Drones Not Allowed For Deer Recovery in New York

As sportsmen and women we all hope for a quick and successful recovery of wild game.  Taking only high percentage shots and using the correct equipment are ethical and consistent with fair chase. Employing aircraft of any type including drones is not ethical or lawful in New York State.  A good alternative is to contact Deer Search.  Their team of recovery volunteers are licensed with the DEC.

Recently, DEC has received inquiries about the potential use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) to assist with the recovery of hunter-harvested deer or bear. However, tracking and recovery of a deer or bear are part of the hunt, and New York laws do not allow drones to be used in this way.

Drones are defined and regulated as aircraft by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and aircraft may not be used to aid deer or bear hunters. This applies to both hobby/recreational drone pilots and drone pilots flying under FAA commercial regulations.

Confusion comes because the same section of law that prohibits use of aircraft also prohibits use of dogs to aid in hunting deer or bear.  However, a separate section of law authorizes DEC to regulate and license the use of leashed tracking dogs specifically to aid in the recovery of deer and bear.  The law does not make a similar provision for aircraft, including drones, and DEC cannot regulate or license the use of drones without authorizing statute.

Jeff Jondle – ECFSC President