an effort to at least try to catch up with it."

    Keeping hunters from using advances in technology to boost their chances goes back decades with the ban on using aircraft to spot big-game animals. In Oregon, it has long been illegal to hunt big-game until at least eight hours after communicating or receiving information from an aircraft.

    Two years ago, ODFW added language that specifically mentions drones in that eight-hour window.

    The current bill jumps far past the eight-hour window for an all-out ban not only on spying on animals' whereabouts from the air but also spooking or herding them with drones and from harassing hunters and anglers with them.

    Oregon traditionally has been on the front-end of fair-chase issues, having banned some electronic duck decoys as they reached the market more than a decade ago. The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2002 also banned the use of holograms as hunting decoys even before that technology hit the sport-hunting market.

    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

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