Using Drones for Hunting

How can Drones Help Hunters?

Technology has been applied to many sports, and hunting is not an exception. Hunters have recently started using drones in their activities. Those who make use of unmanned aircraft can just sit in a single location and scan the area through the camera on the gadgets. UAVs have several applications in hunting. These are outlined below.

Spotting Big Game

Drones are used to spot the big game and plan hunting strategies. Just like the usual scouting of the area, this should be done long before the actual hunting begins. Otherwise, hunting will become too easy. 

Attempts have been put in place to ban the use of drones in spotting big game. Some of these have actually been successful. These efforts are influenced by the misuse of quadcopters in the sport. Abusing drones in this activity reduces the effort made in hunting and also denies the animals the chance to escape. Some hunters use the gadgets to track game using GPS, and once the animals are located, they immediately head out to get them. 

Stalking Wounded Deer

In another scenario, if a hunter could be stalking a group of deer and manage to wound one or more. Still, the deer may manage to escape into the woods, meaning that the hunter loses track of them. To complete the task, the hunter simply draws out his UAV and surveys the area from above. This is a sure way of locating the wounded deer, and the hunter can stalk it slowly since he or she has a clear track of its movement. 

This use of drones in hunting is frowned upon in the community. It gives the hunter an unfair advantage over the big game and makes it a lazy sport. Rather, the hunter should follow wildlife in the traditional way and use their skills to determine which direction the deer went. 

Off Season Scouting

Many people approve the scouting of game using drones as long as it is not done in hunting season. Off season scouting is important since it helps you assess the hunting potential of a property. After hunting season, the population of big game may have gone down substantially, making the area poor for the sport. The game may have moved on to find property with more food. When scouting off season, you will get an idea of the distribution of big game in the property. 

The old-fashioned way of scouting an area is by tracking the movement of the animals using elements such as track prints. With drones, the work is a lot easier. You don’t have to wear boots or get into the dirt. Just fly the drone over the area and you will get an aerial map showing the distribution of game in the property. 

Is it Legal to use Drones as a Tool for Hunting

Federal regulation

There are no federal regulations on the use of drones, specifically to hunt game. The government simply has general rules about flying drones, and these mostly don’t apply to hunters. 

On the national level, drones are classified on the basis of commercial and non-commercial use. Commercial flying of drones is an offence, according to the Federal government. Flying the gadgets over 400 feet or in a flight-controlled airspace is also illegal. In addition, the gadgets should never be flown near airports or places with too many people. The government also requires all users of drones to keep the devices within their sight whenever they are in use. These regulations are meant to reduce accidents and protect privacy. 

Nationally, using unmanned aircraft in hunting is perfectly legal. You simply need to stick to the drone regulations given. 

State Regulations on Using Drones for Hunting

Because of the activity of many organizations around the country, a number of states have banned the use of drones for hunting. In January of 2014, the state of Colorado was first to set up laws regulating the use of quadcopters in hunting. Different states have varying policies to govern the activity, and the penalties are also dissimilar. State governments have been pushed to enact these laws by animal rights activists and hunters who think the use of drone amounts to cheating. 

Alaska and Montana also banned drone-assisted hunting in 2014. Presently, quadcopter use in hunting is regulated in the states of Arizona, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, and Wyoming. 

Officially, drones are referred to as UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) and are still considered aircraft for legal purposes. The laws covering aircraft are also applicable to these quadcopters. In many of the states in the USA, the use of aircraft in hunting is illegal, and this means drone use is not allowed. It is best to go through your state laws to see what rules govern hunting as a recreational sport in relation to aircraft use. 

Since non-commercial use of drones is a relatively new phenomenon, governments have been slow to react to their use. However, many pre-existing laws might be applicable to these gadgets. For instance, privacy laws will not allow you to scout a property where people are residing or carrying out certain activities. Other laws may be open to interpretation. As an example, some states have laws against disturbing wildlife with aircraft. Many people have observed that big game doesn’t always notice drones, even if they are flown very close to the animals. In such a case, it is up to the authorities to clarify.

Unethical Drone Usage

Drone use in hunting is not entirely wrong. Those involved in the sport only need to play by the rules of ethics. Let’s look at some of the ways hunters are abusing drones in the fields. 

Driving Game by Drone

Instead of getting out into the woods and getting the big game, some hunters are simply using their quadcopters to drive the animals towards them. All they need to do is find a suitable location that is away from the woods and watch the wildlife on their screens. The quadcopter is flown in such a way that the game gets frightened into moving in their direction. 

This use of drones has been criticized since it is not really hunting. It even eliminates the need to go out and get dirty in the fields. 

Same Day Hunting

Another offense made by hunters is tracking game using their UAVs and going out immediately for the animals. This makes the sport unfair for wildlife and even nullifies the skills of hunters. In such cases, there is no need to track the location of wildlife using physical marks, yet this is part of what defines a good hunter. 

Instead of this, hunters should use the drones to scout for big game after hunting season. This is similar to the use of a truck or vehicle to ensure that there is no harm done. Here, the animals have a good chance of escaping, and you still end up getting into the woods to hunt with your senses. 

Harassing Hunters by Anti Hunters

Drone use in hunting has been criticized heavily by animal rights activists. Some of them have even gone a step further to actually watch hunters using quadcopters. They do this in an effort to ensure animal rights are not interfered with in the process of hunting. In many states, this has been classified as harassment and is a breach on the right of to privacy. Although it is not illegal in all places, it is still an unethical practice. 

Unfortunately, it is not only anti hunters who use drones for harassment purposes. Other hunters also use drones to see if any of their mates are misusing quadcopters in the sport, which is equally wrong.

Controversial Opinions on Hunting with Drones

Hunting is a physical sport, and conservationists believe the process is just as important as the results. But that is not the opinion carried by all hunters. 

Another lot believes drones help to maximize results, and because of this, the devices are a great addition to the sport. Some also hold the opinion that drones allow people with disabilities or physical limitations to enjoy the thrill of the sport. 

Because of their conditions, these people cannot walk into the woods and hunt for game. If they use drones, they can locate the big game and even drive the animals towards their locations. This will make their physical condition a non-issue.


Private ownership of drones is rising around the world. The devices are no longer reserved for the military. Recently, hunters have started using drones to scout for game and even to drive the wildlife to a location of their choice. This has its advantages and disadvantages. However, animal rights activists and a good proportion of the hunter population are against it. 

This is because it interferes with the rights of animals to escape, and even makes the sport less challenging for the participants. Most people agree that using quadcopters to scout for game off season is ethical and does not affect the quality of the hunting as a sport. As a hunter, you should educate yourself on the local laws before using UAVs for hunting.

One comment Leave your comment

  1. Jacob ishii

    This is no longer a true statement.States are recognizing that that it’s no different than using helicopter/plane to spot game.Its either been added to existing flying/hunting laws or had laws put in specifically prohibiting the use of drones for hunting or spotting game for purposes of hunting.
    Check your state laws before using a drone to hunt.



Andrey is manager of OutdoorNinjas online journal, working on creating compelling content about outddor activities, such as hunting, fishing, camping and others

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