Joshua Wingenroth of Downington, Pennsylvania was fined $1,500 last week for using a drone to locate a deer in a Pennsylvania nature preserve. According the Associated Press, Wingenroth thought he was tracking a downed deer for a client when he was cited for illegal drone use back in December. But the client turned out to be an undercover game warden, and the deer that Wingenroth located during the sting operation was alive and uninjured.

Wingenroth owns a deer recovery business and openly advertises his drone services to hunters who need help locating downed deer. Last year, local authorities informed the 35-year-old drone pilot that his business violated Pennsylvania’s game laws. He opted to continue anyway, telling them that his lawyer had a different interpretation of the law, the AP reports.

He was contacted by an undercover agent on Dec. 6, 2023 and asked to track a wounded deer in the Welsh Mountain Nature Preserve—a 940-acre parcel in southeastern Pennsylvania. He met the officer there, launched his drone, and used a thermal imaging feature to pinpoint a nearby whitetail.

He was shining that deer with the drone’s spotlight when another officer showed up and confiscated his equipment. The Pennsylvania Game Commission officer cited him for using prohibited electronics while hunting, violating regulations on recreational spotlighting, and disturbing wildlife.

Wingenroth’s verdict was handed down in Lancaster County by District Judge Raymond Sheller on Thursday, February 22. His case is significant because it’s the first time anyone has even been cited and tried for using a drone to recover a dead game animal in Pennsylvania, according to the AP. Though he’s technically accused of using the drone to “hunt” game, Wingenroth’s attorney Micheal Siddons said he wasn’t involved in any hunting activity at the time of his citation.

During the trial, Siddons argued that Pennsylvania’s game laws are “archaic” when it comes to the use of drones for recovering shot or dead game animals. The laws have been amended over time to address new and emerging technologies, he said, but they don’t address the use of drones in hunting scenarios. While delivering the sentence, Judge Sheller said the Pennsylvania legislature needs to address the drone issue because “everyone is playing catchup to science.”

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At least one Pennsylvania legislator is working to do just that. State Senator Jared Coleman plans to introduce a bill in the coming months that would legalize the use of drones for recovering downed deer and other game animals. “We’re talking with lots of stake holders and we’re not getting a lot of push back,” Coleman recently told Go Erie News. “Do we want to allow hunters to use available technology to recover a deer that’s been shot that would otherwise would be wasted?”

Coleman is currently seeking co-sponsors for his bill. He told Go Erie that he has spoken with local hunters who would like to have the option to use drones for downed deer recovery. In a January memorandum, Coleman said that “the state of Ohio permits the use of drones in the recovery of downed game” while Pennsylvania is “taking a hostile view of the use of drones in game recovery. Siddons said he plans to appeal Wingenroth’s guilty verdict.