helicopter filming 2

I just heard an amazing and almost unbelievable stat: in 20 years every person in the world will have a “pet drone” or at least access to a drone, just like everybody now has a cell phone.

What will the billions of drones in the sky mean for our hunting? Is there any place for a drone in the deer woods? As the technology advances and drones become cheaper and easier to use and fly, it is inevitable that people will find a way to use them for all activities, including hunting.

People already have. State troopers and wildlife cops in Alaska are aware of at least one drone-assisted moose kill, back in 2012.

Other than shooting cool footage for personal video or a TV show (more on that later) I can’t think of any good use for a drone in the woods. It would certainly not be ethical to fly a drone over the fields/woods where you hunt, scouting from the air and sizing up buck racks, or looking for funnels where bucks walk, and then moving in on the ground with a stand for an ambush.

Some guy said to me once, “But is it really any different than setting out a trail camera to find bucks on your property, especially one that can send images and HD video back to your cell phone?”

I got his point…and I didn’t really have a good comeback for it.

States are getting out ahead of the potential drones-for-hunting issues. Alaska was the first state to prohibit hunters from spotting game with drones. I expect all states to follow suit with specific restrictions on drones for hunting.

Just yesterday, the National Park Service announced that it is taking steps to ban drones from 84 million acres of public lands to keep the unmanned aircraft from harassing wildlife and annoying visitors.

But one group is embracing the use of drones. PETA sells its “Air Angel” drones and purportedly encourages its members to fly them around and monitor (I say harass) hunters on public lands. In response to that, more than one hunter has said: Fly that damn thing over me and I’ll shoot it down. I get it, but this opens another can of worms.

As mentioned, one good use of a drone is to get killer video of landscapes, terrain and hunters walking around and glassing, etc. But even this brings potential problems. Several years ago, one of my TV producers alerted the game wardens in an area that our crew would be out there, flying a drone with a camera attached to it to get footage. We would not use it to scout or find and hunt the deer, just to film general shots in the middle of the day.

That was back in the day when a drone was big size-wise, and a novelty. One evening, the warden in the area pulled up to the property where I was hunting and confronted my friend as he waited to pick me up. “Where is Hanback, I hear he is using a helicopter to hunt, I want to talk to him.” He roared off, p—-d, and said he’d be back. He never tracked me down, I’m glad. But we flew the drone on private land, and got good footage.


We’ve used drones on and off the last few years on TV hunts, and we’ve got a new one for this fall. The prices have really come down, and the cameras on the drones are greatly improved. You can get a drone on Amazon for around $360 and shoot video of all your outdoor activities. But do not use it to scout or hunt deer.

Lost in all of this is the actual hunt—the calm and solitude of the woods on a crisp fall morning, the connection to nature, the way you think and reflect as you sit in a tree stand and wait on a buck, the way your heart jumps when you see him… Who wants to think about a billion drones buzzing overhead, watching, monitoring our every move…

Weird, but they say those days are coming? What do you think?