It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s …???

By John Criner Outdoors Columnist

In the last week of December, I was hunting with Don and Noah Brawley and two of Don’s grandsons in the backwaters of the Mississippi River south of Elaine. We were hunting in duck boat blinds over about 20 feet of water in an opening in the flooded woods. Hunting had been slow. We had not seen many ducks and taken only a few when a nice flock of mallards starting working our decoys. They had set up their approach to decoys when all of a sudden they flared wildly. Not just pulled up, but they wildly scattered in all directions. Something had really spooked them. As we sat there we suddenly heard a strange noise. There it was! A drone over our decoys! We watched it as I assume it was watching us. Somebody said, “What’s the limit on drones?” One of the hunters said, “I don’t know, I never hunted drones.” One of the hunters made a sudden quick movement and the drone left at full speed. It flew out of sight very quickly! I want to emphasize here. WE DID NOT SHOOT AT THE DRONE! The nearest land was at least a mile from us and when we finished hunting, we checked several camps to see if anyone had a drone. Nothing. After thinking and talking about the drone, I wondered what were the legal ramifications on shooting down a drone over your decoys or even over your home. I know it is somebody’s property, but it is invading a person’s privacy. Most of the people I talked with felt it was a privacy issue and did not like it. Time to get the answer. I talked with the game warden and he seemed to think it was at your discretion and there was not a limit on drones, but would check to get the full answer. This was something new to him, even after 20 plus years in the AGF. I talked with a couple of local attorneys and got different opinions. They had not had cases dealing with the problem but would explore the laws. They both recommended caution hunting drones. I contacted Jeffery Williams, who is the editor of Arkansas Wildlife, official magazine of the Arkansas Game & Fish. He promptly sent me a reply from Keith Stephens of the AGF. His response is, “It is illegal to intentionally interfere with someone who is attempting to legally hunt or fish in Arkansas.” This should make all of us outdoors people feel better. I received another e-mail saying “Do not shoot the drone.” Stephens suggested to a local game warden. He did not offer any other suggestions of what to do. I called one of the judges to get an opinion. The judge is a duck hunter and outdoors man. He said you could be charged with criminal mischief for deliberately destroying personal property. I think it would be wise to heed his opinion. He would be the person you would be explaining it to. This is something new for the duck hunter to think about. Hopefully it will not become a problem. This could become a means for non hunters to harass legitimate hunters without being seen. Even if you are not a hunter, do you want a spy in the sky over your back yard? Let me know what your thoughts are. It could happen to you. Lets hope for a good end to a strange duck season. Maybe it will be good the rest of the season. I have heard more bad than good. Send me some of your hunting stories and pictures. Good hunting and take a youngin hunting with you. You will enjoy the hunt. Papa Duck Lakeside Taxidermy 870-732-0455 or 901-482-3430 jhcriner@hotmail.com

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