During its regular monthly meeting held Jan. 8, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission voted to make Colorado the first state to prohibit civilian use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, for hunting purposes.
The move was met with praise from Colorado sportsmen and national hunting groups for moving to protect traditional, fair-chase hunting by curbing UAV use.
"As America's first conservationists, hunters have a century-old tradition of policing our own ranks," said David Lien, Co-Chair of Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. "The regulations adopted by the Parks and Wildlife Commission protect our hunting traditions, by ensuring fair chase and fair distribution of wildlife."
In response to growing concerns from sportsmen, Colorado Parks & Wildlife staff worked to develop draft regulations that were reviewed at the November Commission meeting and revisited for a final vote Jan. 6, as part of numerous other annual changes to the state's big game regulations.
"Because [drone use] has become more prevalent, we want to make sure people understand it is still outside the bounds of what is allowed," Parks and Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said in November.
The regulations approved by the commission ban the use of UAVs for any hunting or scouting in Colorado.
"Sportsmen appreciate this commonsense, thoughtful clarification to Colorado's regulations," said Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Director Land Tawney, of Missoula, Montana. "Drones have many legitimate potential uses in science, agriculture and search-and-rescue. However, hunting should remain an activity of skill and woodcraft, not just technology. If drones take off in hunting fields, it will split the ranks of hunters and everyone will lose."
Elsewhere, lawmakers in Wyoming may act on a drone-related measure during their current legislative session.
House Bill 3, sponsored by Rep. Stephen Watt (R-Rock Springs) would add drones to a list of vehicles that cannot be used to pursue or harass animals. Other vehicles include aircraft, automotive vehicles, trailers, motor-propelled vehicles and snow vehicles.
"It's harassment of wildlife to sit up on a ridge and fly a drone around and find a big buck or elk," said Rep. Watt.