Drone use in hunting is illegal in Ohio
Columbus — With unmanned remote-controlled aircraft, or drones, becoming more popular and abundant, the Ohio DNR is taking steps to prevent their use in hunting.
“We want to get ahead of the game – so to speak,” said Ken Fitz, the DNR Division of Wildlife’s law enforcement administrator.
Proposed new language for an existing law that prohibits the “use of any aircraft” as a hunting aid will specifically ban the use of drones, including those equipped with cameras.
The Ohio Wildlife Council is expected to approve the new wording in April.
Fitz said no incidents involving drones have been reported in the state. However, it has become an issue elsewhere.
“They are relatively inexpensive now and in some states are being used to ‘drive’ wild animals,” he said.
Ohio law already prohibits aircraft as an aid in pursuing, capturing, or killing wildlife. But many recreational owners and operators don’t understand that drones are actually aircraft.
“The change is more to make it clear than it is to implement anything new,” Fitz said.
It remains legal to use a drone with a GoPro camera to scout hunting territory just as it is legal to use a trail camera for the same purpose.
“You are not actually trying to kill or wound at that time,” Fitz said. “And there’s no implement employed for that purpose.”
However, using the drone as a guide for a shot would be a violation, as would using it to drive animals to another hunter, he said.
For example, flying a drone over a woodlot to search for deer the day before a hunt is legal. But flying that drone over the woodlot to spot and intercept deer while hunting would be illegal.
“If you have a hunting implement with you while using the drone to ‘scout’ territory, (that) would be a violation as well,” Fitz said.
There’s a secondary hazard: Others afield might take offense and shoot at the drone.
“That has happened. I believe it is illegal, but not under (Division of Wildlife) jurisdiction,” Fitz said.
Division of Wildlife biologist Mike Reynolds confirmed researchers at the University of Rio Grande in southern Ohio recently applied to the DNR for a permit to evaluate the effects of drones on white-tailed deer and Canada geese.
“We expect a report from them sometime in the future,” Reynolds said.
The Federal Aviation Administration is developing rules for the commercial use of drones. Google and Amazon have shown interest in developing delivery services via drones. Current federal law prohibits any commercial use of drones.
The FAA classifies small recreational drones as model aircraft and says users should not fly them near manned aircraft or beyond their line of sight.
However, the FAA allows limited use of drones for offshore oil and gas operations in Alaska and on movie sets in populated areas, according to published reports.
Drones on public federal lands present confusing (and sometimes conflicting) rules.
Unmanned aerial aircraft are currently banned in all national parks. But national forests and wildlife areas appear to prohibit unmanned aircraft only from taking off and landing.
Drones cannot be used to harass birds anywhere.