Drones for Hunting: Hunters Are at Risk of Breaking the Law

Thinking about using a drone for hunting? You might be at risk of breaking the law.
Susan Fourtané

Drones are taking up the skies all over the world. They come in different sizes and shapes. Ultimately, the use and applications of drones are the responsibility of their human users, as well as any damage caused by the drones. 

According to a recent report published by Zion Market Research, the global small drone market, or small unmanned aerial vehicles (SUAV), is expected to reach approximately 35.5 billion dollars by 2025, growing at a CAGR of slightly above 17.1 percent between 2019 and 2025.

Some drones are useful and have a good purpose mission, such as the drones used for search-and-rescue missions, or the drones we recently discussed which are connected drones powered by Nokia’s 5G network and are the world’s first of their kind in Tsunami evacuation alerts; or the drones used by healthcare to transport human organs, blood, medicines, and medical equipment to remote areas. 

Drones used for hunting

However, there are other drones used by humans that can break some laws and are, of course, forbidden. Yet, some people might not be aware of this. Such is the case of drones used for hunting that can violate the law. Drones used for hunting are aerial vehicles with advanced capabilities.

Even though some hunters might be tempted to hunt with drones, they must be aware that there are laws that forbid the use of drones for hunting. If this is ignored, hunters may be severely penalized. So, before buying that great drone it is advisable to learn about some hunting rules and laws.

Illegal use of drones when hunting

According to Metsähallitus’ wilderness supervision, some new technical devices are being used illegally when hunting. More specifically, drones and GPS trackers have been utilized in ways that violate the law. This can cause danger to wildlife and to other humans in the area. 

Metsähallitus, comprises the National Parks in Finland and Wildlife Service in Finland. They protect and manage Finland’s nature and provide outdoor recreation services for hikers, hunters, and fishers. They also take care of all national parks and other state-owned protected areas as well as many historical sites.

Additionally, they supervise hunting and fishing and protect endangered species. In addition, harassing wildlife is prohibited and those doing it can be fined with some forms of violations resulting in prosecutions and convictions. In Europe, Finland receives a great number of hunters. Thus, it is important to learn about the hunting laws and permits.

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The Hunting Act (1993)

The Hunting Act (PDF) regulates the hunting season and provisions for granting hunting permits. It also establishes a hunting quota on animals and controls the game meat intended for sale. 

The Hunting Act prohibits the use of motor vehicles when hunting. Recently, wilderness supervision has become aware of several cases in which Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, have been used to move game animals in the direction of hunters. According to Juha Ahonen, Specialist at Metsähallitus, “this is absolutely forbidden.”

According to Metsähallitus, the use of GPS trackers on dog collars is permitted and it seems to be quite a common practice. However, they can also cause problems at times. When hunters are following the movements of the dog and elk with the dog radar, they may try to get in front of the elk in a vehicle. Elk are sometimes shot from the cover of a car, something that is forbidden. 

Restrictions in using motor vehicles and drones for hunting

According to section 32 of the Hunting Act, the shooting of game from a vehicle, from the cover of these, or immediately upon stopping within 100 meters of these is prohibited. “In the heat of the moment car speeds can also rise very high on forest roads, which is a danger to other traffic and the safety of other hunters,” says Juha Ahonen.

Section 32 of the Hunting Act reads: Restrictions on the use of motor vehicles, it is not permitted to chase or track a game animal for hunting purposes from an aircraft or land motor vehicle or a vessel or boat with the motor running. 

According to Metsähallitus’ wilderness supervision, hunters are allowed to use technical devices when this is done in the right way and responsibly. Cameras installed on drones can be used to observe and film or photograph game when this does not disturb the animals for hunting purposes. Animals may not even be tracked with a drone when hunting. However, these devices can be used for game surveys because there is no hunting involved in that process.

Drones are not to disturb privacy or wildlife

As a general rule, filming in public places is permitted as long as areas protected by domestic privacy are avoided and not disturbed. Filming another person’s home or yard is not permitted, and it can be interpreted as illicit viewing or spying.

People need to keep many things in mind when filming in a national park. According to the Nature Conservation Act and the Hunting Act, flying drones cannot disturb other people or animals. Park regulations may also set some limitations on movement. Furthermore, the Aviation Act and Traficom regulations must be taken into consideration before reaching the hunting area.

The game and fisheries manager and 11 game and fisheries wardens are responsible for Metsähallitus’ wilderness supervision. They coordinate supervision in state-owned areas. Wilderness supervision checks 10,000 outdoor enthusiasts each year. Metsähallitus’ annual wilderness supervision report provides the most comprehensive description of the development of wilderness crime in Finland and aims at discouraging and fighting it. 

Can hunting ever be justified?

As drones continue to be used and more applications emerge, the need for more supervision and regulation will be taking place in order to avoid abusing the technology. Abusing the use of drones may result in unnecessary harming of wildlife and unprotected species at risk. This is a controversial and difficult topic, indeed. 

The hunting of animals per se can not be acceptable. Animals have the right not to be hunted and to be left alone in their natural environment. Even when hunting takes place under supervision, responsibly, and quickly without the animals suffering, the main question should be: Is this necessary nowadays when hunting is no longer a matter of human survival? Clearly, it is not.