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Morning Edition

Tradition Vs. Technology: The Debate Over Drones, Smart Rifles In Hunting

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At a hearing Thursday, officials from New Hampshire Fish & Game will propose new rules banning drones, smart rifles, and live-action game cameras in hunting.

Officials are trying to regulate these so-called emerging technologies, saying they’re not appropriate or ethical.

New Hampshire is not the first state to tackle this issue.

Kristen Schmitt is an outdoor journalist who writes about hunting, wildlife and agriculture, and has written about this topic.

She joins Morning Edition to talk about her reporting.

For those not familiar with this issue, can you explain exactly how a drone is used in hunting?

In some cases, drones are used to track invasive species like feral hogs. I would say that’s a positive use of the technology. But with regard to using them for hunting, a lot of people feel that it eliminates some of the sportsmanship and takes away from the fair chase, especially is someone can send a drone 10 minutes ahead of them in the woods so they know where to go to hunt.

Just having that technology at your fingertips, it makes you wonder what the future implications might be. And I think it’s due to the influx of drones in civilian hands that the move by state fish and wildlife officials to ban them is more of a preventative than a reactionary issue.

What do hunters that are using this technology have to say in defense of it? Are they saying this is just like having, say, a hunting dog?

A lot of them are comparing it to having a trail cam and using it for scouting, saying they’re using it to take video and see who’s out there. Some farmers are even using them to do crop monitoring and land management so they can see even how many deer might be on their property. It’s a funny he said/she said kind of debate between those who are kind of worried about what this type of technology can do versus those that think it’s harmless and used for scouting.

And how common is this type of a ban that New Hampshire is proposing? What’s the argument against drones?

A lot of the states that want to ban this type of technology is because they’re looking at the future implications of it evolving, not necessarily looking at what is currently on the market.

New Hampshire’s not the only state that seems to be aware of this technology and want to ban it. Colorado, Montana, Alaska, and Wisconsin have all passed laws or rules that ban the use of drones and smart weapons for hunting and fishing.

So there are drones, and then there’s the so-called smart technology in hunting. Specifically, smart-rifles and live action game cameras. So, what are these and how do they work?

A smart rifle is essentially a gun with built-in Wi-Fi. It can adjust for wind and animal movement before it fires automatically. Manufacturers say it can hit a target at 1,800 yards and targets that are moving up to 30 miles per hour. It transmits real-time images to cell phones or computers. It’s kind of a tricky thing I think to get involved and look at hunting and setting up your gun with the mentality of playing a video game.

And are states taking action against these, as well?

They are. Again, it’s the same states that I mentioned and it seems to be lumped together with the drones and live-action game cameras; basically, trying to put some restrictions on these technological advances.

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