Video: Bowhunters Use Drone — Legally — to Recover Giant Buck

After extensive searching for an arrow-hit whitetail, a hunter and his buddies use a drone — legally — to find the buck in a thick swamp.

Video: Bowhunters Use Drone — Legally — to Recover Giant Buck

The only outcome worse than missing a giant whitetail buck is wounding one, and as you’ll see in the YouTube video below from Draggin’ Deer Outdoors, this hunter probably fears the worse.

This late-October bowhunt takes place on public land in Michigan, and Nick is self-filming when three bucks arrive near his treestand at 10 a.m. One of the bucks is a mature 4x4, and Nick is patient in waiting for a clear broadside shot. Nick doesn’t attempt to stop the slow-walking buck because he isn’t high in the tree, and the buck is only 10-12 yards away. He thinks a grunt or bleat from such close-range in calm conditions will spook the buck, and from my experience, Nick makes a solid decision to shoot when the buck is walking. (About 45 seconds later Nick gets a second shot at the buck, but it’s a low-percentage, long-range attempt, and he misses.)

Nick isn’t confident about his first shot, and the video quality combined with the intense sunlight on the buck’s hide makes it difficult to determine precise arrow impact. Nick thinks his shot is a bit too far back (liver), and ultimately that is the case. He backs out of the area and returns 6 hours later with friends to help with tracking. But the group follows blood for 400 yards before losing the trail in a wet area of grass and cattails.

The group grid-searches for Nick’s buck the following morning, too, but come up empty. This story takes a unique turn when the hunters wisely contact a conservation officer with the Michigan DNR to see if it’s legal to use a drone to attempt finding the buck. The officer says “yes,” provided they follow FAA drone regulations.

The drone footage is tremendous, and thankfully this Michigan public land swamp doesn’t have a lot of mature canopy trees to hide the dead buck. After only 5 minutes with the drone, the guys recover Nick's 230-pound buck (field dressed). Do you have any trouble spotting the deer initially?

I especially like the drone footage showing the four guys approach the downed whitetail. It truly was a needle in a haystack. Great job!


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