Droning

I’d bet every chukar hunter has wished at some point that they were a hawk or an eagle or a falcon. Being able to survey the terrain from above, not to find chukar but for another angle from which to appreciate the landscape’s beauty, just seems fantastic. Yesterday, after busting a chukar into a rocky outcrop I noticed a larger bird emerge from the area. A peregrine falcon. It swooped and swirled a bit, came in for a closer look at Peat, and landed in a hawthorn bush. I wondered if it had noticed some tender alectoris revealing itself, or if it was just having fun flying around.

A few minutes later, in hot pursuit along a cliff bottom, marveling at the loads of fresh chukar guano at the base of the rocks, I nearly stepped on something that liminally seemed foreign. It was a drone, belly up and missing one set of rotors. The battery was gone. It clearly had gotten away from its owner, never to be found again. Until I came along.

I folded it up and put it in my bird pouch on top of the one chukar already there, and moved on. But I kept wondering from whence its owner had launched it. I couldn’t imagine.

When we got home, I looked to see if it had an SD card in it. Sure enough. Leslie was nervous. “What if there are weird movies on it?”

“I hope so!” I put the card in my computer and — voila! — it was readable. I looked through the files: about half images and half videos, some going back six years, and all but two were of non-chukar things and places.

The most recent, and final, two files — an image and a short video — were a bit over two years old. They were of an area I have hunted and know well. At first I didn’t recognize it because I’m not a soaring bird. It was fascinating to see the terrain’s familiarity reveal itself from altitude. It was a bluebird day. The two figures, clearly chukar hunters, were perched on a rocky knob admiring the view. No dogs were visible.

I keep a hunting log. I looked at the date of these two files and checked my log. Although I’ve hunted this area a lot over the past 10 years, the only time I hunted it in 2018 was on that same day. We were there, “just” across the ridge from these two men. We never saw or heard them. I might have passed within feet of the crashed drone.

I considered getting a drone at one point, for the reason that seeing this 37-second video is pleasurable. I’m a hawk. I’ve always wished that. I threw the drone question out to this blog a while ago, and got a lot of anti-drone comments that raised issues I hadn’t thought of, and which ultimately convinced me to delete the idea. Yesterday I posted on Instagram a rare tailgate photo of the drone next to the two chukar I got and got comments of the same sort: What size shot do I recommend for drones? I laughed. Sometimes we can’t have everything we want, and sometimes we shouldn’t want things we can have.

If this is your drone, I’m holding it for ransom. 🙂

Just above where I found the drone, in 30 mph wind. The bird numbers in this area, by the way, are SEVERELY down. For the work involved getting there (see the elevation profile below), I recommend it to super-masochistic 20-somethings who don’t have a UTV or a big appetite for bird protein.

One Reply to “Droning”

  1. Great post. No evidence of the flight battery, I presume. I hate to think of it leaking up there for the next twenty years.

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