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020515-mis-out-drones

Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, can carry cameras to photograph and shoot video, as well as livestream a view from above.

Hunters wanting to use a drone to film their hunt or motion tracking devices such as cameras to monitor game animals should be aware of some updated regulations passed by the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission this week.

With advancements in technology for hunting, wildlife managers have pushed for a number of restrictions in an effort to maintain a “fair chase” standards and ethics. Fair chase refers to minimizing technological advantages to even the playing field as much as possible between hunters and game animals.

Montana already has restrictions when it comes to the use of technologies and vehicles, but some of those regulations are vague and difficult to enforce, Phil Kilbreath with FWP’s enforcement division told the commission Monday.

On the use of drones, regulations had stated, “The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for the purposes of hunting is prohibited.”

The intent behind the regulation is to mirror prohibitions on flying aircraft and hunting in the same day, but the language is unclear, he said.

“In addition, we get a lot of questions on using them to film hunts or for scouting,” Kilbreath told the commission.

The amended regulation passed by the commission now clarifies that drones cannot be used to pursue or drive game animals or to locate animals on the same day as hunting. Drones are also prohibited from being used to film a hunt.

Prohibiting drones from filming hunts came from the practical difficulty for game wardens in distinguishing between filming a hunt or searching for game animals, said FWP spokesman Greg Lemon. The clarification was not made due to a specific incident in the field, he added.

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When it comes to motion detection devices that could be used to track game animals, current regulations did not include all current technology or address advances in technology, Kilbreath said.

A clause in the regulations that said, “This includes but is not limited to,” followed by a list of devices, was also vague, he said.

The amended regulation passed by the commission now prohibits the possession while hunting of, “Remote operated camera or video devices capable of transmitting real time information, pictures or videos, seismic devices, thermal imaging devices, satellite and radio telemetry devices.”

Thomas Baumeister, president of Orion: The Hunter’s Institute, applauded FWP and the commission for pushing to maintain a technological balance between the hunter and the hunted.

“It shows the world that Montana cares about this stuff and whoever worked on it did a really nice job,” he said. “In Montana we can say there’s a line when it comes to technology and articulate that with our regulations.”

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Reporter Tom Kuglin can be reached at 447-4076 @IR_TomKuglin

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