This Jan. 25, 2019, file photo shows a drone in Albany, New York. Credit: Hans Pennink | AP

Some may disagree, but I’m among those who generally embrace today’s advancements in technology, even as it fits into those more peaceful times I spend in the woods.

I don’t go anywhere without a GPS, and my phone is always tucked away somewhere. Of course, there are times when I inadvertently start blasting music out of a Bluetooth speaker instead of using that speaker to provide a bit more volume for my phone-based deer-calling app. And there are times when I have to answer the call of nature and spend 10 minutes trying to make sure I’m not peeing in front of somebody’s trail camera.

But other than that, technology’s great. That is, I think it’s great. Maybe.

The other day, a co-worker offered up a story that muddied that issue a little bit.

He and a buddy were out deer hunting recently when they looked up and noticed a drone hovering about 100 feet overhead.

If you’re unfamiliar with this somewhat recent advancement, drones, often multi-bladed copters, are readily available, and are used by professional and hobbyist photographers to take some stunning still and video footage. From what I learned during a cursory web search, some of these machines have ranges of more than three miles, and for several hundred dollars to more than $1,000, you can find an airship with just the qualities you’re looking for.

On that day, when my co-worker and his hunting buddy started pointing at the drone, it quickly gained altitude and flew out of sight.

“What was going on?” he asked me.

I had no idea. At first, I asked him if the drone operator could have been the landowner, who was checking out who was tromping around on his property.

Turns out my co-worker was hunting with the landowner.

“Maybe it was a game warden,” my co-worker said. “That would be a pretty cool tool for them to be able to use.”

I agreed. Then I decided to see if that could have been the case.

I got in touch with Mark Latti, the communications director for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and asked if the Maine Warden Service had recently gotten into the drone biz.


“The warden service does not own any drones, so I can assure you it wasn’t us. We don’t use them,” Latti said. “Occasionally they will be used in an operation that we are involved in, such as some search and rescue operations, but these are utilized by other groups or agencies.”

Among the questions I thought readers might want answered was this: Hunting with the aid of a drone can’t be legal. Right?


“They are considered an aircraft, and title 12 specifically bans the use of aircraft to aid in hunting,” Latti said, referring to a Maine statute.

With the recent explosion in the popularity of drones, let’s make that last part perfectly clear.

You can’t do a fly-by in order to find out if that big buck is lying down in the swamp.

You can’t deploy your drone to see if that monster bull moose is over in the next clearcut.

Simply put, you can’t use a drone to help you hunt. Period.

In fact, just using the drone to aid your hunting effort is illegal, whether you bag an animal as a result or not. The penalty just gets more severe if you do.

Yes, technology advancements are great. Just be careful when you’re taking advantage of them.

John Holyoke can be reached at or 207-990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke. His first book, “Evergreens,” a collection of his favorite BDN columns and features, has been published by Islandport Press and is available wherever books are sold.

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John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...