Join The Choir
Reflecting on today, plotting tomorrow.
Love the ride
Set Your Heading

Drone Hunter

When high tech intruded, the hunter went old school.

They suddenly began showing up on his trail cams in mid-May. Strange glowing images hovering low over his back fields at night. He did not know what to make of them. Folks all thought he was a bit overly paranoid crazy when he posted the photos on FACEBOOK and asked for some help.

“What in the hell are these lights? Who’s out there surveilling my private property at night? Anybody got any ideas? Are these UFOs?”

Snickered responses followed:

“Yeah, Old Man. The ETs are coming to getcha. Better lock & load!”

“Definitely must be specters or orbs.”

“Must be paranormal activity. Looks like you’ve got ghosts!”

“Go back to sleep old man. No one’s spying on you. It ain’t nothin’.”

“Looks like ghosts to me. I’d call in an exorcist. Your property is probably haunted.”

“It’s a camera reflection. You’re just paranoid.”

The old man read them all as he muttered to himself, reaching down to scratch behind the ears of his loyal dog Maverick.

“We both know we ain’t crazy, boy. SOMETHING is out there at night making those lights. Time you an’ me conducted a night surveillance mission of our own.”

That night after sunset, once it got good and dark, the old man camo’d up, loading his trusty double barreled shot gun with double aught buckshot.

“Time to do a little UFO huntin’, boy. I’m headed out back to my tree stand. You stay here on the porch. Bark if you hear or see anything. Don’t let no aliens cart you off on their spaceship. Not sure when I’ll be back. Hold the fort while I’m out.”

The old man went out and sat in his tree stand for three hours that night. And the next night. And the night after that. No strange lights appeared. His hunter’s radar sensed nothing. Maverick never once barked.

Things settled down over the following few days. No more strange lights appeared. Then suddenly, about a week later, they did. This time they showed up on two separate trail cameras on different parts of his land. Images similar to the ones he’d first seen. Bright rectangular lights hovering at what he estimated was about ten feet off the ground.

This time however, one of the images was a bit more focused than the others. The old man pulled it up on his computer screen and enlarged it. Whatever it was, it appeared to consist of one larger rectanglar structure in the center with two smaller rectangles, one off to each side. As he squinted through his glasses, zeroing in on the screen, it suddenly dawned on him.

“Maverick, that looks to me like a drone. If I look real close, I think I can see rotors.”

The old man sat back, musing. “Now, that makes sense boy. Why didn’t we think of that sooner?! It’s one of them drones. Now the question remains: Who’s the one flying it, what might they be lookin’ for, hovering over our land at night, and why?”

The old man’s first thoughts were some type of law enforcement effort or land scouting mission. It was spring turkey season. Maybe conservation officers were looking for illegal bait sites. Or maybe the state police were looking for something. An escaped convict, maybe? Marijuana plantations?

He hadn’t heard of any prisoner escapes recently, and from what he understood, the pothead plantations were now mostly legal, so the old man scratched a law enforcement drone off his list of possibilities almost immediately.

He pulled up some images of NYSDEC drones on his computer. Apparently, conservation officers and forest rangers did actively use them. The drones they employed looked remarkably similar in size and configuration to what he was seeing.

The next morning, the old man called his local NYSDEC office. They patched him through to an ECO in the field. The officer confirmed to him that they had recently added several drones to their inventory. The old man described to him what he’d been seeing at night on his trail cams. The ECO agreed. It sounded to him like a drone. However, he advised the old man that they had no drones operating in his area currently.

So, whilst the mystery remained for the moment unsolved, the old man felt progress had been made. He was more certain than ever he was dealing with someone surveilling his posted lands via drone.

The old man’s thoughts turned to the possibility of some entity scouting land. Solar or wind companies? Perhaps scouting lands to feed their ongoing expansions? A solar outfit had just built several new solar arrays in the area. One of his neighbors confirmed a solar outfit had been making quiet inquiries lately to several nearby landowners.

The old man had nothing in particular against green energy expansion. He did have concerns and questions about what a property owner’s rights were regarding the use of drones for scouting private lands.

“Looks like we need to get smart on drones, Maverick. Time to start doing our homework.”

The old man was old school, but had learned the basics of navigating his computer, and Google. With Maverick lying beside him, he researched drone laws. What he discovered angered and surprised him.

“Looks like drones have carte blanche, Maverick. Can’t shoot one down. Even over private land it’s a federal offense. Like shooting down an airplane. Guess I better put away that shotgun. God Bless America and the FAA.”

“Looks like the best we might do, Maverick, is to check local laws. Says here on Google that some states and local governments have passed laws restricting drone use over private lands via trespassing, harassment and invasion of privacy ordinances. Time to pay a visit to our town’s code enforcement officer.

So, the next afternoon, that’s what he did. The old man hopped in his truck and travelled out for a code enforcement chat about drones.


The local code enforcement officer sat back in his chair, raised his eyebrows and ran his hand through what remained of his thin, greying hair.

“Drones?” He repeated, clearly having never previously contemplated the subject.

“No, I’m afraid this office does not deal with drones. We issue building permits. Which you may apply for during normal office hours, posted there on the door. Third Wednesday of every other month, from noon ’til 3pm. Unless I’m out sick, on vacation, or it’s a holiday.”

“If you are having drone issues, I’d suggest you try calling the police.”

The old man returned home.

“Well, Maverick, that was a bust. Next stop on our drone mission, a phone call to the cops.”

So that’s what he did. The old man pulled out his flip phone and punched in the state police number. The day’s desk sergeant answered.

“Drones? Yes, well Sir, to begin with, even over private property, it is illegal to shoot down a drone. If you discharge a firearm at a drone, even over private lands, you could be charged with numerous offenses, including several felonies, as well as being held liable for compensatory damages to the drone owner. My best advice to you about drones is just to ignore them.”

“But what about drones flying low, hovering over my lands, surveilling my property? Seems like trespassing or an invasion of privacy to me. Sounds like drone operators have more rights on my lands than I do. That ain’t right.”

“Well Sir, you do have a point. If the drone is coming in low, and hovering over your lands, you may have a viable trespassing or invasion of privacy complaint. The problem is proving a case. Unless it for some reason crash landed or you knew for certain who was operating it, by the time a trooper arrived on site, the drone would be gone.”

The old man thanked the desk sergeant for his time, snapped his phone shut, and stuck it back in his pocket.

“Looks like we’re up against it, Maverick. Can’t shoot it down. Code Enforcement won’t help us. Can’t call the cops.”

The next afternoon, the old man was out tending his garden. Maverick began barking as a strange buzzing noise grew louder by the second behind them.

The old man looked up. “Yeah, I hear it too, boy. Sounds like a swarm of bees.”

No sooner had the words left the old man’s mouth than there it was, a drone, hovering just a few yards above them. The second the old man looked up and made eye contact with the drone, it turned tail and ran, retreating quickly back over the trees behind his house. He’d gotten a good look at it though. Dark colored, rectangular, three rotors, as best as he could tell. The drone looked like a big bug, about the size of a hawk.

“Suspicions confirmed Maverick, boy. For some unknown reason, we’re gettin’ birddogged by a drone.”

Now that he’d seen it, the old man went back online and researched drones of similar configuration and size.

“It’s gotta be somebody nearby, Maverick. Likely somebody right here on this block. These drones need line of sight to the operator and only have a range of a mile or two at most. What’s someone in the neighborhood doing surveilling us? We need a plan Maverick, boy. Now I’m really pissed off.”

The old man thought to himself.

“Hmm, I can’t shoot it down. But if it crash landed…”

He smiled quietly and nodded.

“Maverick, my boy. Time to go huntin’. They say crooks can’t resist returning to the scene of the crime. I bet scumbag drone operators ain’t much different. I think I’ve got a plan.”

The next afternoon, the old man and Maverick returned to the garden. The old man knelt down and picked three good round stones that fit his grip well. He hefted each one, nodding.

Yup, Maverick, boy. These will do the trick. He slipped one into each hand and the third into his shirt pocket.

“Armed and ready, boy. Drone trap is set. We’re the bait. Locked and loaded. Now we just wait.”

It did not take long. A few moments later, a buzzing noise hummed through the trees behind them. Maverick started to growl.

“Easy now, boy. Let it get closer. We don’t wanna tip our hand until it gets into range.”

The buzzing noise grew louder and louder, like an angry swarm of bees. The old man just knelt there, looking down, with a rock in each hand, pretending to pull weeds.

When he judged by the noise that the drone was hovering right overhead, the old man stood up suddenly. Maverick barked. The drone turned tail to escape over the same tree it had escaped over the previous day.

The second the drone turned away from him, the old man fired. He threw the first rock as hard as he could, aiming above the drone, hoping to catch a rotor or something. He quickly shifted the second rock from left had to right and fired off shot number two.

The old man heard a noise, like a “Tink”, just as the drone zoomed up over the tree. Suddenly, a bigger noise followed. Something careened through tree leaves as clipped tree branches fell to the ground.

Maverick started barking excitedly.

“Yeah boy, I saw it. No. We ain’t goin’ out there. Not just yet, anyways. Now we just act like we didn’t see anything at all an’ just go sit on the porch and see who takes the bait.”

Sure enough, about twenty minutes later, a state trooper’s vehicle eased into the old man’s driveway. As the trooper exited his vehicle, a second car pulled in behind it. The old man recognized it immediately as a car owned by a guy living a few houses down. A neighbor he knew by name but did not know well.

The old man casually rose from the chair on his porch. “Good afternoon officer. What can I help you with?”

“Good afternoon, Sir. I’m sorry to bother you. But this gentleman here had a drone go down. Says its GPS coordinates show it’s somewhere here on your property.”

“A Drone? Hmm. I’m sorry. I can’t help you. There’s been a drone around recently, but I haven’t seen any sign of it today.”

“Liar! Officer! This guy is lying! He knows damned well where it is. I want him arrested! He just shot down my drone!”

“Shot down your drone? What are you talking about? I haven’t been doing any shooting today. I’ve been sitting here on the porch with my dog. Just minding my own business.”

The trooper intervened. “Sir, let me handle this. I instructed you that you could come as long as you remained in your vehicle.”

“But here! My drone’s GPS is still activated. It’s right out there, not far behind his house. Where he shot it down. I can show you, right here on my phone.”

The excited neighbor handed the state trooper his cell phone and returned to stand by his car. The trooper studied the screen.

“Sir, do you mind if I have a look out back?”

The old man gave the officer a long, steady look. “Don’t you need some kind of warrant?”

“Sir, I can get a warrant issued if that’s the route you want to go, but if you’ve done nothing wrong, and I’m in no way at this point in time implying you have, what’s the harm?”

The old man thought a moment, then nodded. “I don’t much like having the state police at my house, but if it’ll settle matters, I’ll take you out back to have a look see. But my neighbor stays where he is.”

With that, the old man, and the trooper, cell phone in hand, headed out behind the house while the neighbor stood sputtering in protest. Maverick stood up to follow.

“You stay here, boy. Keep an eye on things. We won’t be gone long.”

It only took a brief search to spot the downed drone. It lay in a tangle of brush with one rotor broken and another completely torn off. The officer studied the scene momentarily and took several photos on his own cell phone before retrieving the banged up remains of the drone.

The trooper looked the old man square in the eye. “You know anything about what happened here?”

The old man met the trooper’s gaze as he responded. “Nope. Like I said. I was tending my garden earlier, then for the last while I’ve just been sittin’ here on my porch enjoying a quiet afternoon with my dog.”

“Then how do we explain this?”

“Beats me. Maybe it hit something. Maybe a bird clipped it, or it clipped a branch or something. Seems to me the more pertinent question is what in tarnation was my neighbor doing flying a drone so low over my yard. Doesn’t that constitute trespassing or invasion of privacy or something?”

The neighbor spotted what remained of his drone under the trooper’s arm as he and the old man rounded the corner of the house. He came racing across the yard. “See officer! I told you! I want him arrested! I demand compensation! I’m calling my lawyer! I’m filing a lawsuit! He shot down my drone!”

The trooper instructed the neighbor to return to his car. ” Sir, I’m sorry, but I see no immediate evidence here of anything indicating the discharge of a firearm. It appears to me that this drone struck something. Is it possible you misjudged its flight path and hit a tree branch or something? The more pertinent question might be, what were you doing flying a drone so low over your neighbor’s house anyways? Someone may get charged in this matter, or they may not. In any event, I’m going to hold this drone as evidence while I investigate this matter further. Now I suggest you return to your residence and let me do my job.”

With that, the neighbor huffed his way back to his car and exited the old man’s driveway. The trooper returned to his vehicle and sat talking into his phone and making notes. The old man returned to Maverick, lying patiently next to his seat on the porch.

After several minutes, the trooper got back out of his car and walked up to the porch. He asked the old man for his name, address and date of birth, handed him his card, and told him he’d get back to him if he had any further questions.

The old man shook the trooper’s hand and nodded. As the state trooper pulled his vehicle out of the driveway, the old man reached into his shirt pocket and retrieved the third rock. He sat chuckling to himself as he gently hefted it back and forth from right hand to left.

“I might not know much about drones, boy, but I know one thing for certain. It ain’t none too smart to try spying on an old man who grew up chuckin’ rocks.


Until Our Trails Cross Again: