The Hunters

Daryl and his friend Burl moved quietly through the woods. They were wearing their camos and carrying their guns at port arms. Daryl carried his AR-15, his favorite weapon. It had top and bottom rails carrying a red dot sight and tactical LED light. The barrel had been cut back to 11 inches, but with the $4000 flash and noise suppressor it made legal length. Daryl took his hunting seriously, as attested by his 30 round magazine. Burl was toting his Mossberg 12 gauge shotgun. It was a pumper with a pistol grip in addition to the shoulder stock and carried a sedate five shells. Burl was more relaxed as a gun owner and preferred to hunt winged prey. That’s not to say he didn’t have a Winchester 30-30 back home for deer season. They guys were being quiet for two reasons, first of all it’s wise not to frighten away the game you’re hunting. Second, they were in a posted game preserve which made them poachers and they didn’t want to advertise their presence unti there was a good reason, which is to say, a target..

They’d been quietly padding through the forest for about an hour and so far hadn’t seen a thing. Well, there was a squirrel, but they were hoping for something more substantial. They both realized they were listening to a kind of buzzing noise at the same time. The two men stopped and looked at each other, then looked all around, up and down for the source. They didn’t see anything. Shrugging, they moved on in their hunt. But the noise kept getting louder, little by little. They were starting to get a little annoyed thinking that whatever it was, it would likely make any animals skittish and, ergo, harder to sneak up on and shoot. They were standing in a small clearing when they noticed a shadow moving across the ground and looked up to see a little four rotor helicopter, a drone, slowly moving across the sky about 200 feet off the ground.

“It’s one o’ them gut damned drones.” growled Daryl.

“Yeah, I can see that.” Burl replied. “I hate them things. Always violatin’ people’s privacy, spyin’ on everyone.”

“It’s one thing for the government to use them things to kill those sand scratchin’ terrorists, but no one else should be able to go around takin’ pictures from the sky and listening in on people’s private conversations.”

“I wonder if it’s listenin’ to us right now.” said Burl.

“You know what? I’m gonna shoot that peckerwood out of the sky.” declared Daryl.

“Let’s both shoot it.” grinned Burl. The two men raised their weapons, sighted in and let go. The drone exploded into bits that rained down into the treetops.

Dave Pedersen and Josh Findlay watched their drone explode and their jaws dropped.

Daryl and Burl, never thinking that enough’s enough, peppered a few rounds into the trees where the larger pieces of the drone had fallen.

Dave and Josh, both Fish and Game officers doing an aerial survey of the game preserve were not amused by the loss of their drone nor the zips and pings of bullets striking leave and trees near them. Not knowing for certain what they were facing, they each drew their sidearms and returned fire.

“What the hell?” screeched Daryl. “The damn spies are shooting at us!” The two friends dropped the the ground and fired back in the direction of the gunshots.

The two officers were on their radio and calling base for assistance. “Officers need assistance. We’re under fire from unknown assailants. We need some help out here!” The officers both took better cover and searched through the trees and foliage, looking for movement to locate their assailants. For a few minutes it was deadly silent in the woods. None of the men spoke and even the wildlife was still. Until they weren’t. A rabbit which had frozen in place when the gunfire started decided it needed to get far away from this frightening place and took off like a shot through the underbrush. Both the poachers and the officers saw the motion.

Both side opened fire again, the volleys echoing all around. The noise almost masked the whop whop whop of an approaching helicopter. Prone in their little clearing, Daryl and Burl looked back over their shoulders and simultaneously their eyes grew wide and their mouths dropped open.  They saw a helicopter turned sideways and moving towards them with it side door wide open. A sharpshooter was leaning against his restraint straps and sighting in on the pair with a large scope. “Put your weapons down, turn around and face the aircraft. Stay on your knees with your hands atop your heads, fingers interlaced.” barked the PA system on the helicopter. Daryl and Burl looked at each other and then complied.

The officers walked their prisoners out of the preserve in handcuffs. Trespassing, hunting in a preserve, hunting without proper license and armed assault on federal officers were the pending charges. As they moved through the scrub Daryl asked Dave why the officers were spying on them. It wasn’t like they were terrorists or criminals, he said. “We weren’t spying on you. In fact, we hadn’t even seen you. We were just doing an assessment on the preserve. He explained that the drones were an efficient way to monitor the animals, perform counts, look for fire dangers and even geomapping. “There’s a lot more to those little aircraft than you can possibly imagine. Plus that, what makes you think you’re so interesting that anyone would want to watch what you do? I mean, assuming you aren’t breaking the law at the time? Or is it you spend so much time breaking the law you have reason to be worried about what someone might see you doing?”

“Well, them drones are mostly tools to spy with,” said Burl defensively. “You can’t blame us for thinking you’re using them for what they was made ta do.”

Josh sighed and shook his head. “Spying with drones makes the paper because the military uses them and that’s news. And yes, I have to admit there are some concerns about drones being used to observe American citizens. But those are surveillance drones. They’re airplanes and not helicopters and on the whole a lot larger than the little aircraft that have become so popular recently. The new wave of multirotors are aerial photography platforms, used for the exact same reason that people use any kind of camera. When you think about them, all they really are is movable adjustable height tripods.”

“Then how come I see on TV about cops getting drones to watch drug smugglers or immigration people looking for illegals sneaking into the country?” asked Daryl sarcastically.

“Did you just hear yourself?” asked Dave. “I mean, really man. The fact that drones can be used to enforce the law and protect citizens is a good thing. Unless you’re on the wrong side of the law that is. You can’t imagine the hundreds of positive uses these machines have for everyone, not just government. Some of the great sports footage you watch is shot with drones. Some news stories use drones to gather news footage and do it much more safely than with helicopters. Lifeguards can use them to increase the area they monitor, researchers can use them to monitor erosion. Rescuers can use them in devastated areas to find people who need help after a catastrophe. Power companies can monitor their lines, communications companies their lines and towers. All of this done a lot more safely than ever before. Cheaper too. Although even little drones can be worth some serious money. The one you bought today is going to cost you about five thousand bucks. Be glad we weren’t using the heavy duty long distance drone. That would set you back about forty grand.”

“Wait!” said Daryl. “You mean we gotta pay for that thing we shot?”

“You certainly do.” said Josh. “But cheer up. It comes with a long term stay at a special kind of resort, all at government expense.”