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Nevada hunters give thumbs-down to drones, electronic guns

Big game hunters want you to leave the drones at home.

The buzzing bots are quickly invading nearly every aspect of American life as people find uses for them in photography, surveying and now hunting.

On Friday, the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners took public comment on a proposal to clarify that ban and another to ban electronic guns.

Lawmakers across the country have been caught off guard by emerging technologies and have failed to write legislation quickly enough to regulate them as a result.

The primary goal of the proposal was to preserve the “fair chase” ethic, said Tyler Turnipseed, chief game warden with the Nevada Department of Wildlife. Thirty years ago, hunters relied on woodsmanship skills, fitness levels and ability to spot game, he said.

Big game hunting in the Silver State includes deer, elk, bighorn sheep and black bears.

The warden described the electronic guns, which can make a novice shoot like a pro, as “something out of science fiction.”

One such gun, the TrackingPoint rifle, costs between $10,000 and $28,000 and has Wi-Fi for streaming video. The user marks a target with a button and pulls the trigger, but the gun fires itself once the scope locks onto the correct spot.

The department has only heard anecdotal reports of drones being used in Nevada, but Turnipseed said they are trying to stay ahead of the technology.

Gil Yanuck, a member of the Carson City Advisory Board to Manage Wildlife, echoed concerns that the technologies would diminish the spirit of hunting.

“Wait a minute, is this hunting?” asked Yanuck. “Is this what the concept of hunting is evolving to?”

Yanuck said he was concerned that the state’s 31 game wardens would be unable to adequately enforce the bans.

Turnipseed admitted that proving someone was using a drone for hunting would be difficult, because the law still allows anyone to use drones for photography, as long as they don’t harass the animals or hunters.

The department’s stance aligns with that of major hunting groups locally and nationally who view the technologies as unfair and disruptive.

Sean Shea, a master guide for big game hunts in Nevada, said he didn’t feel his business was immediately threatened by drones because he doesn’t know anyone who uses or supports them for that purpose.

Shea said he hadn’t thought about drones much until one crashed in his backyard and frightened his dogs.

“If we don’t do anything about it right now, it’s just going to be a bigger problem,” he said.

Shea said he opposed electronic guns except in some cases where disabled hunters needed them.

This disdain for drones in wildlife is shared by two unlikely groups: hunters and animal rights advocates.

While hunters are concerned that people flying drones could scare away prey, some animal advocates are concerned the drones are affecting animal health.

Animal rights group PETA, a longtime rival of hunters, once sought to use drones to monitor hunters for illegal activities, but has since reversed that tactic.

PETA stopped selling its hunter-hunting “air angels” in the fall after a University of Minnesota study found that the heart rates of bears rose when drones entered their habitats.

Alaska, Montana, Colorado and Michigan ban drone scouting.

Electronic gun manufacturer TrackingPoint has been criticized by hunting groups as well as gun control groups who view the accuracy as dangerous in civilian hands.

In Nevada, using a drone is a misdemeanor that carries a fine of up to $500 and an automatic loss of hunting privileges for up to several years. The proposed electronic gun ban would carry the same penalty but would put three demerit points toward a hunter’s record, instead of an automatic loss.

On Friday, the board agreed to pursue extending the drone and electronic gun ban to include all animals, not just those considered big game.

The board could vote on the drone ban as early as March. The electronic gun ban proposal could take longer because it is tied to other issues.

— Contact Alexander S. Corey at acorey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0270. Find him on Twitter: @acoreynews

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