On September 14, 2023 the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources released new guidelines for the use of UAS (Unmanned Aerial System, A.K.A. drones) as it relates to hunting related activities. I was able to obtain a copy of the newly published guidelines which clarify the manner in which drones could be used for activities including the recovery of deceased game animals. The guidelines were published in response to public requests for clarification. Other topics discussed in the document but this article is focussed on the use of drones to aid in the recovery of deceased animals, specifically deer. You can read the full text here:
Before your read on, please understand that using a drone as part of the hunt is illegal! Drones can only be used for the recovery of a deceased animal and only if specific guidelines are followed. I recommend that you read and understand the hunting regulations for your jurisdiction before engaging in this sort of activity. This article is focused on the recent policy clarification for the State of Wisconsin. If you live in another state, the regulations will be different.
In the last couple of years, the idea of using drones for game recovery has grown in popularity. The increased interest can be attributed to a couple of factors: reduced cost and improved capability of drones equipped with sophisticated thermal imaging systems. As is often the case with advances in technology, existing regulations did not anticipate the complexities that drones would introduce to hunting. Existing regulations which prohibit the use of aircraft in the hunt were loosely applied which is why I think its good that the Wisconsin DNR clarified the issue with this document.
Spencer Steinhauer of Drone Recovery Diversified located this deceased buck using his DJI M30T. Spencer offers service in northwestern WI. Phone 715-579-2234. He purchased his drone from Titletown Drones.
Hunters have been using canines for years to aid in the recovery of a wild animal killed or presumed dead but until recently, drones were viewed differently. Some argue that using a drone is, in principle, similar to using a canine to recover a deceased animal and potentially much more efficient.
Here are some reasons to consider using a drone in the recovery of deceased wildlife:
- The heat signature from a deceased animal can be detected for as much as 24 hours after the animal has died.
- The aerial view would allow the hunter to better plan a recovery that could avoid dangerous terrain and obstacles thus causing less disruption to the environment.
- The hunter could locate the animal’s precise GPS coordinates. This would allow the hunter to determine if the animal has traversed onto private property. This knowledge would allow the hunter to seek permission from the landowner and prevent unintentional trespass.
- The animal could be located more rapidly reducing the likelihood it will be lost or destroyed by predators.
It’s important to note the DNR’s guidelines point out the risks of the hunter being the drone operator.
“It is recognized that the hunter who shot the animal may choose to be the UAS operator. By doing so, the hunter/UAS operator risks being in violation of s. 29.307, Wis. Stats. and NR 10.07(1)(a), Wis. Adm. Code.”
This interpretation could lay the groundwork for those who are interested in offering game recovery as a service as opposed to the hunter doing both. I think this makes good sense because if you are out on the hunt, that is where 100% of your attention should be focused. If you make that shot you should attempt to recover the animal through traditional means but if that fails, there are service providers available to help you with the recovery.
Issuance of these guidelines should help distinguish lawful methods game recovery from illegal practices. While these guidelines do not give carte’ blanche to use drones for this purpose, it does clear up some of the gray areas.
I am a drone dealer and also a retired police officer so you would be correct in assuming that I would not encourage or condone the use of drones for any unlawful purpose. That said I believe that the use of a drone is a legitimate means of of game recovery, provided you follow the guidelines outlined above.
Drone Deer Recovery Services in Wisconsin
Drone Deer Recovery services are expanding quickly across the state and if you are looking for a reputable person to hire, there is a group called Wisconsin Deer Recovery Drone Operators. They have started a Facebook group which you can request access. The administrators of this group require you to answer some questions as to your interest. If you are interested in joining this group here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/deerrecovery
If you are looking for a deer recovery specialist, here is a list of service providers in Wisconsin.
This list is updated regularly as more operators become available.
I recently spoke with one of the group’s founders, Zac Griesbach. Zac owns his his own small business, Wiscopter. He and others in the group want to promote safety and responsibility for the good of the deer recovery community. One way they are working to accomplish this is by creating a directory of service providers that meet some minimum requirements. For example, in order to be listed as deer recovery service provider the applicant must own thermal capable drone equipment, hold a valid remote pilot certificate, show proof of insurance and disclose their pricing model. By disclosing what sort of equipment they are using, you will be sure that the operator can provide you the service you are looking for. For example, some drones are not weather resistant and cannot operate in wet conditions. This may be an important factor depending on when you need the service.
Applicants can complete an online form available in the group to qualify to be listed. There is no requirement for a person engaged in deer recovery with a drone to do this and there are no doubt other qualified operators out there but this group’s efforts will save you some of the leg work in vetting who you hire. The drones used in deer recovery are not in in same class as the stuff you might find at Best Buy or Amazon. They are expensive, sophisticated pieces of equipment that require training and experience to operate safely. Some of them are heavy and accidents could result in property damage or personal injury.
Drones for Deer Recovery
If you are thinking about purchasing a drone for deer recovery, I would be happy to help you choose the best system to meet your requirements and budget. I built my business helping public safety agencies establish their drone programs but recently I have worked with many deer recovery specialists. These folks have invested significant time and financial resources. They are small business owners that understand the commitment required to offer this sort of service.
I have travelled the country providing training and as a dealer for all the major manufacturers like DJI and Autel Robotics, I can offer you great options for equipment. I carry demo units so if you want to learn more about a particular drone and its capabilities, you can see them up close. I also carry a wide variety of lighting solutions from CZI, JZ and Fox Fury. If you are looking for an external monitor I have that too. I carry high-brightness, weatherproof monitors from Xenarc Technologies.
You can start by browsing my website to learn more. I have the following drones available if you would like to see them up close and even take a test flight.
- DJI Mavic 3 Enterprise Thermal
- Autel Evo 2 640T Enterprise Thermal
- Autel Evo Max 4T (Thermal)
- DJI M30T
I also offer a remote pilot test preparation course to help you obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate, the credential that is required by the FAA for you to operate one of these systems.
Drones are a powerful tool that can revolutionize the way we work. There’s a right way to do this and if I can help I will.
If you’re interested, just contact me to schedule an appointment. I am located in Suamico, WI, about 12 miles north of Green Bay. I can offer you a “fly before you buy” experience.
I can be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 920-619-4164.