SHERIDAN — Like most pursuits, hunting has been altered by emerging technologies in recent years. But what effect those technologies have on the sport is a matter of perspective.
Dan Powers, who co-owns Powder Horn Outfitters with his brother, said technology has improved nearly every tool at a hunter’s disposal, from apparel that provides better camouflage and masks a hunter’s scent to scopes and rifles that allow them to hunt from long ranges. For the most part, Powers said, technology has had a positive effect on the sport.
“I honestly think all of this technology has really made people more aware,” Powers said. “And they’re a lot better about watching what they’re doing and harvesting these animals and things like that. There’s the exceptions, but wildlife is a gift and I think anybody that’s hunting this day and age realizes that and tries to do everything they can do to protect it so they can keep on enjoying the sport.”
Dayton Game Warden Dustin Shorma, though, said he is ambivalent about the effect technology is having on hunting. He noted that while cellphones and GPS technology can guard against hunters getting lost, some of the advances in weapons have created unfair advantages for hunters.
“I think it’s more of an ethical discussion,” Shorma said. “Back in the day, when it was a guy with his rifle walking around the woods, skill and knowledge and woodsmanship all came into play. It was kind of an even playing field.”
Because the objections to some of the technologies that are coming out are mostly ethical, Shorma said there’s not much room to regulate how people are using them. But he is concerned that hunters are becoming over-reliant on their tools and careless as a result.
For example, Shorma said if a hunter takes a long range shot and are not sure whether they hit an animal, they will be less likely to travel the distance to check. And, if they wounded an animal with their shot, that animal will be left to suffer.
“I’ve always kind of been a firm believer that if you’re going to shoot a bow or a rifle at an animal, you owe it to the animal to kill it as fast and as cleanly as you can,” Shorma said. At the same time, Shorma said there are technologies that can help hunters track a blood trail and arrows that contain Bluetooth transmitters so that if they hit an animal, the hunter can track it down with an app on their phone.
Powers said that he does not think technology changes how hunters approach the sport. He said, in his experience, hunters still value mastery of their tools, despite the shortcuts that might be available to them.
“Anybody that is an ethical hunter practices with his weapon of choice regardless,” Powers said. Both Powers and Shorma agree, though, that ultimately how technologies are utilized is up to each hunter. And no advancement will ever serve as a replacement for skill and common sense.