It’s not often that a bill package can protect fair chase hunting principles while at the same time preventing hunter harassment, but that’s exactly what Senate Bills 54 and 55 do by banning the use of drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) to assist or harass hunters. Yesterday, the bill package passed the state House unanimously after doing so earlier in the state Senate. Today, the state Senate unanimously concurred with some minor amendments, so it will now be sent to the Governor to be signed into law.
As drones drop in price, their use is becoming more common, including in some situations being used for real time scouting, essentially flying a drone over an area that may hold wildlife to view specific wildlife before the hunter goes in. The practice has already been banned in several western states at the behest of pro-hunting organizations. As hunters, it is our responsibility to stay on top of emerging technologies and ensure that those which violate fair chase principles of hunting are not used to give all hunters a black eye. At the same time, radical animal rights groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have announced plans to use drones to harass hunters in the field.
This bill package originated out of concern about the practice raised at the Michigan United Conservation Clubs Region 1 meeting in Escanaba in February of 2014. That led to both an MUCC member-introduced policy resolution, passed at our Annual Convention last summer, and to a bill package in the state Senate sponsored by Senators Tom Casperson (Escanaba) and Phil Pavlov (St. Clair), who also introduced the current package. Due to a mixup on a concurrence vote on the last voting day of the legislative session in December 2014, though, the tie-barred bills did not both pass both chambers in the same form, so Governor Snyder was forced to veto them. The bills were reintroduced this term, and we anticipate that they will be signed after unanimous votes in both chambers.