GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — An Ohio-based company is suing the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, saying hunters should be allowed to use drones to help find deer carcasses.
Drone Deer Recovery operates in 15 states, allowing hunters to find downed deer with the use of drone technology like thermal imaging and long-range zoom lenses.
“What they do not do, to be clear, is they don’t locate deer in order for the hunter to go hunt it, to shoot it. They wait until after the deer has been shot, has been killed,” Andrew Quinio, an attorney representing Drone Deer Recovery, explained.
When the company tried to bring its services to Michigan, it claimed, the Michigan DNR shot the idea down.
“DNR agents informed two operators early this year that the statutes prevented them from doing that: They were prohibited from using their drone technology to locate downed deer,” Quinio said.
That led Drone Deer Recovery’s owner Mike Yoder to file a lawsuit, claiming the DNR is infringing upon the company’s First Amendment rights.
“At the essence of what they do is communicating the location of deer, collecting information about the location of deer, they just so happen to use a drone and advanced technology to do that. They have right,” Quinio said.
The DNR told News 8 it cannot comment on pending litigation. But in its response filed with the court, officials confirmed that using drones to take an animal, including collecting it after it’s injured, is illegal in Michigan.
Quinio questioned the fairness of that law.
“The Michigan Department of Natural Resources themselves uses drones. They use drones to assess forest health, to take pictures of the beautiful parks in Michigan, locate game themselves, and locate wildlife,” Quinio said. “So the same standard should be able to be applied to our clients.”
Quinio argued that using drones to quickly remove dead deer is good for the environment. He said he hopes the lawsuit sends a clear message to Michigan and other states that prohibit drones during the hunting process.
“It hopefully will signal to other states that it’s important for them to not intrude upon the First Amendment rights of Mike and Drone Deer Recovery and the use of this new technology to communicate this information,” Quinio said.
Quinio added that he believes the DNR doesn’t allow drones to be used because it provides an “unfair advantage” for hunters, but he doesn’t believe that should apply to Drone Deer Recovery’s use of the technology to recover carcasses.