Since humans first began hunting and fishing, they have sought to use technology to improve their success rates. However, the desire for fur, feathers and meat, paired with the invention of gunpowder and the internal combustion engine, quickly destroyed the once abundant stocks of fish and game worldwide. In the early 1900s, conservationists like Muir, Leopold, Roosevelt, and a legion of others brought to light the idea of “fair chase” and the ethics of hunting — concepts that helped save the American wild places and the animals that roamed freely. Just because species from elk to largemouth bass have bounced back from overharvest doesn’t mean the argument around fair chase has changed. The following examples are of technology that blur the lines of fair chase, and have prompted controversy (and even some legal cases) within the hunting and fishing communities.

Trail Cameras

Being able to scope out what animals swing by your stand or wander down your trail is a great tool. Patterning a big buck can help you set up a game plan for timing the ideal day to hunt in a certain spot. With the advent of cell cameras, you get an instant alert when the camera is triggered, much like your home security system. Hunters can respond at a moment’s notice to animals and arguably get the unfair advantage, being able to ambush game they would otherwise have had to sit and wait for. In Nevada, this led to the state banning cellular cameras for most of the season. Utah and Arizona both followed suit, passing laws to prohibit the use of game cameras on public land. 

Image Credit: GovTech


With the hi-def cameras on modern drones, we can scope out all sorts of cool things. We can check paths, look for sandbars, or get awesome videos of us cruising the flats. While hunters can’t use them to drive game, some enterprising fishermen have used a drone to drop baits to fish that are well beyond their casting range. Using drones to drop baits isn’t necessarily a bad thing; however, the idea of being able to seek out and place baits in front of a school of fish does blur the line between fishing and catching. To head off the potential problems with drone fishing, Hawaii has proposed a ban on drones for anything other than simple observation of fish. 

GPS Collars

Finding a dog that has taken off is a massive boon for a houndsmen. Many dog owners love having a GPS collar; hunters who run dogs for deer, hogs, or predators often require the ability to key in on their dogs, especially when the terrain makes locating their calls difficult. However, two different issues come up with GPS collars.

1) The first is from a fair chase perspective: By seeing where the dogs are headed instead of just hearing them, some have argued that this gives hunters an unfair advantage to set up ahead of the dogs driving the animals towards them. With the success rate of houndsmen, I would argue that this is a straw man argument.

2) The second issue comes from the opposite end of legislation. Some states require all hunting dogs to wear a GPS collar. Purchasing trackers can become expensive for houndsmen with a large pack of dogs, basically pricing them out of the game.

Better Access and Mapping

With GPS and satellite topography, we can scout lakes and mountain ranges from the comfort of our own homes. Satellite mapping has led to more sportsmen accessing hidden gems, setback ponds with hungry bass, and forgotten burns where elk bugle. More access is better for everyone. Being able to see property lines avoids any legal troubles. The flip side of this, of course, is that no spots are truly secret anymore. Anyone with an internet connection can locate your honey hole. Newer hunters accessing these “way back” spots has led to some “old guard” type hunters saying there are too many hunters and we as a hunting community should not attempt to grow the numbers of hunters. 

Innovation, strategy and good tools have helped outdoorsmen since the days when mammoths walked the plains. Today is no different. Modern technology can aid in exploration and bring successes that inspire the new generation of sportsmen. Like sportsmen of the not too distant past, we must look at the tools we have created and decide what improves the sports we love — and what creates an unfair advantage.