Drone Recovery Vs Tracking Dogs - Which is Best?

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Hunting deer takes patience and is often full of challenges. Therefore, every hunter knows the frustration involved when losing an injured deer in the wilderness. When this age-old problem occurs, hunters have traditionally been left with only one solution: tracking dogs. However, with great advancements in drone technology, and the increased availability of high-quality recovery services like Drone Deer Recovery, hunters now have a choice. Both methods of deer recovery have their own advantages and disadvantages, and which you choose will depend on any number of factors. In this article, we will guide you through the pros and cons of each method, and help you decide which will be best for you when deer hunting.

Drones for Deer Recovery

Drones have become increasingly popular, with over 5 million drones sold annually worldwide since 2020, and they’ve become, rightfully, just as popular within the hunting community as a way to locate shot deer. With the development of drones equipped with high-resolution cameras, remote pilots can efficiently and easily survey a large area from above to locate the deer. Here are some of the advantages of using drones for deer recovery:

  • Prevent Bumping Deer: Whilst Deer often attempt to find a safe location to lay after being wounded, deer can flee for many miles before succumbing to their wounds. This is especially true when they have been scared by tracking dogs, the noise from tracking dogs can cause deer to exhibit anti-predator behavior. The adrenaline boost will allow a deer to run for miles. This can prove especially problematic when on small properties or near neighboring property lines, as your deer could flee onto private property. Drones completely negate the possibility of a wounded deer fleeing, as drones have been shown to not cause anti-predator behaviors in animals, due to their low noise emittance and distance, especially when flown at 400ft like the drones we fly.
  • Access to difficult terrain: Drones can access difficult-to-reach areas that are initially inaccessible to hunters and tracking dogs alike. For example, if a deer has become hidden behind dense foliage, or has fallen into a large hole, a drone can quickly and easily locate it.
  • Thermal Imaging and Night Vision: When hunting you’re often battling several natural elements, including the level of sunlight you have. Deer recovery drones are equipped with thermal cameras that can pick up heat signatures in low-light levels and at night, allowing you to quickly locate a deer when it has become impossible for you to visually sight it yourself.
  • Speed and efficiency: Traditional hunting relies upon tracking, either alone or with the assistance of tracking dogs to locate game. However, drones are able to cover huge swaths of land in record timing cutting down the man, or dog, hours that traditional hunting requires. For example, our drones can locate your deer within as little as 60 seconds, with the average recovery time being only 20 minutes. Whilst if you’re waiting to track a single lung shot deer, or a gut shot deer, in the traditional manner, you’ll be could be looking at a full day of tracking to recover your game.
  • Reliability: This relates back to our previous point about visibility, drones are not affected by natural phenomena like dogs or humans; our top-of-the-range drones can fly in both rain and snow. Drones do not get fatigued or easily bogged down by poor weather conditions. Additionally, our drones are equipped with wireless charging kits and high-powered batteries meaning that we can fly non-stop. Whilst dogs can be rigorously trained to withstand bad weather conditions, they are still vulnerable to the fatigue that such conditions present. We carry a charging kit & enough batteries to fly non-stop.
  • Identification: Our drones are equipped with top-of-the-line 200x cameras, meaning that it is extremely easy to identify if the deer located is the one you personally shot. Therefore, making our drone service extremely accurate and ethical. This is due to the fact we will only provide you location information on the deer that you shot, not on any live game in the area. Using drones or tracking dogs to track live game is against hunting regulations in most states and is frankly unethical. Whilst our fully licensed and trained professionals are aware of this, dogs can make the mistake of tracking live game.

Of course, nothing in this world is 100% perfect, so there are some potential disadvantages that we think are important to discuss:

  • Legal Issues: The use of drones within the hunting industry is a cutting-edge industry in its own right, but because of, this some states, like Alaska and Colorado, are yet to pass legislation regarding drone usage for recovery purposes. However, you can legally use something like drone recovery for the purpose of locating shot game, depending on the location. However, an FAA remote pilot license is mandatory across all states. That’s why our licensed drone deer recovery operators are a great asset to any hunter, as our operators are versed in state and federal legislation, working ethically and legally.
  • Cost: Drones can be expensive to purchase and maintain, costing upwards of $14,000, often exceeding $20,000, especially high-quality drones with high-grade cameras, like those used by our operators. However, our service allows you to offset the cost of purchasing your own expensive drone, with inexpensive recovery fees starting at only $450.

Tracking Dogs for Deer Hunting:

Tracking dogs have been used throughout history as a way of tracking wounded deer. Specific breeds of dogs have developed alongside hunters, developing heightened senses of smell, and tracking abilities. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of using this age-old method for deer hunting:


  • Sense of Smell: Dogs have a highly sophisticated sense of smell, being somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 times more acute than our own. Therefore, they’re able to follow a scent trail that would otherwise be difficult for humans to detect.
  • Versatility: When trained properly, dogs can withstand a variety of terrain and weather conditions, being able to track through snow, rain, and most challenging conditions. However, unlike drones, they will eventually succumb to harsh weather conditions and terrain, subsequently giving up the hunt.
  • Bonding: Dogs are a man's best friend, they’re not only a means to an end but a partner to your hunting.


  • Training and Maintenance: Like people, dogs have to learn how to hunt and track, and this can be time-consuming and expensive. This is especially true for deer hunting, with it taking 2-3 years to train a deer dog to a good standard.
  • Weather and Terrain: Regardless of training every animal has its breaking point. A deer dog’s ability to track and hunt can become severally affected by poor weather and poor terrain.
  • Predators: Whilst drones fly well above the reach of any predators, dogs are unfortunately exposed when in locations with a high concentration of predators. For example, Coyotes are common throughout many states, often posing a threat to hunting dogs.
  • Wildlife Disturbance: Within the hunting and wildlife communities there is an age-old debate over hunting methods that cause adverse disturbances to wildlife. Tracking dogs are an example of one of these methods; tracking dogs are likely to cause the surrounding fauna to enter an anti-predator state, as they’ll naturally perceive a pack of dogs as a predatory threat. However, drones can be flown at high enough attitudes so as to not disturb the local wildlife. Also, studies have shown that drowns are far less likely to cause animals to exhibit anti-predator behaviors. Therefore, drones are far more ethical in this sense.


When it comes to deer hunting, both drone recovery and tracking dogs can be effective tools depending on the situation. Whether you decide to use drone recovery or tracking dogs will depend on a number of factors, including the circumstances of the hunt, the terrain, local regulations, and the weather conditions. However, the introduction of drones, in the form of recovery tools, to hunting has proven far better for covering large areas quickly and for accessing difficult terrain. Additionally, this advancement has countered almost any problem you’re likely to face when attempting to recover a shot deer. Most importantly, as our drones fly at 400ft wildlife and deer are left completely undisturbed.

Your choice will come down to the individual circumstances of the hunt. But here are some additional factors to consider when making your decision:

  • Terrain: If you’re on a large property and are not concerned about scaring the deer further out into the wilderness or onto private property, a tracking dog might suffice — if you’re willing to spend hours out in the woods and run the risk of scaring the wounded deer even further into the woods. But if you are wanting to ensure your game wanders as little as possible and stays on your property, a drone is a far better option.
  • Weather: Rain or snow can prevent a dogs ability to track a deer - however our drones can operate in these harsh conditions.
  • Cost: Our drone service may be more expensive than some tracking dogs, but the absolute certainty you get with a drone is well worth the difference in cost.
  • Personal Preference: Ultimately some hunters will always prefer to adhere to traditional methods of hunting. New technology always takes time to be fully accepted.

Final Thoughts

When flown by professionals who understand how to read the thermals, drones can locate your shot deer with extraordinary accuracy. Furthermore, our drone deer recovery services also allow for information to be gathered regarding the number of deer on your property, and to measure the buck to doe ratio to ensure your property has maintained a healthy ecosystem.

It is also important to bear in mind that whilst tracking dogs and drones can be effective tools for locating a wounded deer, they are not impervious. Whilst drones are far less susceptible to certain weather and terrain conditions, both drones and dogs are still able to lose a deer. Therefore, it is important to take care in making a clean shot and approaching the situation with patience.

More importantly, it is important for hunters to prioritize the welfare of any animal they’re hunting. Whether you choose to use a drone recovery service, or tracking dogs, you should make every effort to locate a wounded deer as quickly and humanely as possible to minimize suffering. Therefore, using a service like Drone Deer Recovery is a great ethical choice, for quick and efficient recovery of dead game.

It is also important to note that drone recovery can be used for purposes beyond hunting. For example, drones can be used for conservation purposes, such as monitoring wildlife populations and surveying habitats. Furthermore, drones can be used to locate missing animals throughout the agricultural community, such as locating missing livestock and show animals.

Drone deer recovery is perfect for enabling the effective locating of shot deer, monitoring herd populations, shortening animal suffering, and ultimately giving hunters certainty they wouldn’t otherwise have.

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