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Mon, Feb 26, 2024

Man Arrested for Scouting Deer With Drones

Grey-Area Operation Taken Down with Undercover Game Warden Sting Operation

An enterprising Pennsylvania man has been making a living by offering his drone services to local deer hunters, tracking down the game they hit in an effort to make good on their kills (and eliminate undue suffering to some animals)  - a job the state arrested him for. 

Josh Wingenroth had been plying his drone trade for more than a year, despite local authorities stating that state game wardens had warned him against it. The state believes Wingenroth was involved in hunting in an unauthorized fashion, but he plans to appeal, believing that a different, more modern approach to law will see him vindicated. The case is being held up as an example of legislation lagging technology, since drone operations have not yet been figured into the greater patchwork of hunting laws in the state of Pennsylvania.

Wingenroth was contacted by an "undercover game commission officer" from the state, and requested to help find a deer the officer had shot in the Welsh Mountain Nature Preserve. Wingenroth met the officer and had him sign off on a form stating his purpose was solely to recover the dead deer carcass, and, should his prey be found alive, to discontinue the hunt and go after the deer on a different day. Wingenroth booted up his drone and began scouting for the hypothetical deer, finding one live one in the area. He turned on a spotlight to check the deer, supposedly to check it for wounds, when he and the undercover sting officer were halted by a game warden. His equipment was confiscated, and he was cited with counts of using illegal electronics, disturbing wildlife, and recreational spotlighting.

Pennsylvania regulators said that Wingenroth is guilty of hunting with the drone, since the strict legal definition includes tracking, hunting, and recovery of game animals, convicting him on all counts and fining him for $1,500. His attorney is looking forward to the appeal, however, since his client went through the process in good faith towards hunting rules and good conduct. Wingenroth had only used his drone to find an already dead deer for recovery, and had demanded to get it in writing from his "customer" that the hunt would be terminated should the deer still be alive. Under the rules, that should theoretically render him safe from a poaching accusation - Wingenroth had no intention to hunt a living deer using the illegal-for-hunting equipment, only to recover an already-hunted deer downed using fully legal tracking methods. 

If nothing else, it's a reminder of the ever-increasing surveillance state, when even the state's game wardens have undercover operatives setting up stings on facebook. For those looking to include fancy newfangled technology in their hunting adventures, it's a warning that they may find themselves trailblazing new ground in the legal system - whether they want to or not.

FMI: www.pgc.pa.gov

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