Conservation Law Enforcement Corner – February 2024

Highlighting The Work Of DNR Rangers To Stop Illegal Activities

GON Staff | February 2, 2024

The Conservation LE Corner is designed to highlight the efforts of Georgia DNR Law Enforcement Division (LED) officers who, among their many duties, protect Georgia’s wildlife, sportsmen and natural resources from game-law violators. The following account is provided from DNR LED.

Ware Co.: Posting pictures on social media spells bad news if a hunter has done something illegal, and that was again the case for a bear hunter during the 2022 season. On Oct. 7, 2022, Cpl. Mark Pool learned of a bear that had been telechecked but had not been taken to the bear check station to be tagged. Later that day another officer forwarded a picture from an Instagram post made by the hunter.

“I looked at the Instagram photo and noticed that the bear was laying in what appeared to be corn cobs still in the husk,” Cpl. Pool wrote in the DNR incident report.

The hunter, a 33-year-old from Wildwood, Fla.,  provided officers with a  drop-pin location where he said he was hunting when he killed the bear.

“Cpl. Sam Williams and I drove to the dropped pin location, and we located a ladder stand and a spin type feeder and corn still on the cob about 75 yards from the stand. We also located a cellular trail camera that was seized and turned off at the location,” Cpl. said.

The hunter later gave officers permission to view the trail-camera pictures, and there was a picture at 11 a.m. on the day the bear was killed of the hunter putting out corn, a picture of the bear stepping out, a picture of the hunter and a friend going to locate the shot bear, and a picture of a side-by-side that the bear was loaded into.

Drones Usage: This month our Outdoor Outpost section covered the topic of recovering downed deer. It led to asking the DNR on the legality of using drones to aid in the recovery. While using drones to recover shot game is OK, using drone technology to aid in the hunting or pursuit of game animals is certainly not OK.

Game Warden Matt Kiracofe, of Region II in Gainesville, shared this: “GA DNR does not currently have any specific guidance or regulation on drone usage for the purpose of hunting.  O.C.G.A. 27-3-12(a) states, ‘It shall be unlawful to hunt any wild animal, game animal, or game bird by means of drugs, poisons, chemicals, smoke, gas, explosives, recorded calls or sounds, or recorded and electronically imitated or amplified sounds or calls. It shall also be unlawful to use electronic communications equipment for the purpose of facilitating pursuit of any wild animal, game bird, or game animal.’”

“Radio frequencies and electronic communications equipment are utilized to communicate between a drone operator’s controls and the drone equipment. Drone usage for the purpose of pursuing game would constitute a violation of O.C.G.A 27-3-12(a). Some examples of pursuing game with a drone include, but are not limited to: driving deer, following deer with the intent to close in on and harvest said deer, and locating deer for the purpose of communicating and directing hunters to those locations.

“GA DNR LED’s current opinion on cell cameras, which also utilize radio frequencies and electronic communications equipment, is that they are lawful under the belief that their activity is considered scouting. GA DNR LED does not currently have such an opinion specifically regarding drone usage in this application but may develop one in the future.

“Drone deer recovery has recently become popular in several parts of the country and may be considered similar to the use of tracking dogs to locate wounded game. GA DNR LED does not currently have an opinion specifically allowing drone usage in this application but may develop one in the future. If a drone is being operated by somebody who receives compensation for providing a service, then the person operating such drone would be required by the FAA to possess a Part 107 Certificate for Remote Pilot, as this would not be considered recreational use.

“Any drone usage is subject to all applicable FAA rules and regulations, whether recreational or non-recreational. It is each individual drone operator’s responsibility to know and follow these regulations, whether they are licensed or not.

“Given the rapid advancement of drones and the increasing popularity and accessibility of drones with the public, the Board of Natural Resources may adopt rules and regulations specific to drone usage in the future.”

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