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Airborne Hunting Act

The Airborne Hunting Act (“Act”), approved in 1971, added a new section, ie (section 13; 16 USCS § 742j-1), to the Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956.  The Airborne Hunting Act is also known as the Shooting from Aircraft Act.  The Act prohibits harassing, capturing or killing birds, fish and other animals from aircraft with certain limited exceptions.

The Act imposes punishment on a person who:

  • while airborne in an aircraft shoots or attempts to shoot to capture or kill any bird, fish or other animal;
  • uses an aircraft to harass any bird, fish or other animal;
  • knowingly participates in using an aircraft for any of these purposes[i].


Pursuant to16 USCS § 742j-1, punishment prescribed for violation of the Act is a fine of not more than $ 5,000 or imprisonment not more than one year, or both.

However, the prohibitions do not apply to state or federal employees, authorized agents, or persons acting under a license or permit who are authorized to administer or protect land, water, wildlife, livestock, domesticated animals, human life or crops.  All persons authorized under a license or permit must report to the issuing authority each calendar quarter the number and type of animals taken.  States authorized to issue permits are required to file reports with the Secretary of the Interior containing information on any permits issued.  The report must list permit holders, animals authorized to be taken, the animals actually taken, and the reason for issuing the permits.

The Act also provides for the enforcement of the prohibitions.  Pursuant to 16 USCS § 742j-1, the Secretary of Interior is responsible for enforcing the provisions of the Act.  S/he is also responsible for issuing regulations to enforce the provisions of the Act.  An employee of the Department of the Interior authorized by the Secretary of the Interior to enforce the provisions of this section and who witness a violation of the Act is entitled to arrest the violator without a warrant.  The employee must take the arrested person to an officer or court.  An authorized employee is entitled to conduct search for enforcing the Act.  The Secretary can enter into cooperative agreements with state fish and wildlife agencies or other authorities to facilitate enforcement of the Act.  The Secretary can delegate enforcement authority to state law enforcement personnel[ii].

Pursuant to 16 USCS § 742j-1, all animals taken and all guns, aircraft and other equipment used in violation of the Act are subject to forfeiture to the federal government.  Federal laws relating to the forfeiture of vessels for violation of custom laws apply to forfeitures under the Act.

[i] 16 USCS § 742j-1.

[ii] Id.

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