I see you: Hunters taking advantage of drones and other technology

Published 1:16 pm Tuesday, January 9, 2024

I admit that, in things hunting and fishing, I’m a little old-fashioned.

It took me a little while to get used to hunting out of a deer stand that was hanging on a tree – not nailed to it. Climbing stands still seem a little foreign.

I quickly realized how much trail cameras did for deer hunters. My son and I have a half-dozen of them tied to tree trunks on the 50-acre lease we hunt. They give us a great idea of what kinds of bucks (and gobblers) we have roaming our woods, where and when they’re going to show up, and what we might need to look out for, in terms of coyotes.

I was showing off to a friend a few trail-cam photos of a big buck a couple of years ago, standing in the lobby at church, when a third buddy looked over my shoulder and described what we were looking at as “deer porn.”

I discovered a good decade ago that a lot of offshore fishermen had turned to services that mapped temperature changes in the ocean to find abrupt temperature changes and current breaks that often hold gamefish. The night before a trip, you buy the next day’s map and it gives you places to start — a big savings in gas and time when you’re hunting dolphin, tuna and wahoo.

On a smaller scale, it has taken me a year to get used to the fancy electronics on my bass boat, and I don’t even have top-of-the-line stuff that makes fishing akin to a video game. I’m more comfortable with a flasher unit. And this trolling motor; I can hit a button and it holds my boat in place, no matter how the wind decides to blow?

The latest gadget that has made its way into the outdoors world is apparently the same one that’s carrying warheads into the battlefields of eastern Europe: the drone.

Last spring, a turkey hunting buddy in South Carolina told me that drones had invaded the turkey hunting world. It seems that some sharp hunting guides on expansive plantations in South Carolina’s Lowcountry had been using drones outfitted with cameras to check out which large, open fields might hold turkeys, particularly gobblers. With thousands of acres to cover, being able to scout places hundreds of yards away in just a few minutes makes things easier. Put a drone up and check the southwest field, then the riverbottom field, then the upland field, and you can narrow where you need to go to call that bird.

Not much good for wooded areas, but when the situation fits, I can see the application. I am even imagining how it could have helped on 250 acres I had access to in Stokes County for about 10 years. Awfully easy to keep an eye on the three big fields that comprised probably 30 acres, surrounded by all that timber.

The latest drone trick I heard about, just a couple of weeks ago, takes things a little deeper into the world of technology. Apparently, you can outfit drones with any number of options well beyond a simple camera. The story I heard involved an outfitting business that had a drone rigged with a device that was heat-seeking. If a hunter arrowed or shot a buck right before dusk, and the buck had run off, the outfitter could send his drone overhead, in the general direction the buck had fled, and the drone could report back the location of any “hot spot” where the animal might have fallen.

The drone allegedly cost in the neighborhood of five figures, but when you’re offering hunts at several thousand dollars a week, making the customer happy by finding that trophy 8-pointer can pay off.

And I thought having blood-trailing dogs was a big deal.

Show in Raleigh

The first and biggest of North Carolina’s fishing/boating shows cranks up in a week when the Bass and Saltwater Fishing Expo returns to the state fairgrounds in Raleigh Jan. 12-14, Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

This show offers sportsmen a look at the newest in boating and fishing equipment, and a chance for anglers to listen to some of the nation’s best experts when it comes to freshwater and saltwater angling.

Three big-name bass pros will be giving seminars: Kevin Van Dam of Michigan on Friday, and Bryan Thrift of Shelby,  and Alabama’s Timmy Horton all three days. Freshwater and saltwater seminars starring local and regional guides and experts will run for about the entire show.