New Hampshire torpedoes use of drones, smart rifles for hunting

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The Granite State last month became the latest to prohibit the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for use by sportsmen for tracking game-- and added a ban on assisted rifles and live action game cams while they are were at it.

This came as part of a new rule adopted by the state's regulatory agency for conservation, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Commission, rather than through legislative action by the state assembly. It was approved by unanimous vote of the commissioners.

Announced May 21 by the NH Fish and Game Department, the rule took effect earlier in the month. The Commission had forwarded the proposed changes to the New Hampshire Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules who concurred.

“We needed to establish rules regarding these fast-changing technologies to make sure that people understand that their use for hunting is not appropriate or ethical,” said Fish and Game Law Enforcement Major Kevin Jordan in a statement obtained by Big Game Hunter Journal. “Use of this equipment violates the principle of fair chase because it gives hunters an unfair advantage over wildlife.”

The three-part rule, available here in its entirety, aims to keep New Hampshire hunters honest, and in accordance with the best traditions of fair chase practices long advocated by groups such as the Boone and Crocket Club.

First, the rule throws the use of UAVs, commonly termed drones, out entirely if they are being used to locate, drive, harass, disturb, or watch wildlife for the purpose of harvesting. Exempted would be conservation officers and police if using the devices—for example in a cull or removing nuisance animals-- in their official duties.

Several other states in recent months have done the same, to include Michigan and Oregon.

Second, the rule change goes after the latest breed of so-called "smart rifles" which the state defines as one that has either a target tracking system; an electronically controlled, electronically assisted, or computer-linked trigger; or a ballistics computer. Ordinarily a sportsman using such a rifle under the new rule to target wild animals in the state would be in violation, however, NHFG could grant waivers for sportsmen with disabilities.

Perhaps the only assisted-rifle maker in the country, Austin-based TrackingPoint, last month announced they were no longer accepting orders for their line of precision-guided firearms (PGF) technology equipped offerings.

"We believe that Precision-Guided Firearms will save the lives of thousands of American soldiers and give our military a tremendous battle advantage," reads the company's statement supporting the use of their devices for hunting.  "We know that hunting with Precision-Guided Firearms results in cleaner kills and less wounding of animals. We think that Precision-Guided Firearms are ideal for predator control and herd management."

Finally, New Hampshire officials have prohibited the use of live-action game cameras while looking for any wild animal in the state while the season is open. The state defines such a camera as one that sends an electronic message or picture to a handheld device when sensors are triggered by movement.

Some sportsmen's groups contended that the cameras, along with drones and smart rifles, were just too much technology and not enough reliance on good old-fashioned woodcraft and hunting skills.

“One of the basic tenets of fair chase is that the advantage of the hunter over the hunted never be too great,” said Corey Ellis of Madison, a co-chairman of the New England Backcountry Hunters and Anglers in a meeting of the Commission prior to the new rules

Sporting groups found strange bedfellows with anti-hunting organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States in taking a stand against the new gear's use in the field.

"These advanced technologies completely erode the essential principle of fair chase, and stack the deck against wildlife at an unacceptable level," HSUS New Hampshire State Director Lindsay Hamrick in a statement obtained by Big Game Hunter Journal. "State wildlife managers and lawmakers are increasingly looking to close their borders to the use of this unsporting technology, and The HSUS is grateful to the Fish and Game Commission for taking this commonsense approach.”