Colorado town shoots down drone-hunting ordinance


The drone-hunting ordinance is dead.

Residents of the small community of Deer Trail, Colo., on Tuesday voted down a proposal that would have allowed the town to sell hunting licenses to shoot down drones inside city limits.

But the ordinance’s author, who, with the support of the mayor, had preemptively sold hundreds of $25 souvenir licenses to buyers across the U.S., responded Wednesday by saying that he would try to introduce the measure in other small communities.

“I was a very good boy giving Deer Trail a chance, so I fully intend to take this to other towns,” a defiant Phil Steel told the Los Angeles Times in a phone interview.


The Times had previously profiled Steel and chronicled the waves created by his rambling, 2,800-word drone-hunting ordinance. The proposal shoved dozy Deer Trail, about an hour east of Denver, into national headlines after the town’s board deadlocked 3-3 in August on enacting the measure, kicking the decision to voters.

Many residents ridiculed Steel as a troublemaker; ridiculed the town’s mayor, Frank Fields, for supporting the measure as a moneymaker; and ridiculed the idea as equal parts dangerous, illegal and embarrassing.

Others supported Steel for making an anti-government, anti-surveillance statement at a time when the Federal Aviation Administration is working on plans to safely integrate drones into civilian airspace. (The FAA responded to Steel’s proposal by saying it would be illegal to shoot down drones.)

On Tuesday, the vote came down decisively against Steel, with 73% of voters opposed, according to the Associated Press. Fields also lost the mayor’s seat.

Steel acknowledged that, in the end, local support had not lined up in his favor.

“Do you know how many drone-hunting licenses I’ve actually sold in Deer Trail? I’ve sold three in Deer Trail,” Steel told The Times. “I’ve sold 800 to 900 drone-hunting licenses all over the country, plus a few outside the country. Deer Trail maybe didn’t understand it. Maybe they didn’t like being in the spotlight, maybe the media attention.”

Those licenses, which he sold online, are not valid documents.

As “payback” against town board members who had opposed the measure, Steel said he planned to distract them by filing a citizen’s initiative on Thursday that would turn Deer Trail into a marijuana distributor as a way to boost town coffers.