Earl Pancoast was fed up with deer feasting on his soybean fields, so he invented Deer-Dash, a robot designed to keep deer on the run as it travels around the field with a coyote decoy on its back.
“I’ve had entire fields cleaned out by deer,” says Pancoast. “They walk down the row, snipping off the beans. With as many as 50 deer in a herd, it doesn’t take long to mow a field down to nothing.”
Building a robot to chase the deer away was a natural solution for Pancoast. His combat robots have appeared on Discovery Channel’s BattleBots. His first Deer-Dash prototype was based on his Bale Spear combat robot and used many of the same components.
“I combined my two hobbies of building robots and farming,” says Pancoast. “I see coyotes chasing deer and decided to try and duplicate that.”
He ran trials with the prototype and its plastic coyote in 2021. Even with breakdowns and difficulty getting parts, results were positive enough to do an upgrade.
“I compared two fields that were treated the same with the only exception being the Deer-Dash operating in one,” says Pancoast. “It improved yield in that field by 10 to 15 bushels over the control.”
This year he is bringing a new and improved version to the fields. It is 30 by 34 in. and about 2 ft. tall, before adding the decoy. The 13-in. tires are from a garden tiller with other parts salvaged when possible. It has a 3/16-in. aluminum shell body and a “dressed-out” weight of about 150 lbs.
“I use drone autopilot software and hardware and a Pixhawk flight controller,” says Pancoast. “Wheelchair motors and speed controllers drive it. Last year the battery lasted for about 2 1/2 hrs. The new one can run for up to three days before needing a recharge.”
The Deer-Dash runs around the field based on programmed GPS waypoints, resting periodically for up to 2 1/2 days. Pancoast is working on a charging pad where the robot can rest and recharge. The intermittent nature of the robot’s action, combined with the coyote decoy, is key to its success.
“Rabbits and groundhogs quickly realize the Deer-Dash isn’t after them,” says Pancoast. “However, when deer see a coyote, they start running and will be three properties over before they stop.”
Pancoast is waiting on this year’s results before going into production. With prices on the rise, establishing a price is also a challenge. He expects initial units could run around $6,000.
For some, that may be quickly recovered if Deer-Dash works as expected. Pancoast has been talking to an Oklahoma farmer who reports deer costing him $300 per acre.
“I’m trying to evaluate the market,” he adds. “I don’t know how many people have enough of a problem with deer to spend money on a solution, or how much they would be willing to spend.”
Pancoast encourages FARM SHOW readers to share their interest and the extent of their deer problem with him.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Earl Pancoast, Salem, N.J. (www.deer-dash.com).