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Ruff: Hunters should be out of season for drones

Virginians don’t like anything to come between them and their hunting. And if Senator Frank M. Ruff Jr., R-Mecklenburg, has his way, you’ll be able to add the use of drones to the list.
 
That’s right, drones — those unmanned aircraft that have risen to prominence over the last couple of years as lethal and low-risk military intelligence tools in the war against terror. Apparently, they are now a potential threat to the lawful pursuit of Bambi by the commonwealth’s orange-vest set.
 
Under current Virginia law, it is unlawful to “willfully and intentionally impede the lawful hunting of wild birds or wild animals.”  The offense is punishable as a class 3 misdemeanor.
 
Ruff’s proposed Senate Bill 954 adds the following language: “Impeding hunting shall include utilizing an unmanned aerial vehicle, commonly known as a drone, for the sole purpose of monitoring and photographing persons who are lawfully hunting on private land if done by a private person who does not have the permission of the landowner.”
 
The bill was inspired by a story about an animal rights group that used a drone to spy  on hunters at a pigeon shoot in Pennsylvania.  But in an interview with the Associated Press, Ruff said the issue is broader than buckshot. “It raises the question of where does spying by individuals and by groups on people in private property start and stop?” he said. “Whether we do anything about it this year or not, it’s an issue that needs to be raised.”

The bill was taken up by the Senate Committee on Agriculture Thursday and referred to the Courts of Justice Committee, which meets Monday. 
 
At the risk of droning on, Ruff’s proposed legislation is not the only piece of technology inspired hunting bills before lawmakers this session.
 
House Bill 1829, proposed by Del. Charles D. Poindexter, R-Franklin, would allow the use of GPS tracking systems to help manage dogs used in Fox Hunting. 
 
Lawmakers will also debate the perennial proposal to allowing hunting on Sunday, as well as more targeted hunting legislation, which would establishing separate hunting licenses for deer and turkey, and a bill granting permission to shoot muskrats and raccoons out of season.