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Editorial: Real hunters don’t drone

It’s not quite shooting fish in a barrel, but using drones for hunting wildlife isn’t that far removed – unless the New Mexico Game Commission outlaws it.

The commission is expected to vote this month on a proposal that would prohibit the use of a drone to signal an animal’s location or harass a game animal, such as driving it toward the hunter. It also would disallow the hunting of a protected species within 48 hours of observing it from a drone.

Those restrictions already apply if done from an aircraft. The proposal would merely add remote-controlled drones to the list. Currently, federal aviation regulators do not permit commercial use of drones as the government works on guidelines.

But the use of a drone for hunting already has been outlawed in Alaska, Colorado and Montana. Sportsmen groups and animal advocates oppose their use. They say drones could make hunting more exclusive – drones currently are very expensive – and would erode the idea of fair chase. They say hunting should be an art based on acquired skills and traditions – not on using the latest technology and gadgets as an easy way to make a kill.

“Hunting an animal with your physical senses, with your eyes and your ears and even to a lesser extent your sense of smell, that puts you on fairly even ground with these animals that can see far better, hear far better and smell far better than we can,” says Joel Gay, a New Mexico Wildlife Federation spokesman.

While drones are being used by government for many worthwhile endeavors like monitoring endangered species and agriculture, hunting shouldn’t be added to the list of uses when they become widely available for public use.

The Game Commission should eliminate this possibility before it can become a reality.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.