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March 26, 2014
Using a Drone to Hunt Big Game? Not in Alaska!

A small UAS equipped with a GoPro camera, such as the one shown in this image, is suitable to help big game hunters locate animals and can be purchased for around $1,000.

At its March 14-18 meeting in Anchorage, the seven-member Alaska Board of Game approved a measure to prohibit hunters from spotting game with unmanned aircraft systems (UASs). Although the practice doesn’t appear to be widespread, Alaska Wildlife Troopers said the technology is becoming cheaper, easier to use and incorporates better video relay to the user on the ground.

A UAS allowing a hunter or helper to locate game now costs only about $1,000, according to Capt. Bernard Chastain, operations commander for the Wildlife Troopers. He added that because of advances in the technology and cheaper prices, it is inevitable hunters seeking an advantage would, for example, try to use a drone to fly above trees or other obstacles and look for a moose or bear to shoot.

"Under hunting regulations, unless it specifically says that it's illegal, you're allowed to do it," Chastain said. "What happens a lot of times is technology gets way ahead of regulations, and the hunting regulations don't get a chance to catch up for quite a while."

Troopers brought up the issue with game board members in February after hearing about a UAS-assisted moose kill in Interior Alaska in 2012, according to Chastain. That moose hunt was reported to troopers by state Department of Fish and Game staff, but there were few details about it, because the moose kill was apparently legal and troopers didn’t investigate it.

"I think more than anything, the change in the law represents thoughts we've heard for several years,” Chastain said. “Based upon how the regulations are written, we had to take an affirmative step to make those illegal.”

Image courtesy of Don McCullough Photo—Creative Commons.

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