Part 5 of 9: Have you Ever Used a Tracking Dog to Find a Dead Deer?
Deer hunting is filled with highs and lows. The highs are great. But the lows really aren’t. One such low is when you shoot a deer and can’t find it. Hours of searching. Acres of land combed and grid-searched. It can be all for not if you don’t (or can’t) deploy a dog. Their value in such a situation is invaluable. With a nose 100 times greater than our own, (approximately 300 million olfactory receptors), we really don’t compare. Sadly, not all states permit the use of this resource. The Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) recently discussed this topic in the 2019 Whitetail Report.
“The inability to locate a wounded game animal is devastating to a hunter,” QDMA said. “Irrespective of skill level, most hunters will at some point in their hunting career be unable to find an animal they have wounded. Rain, terrain and several other factors can play a role in these unfortunate situations. Regardless of cause, hunters and policy makers have a moral and ethical responsibility to do everything in their power to make sure every wounded animal is recovered.”
That’s where the use of dogs to recover wounded game comes in.
“We surveyed state and provincial wildlife agencies to learn where tracking dogs are allowed to locate wounded game, and, if they are permitted, whether they had to be on a leash,” QDMA said. “Their use ranges from about half of the states in the West to all states in the Southeast. In total, 35 of 48 states (73 percent) allow tracking dogs, and 25 of those states (74 percent) require the dog to be on a leash in at least some situations. A few notes include South Carolina requires a leash in some areas but not others, tracking dogs are allowed in all of Texas except 10 counties, and Maine requires a permit to use a tracking dog.”
So, what states fall into which category?
States that permit the use of a tracking dog include: Utah, Arizona, Nebraska, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Michigan and Delaware.
States that permit the use of a leashed tracking dog include: California, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
States that do not permit the use of a tracking dog include: Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, West Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
For states that still don’t allow dogs for the purpose of blood trailing wounded game, it’s a shame. Anything that makes us more ethical should be a permitted. If you hunt in a state that doesn’t recognize this ethical practice as a legal resource, contact your representatives. Talk to your wildlife agency. Make a change.
Whitetails make the hunting world go round. Josh Honeycutt, deer hunting editor and "Brow Tines and Backstrap" blogger, knows a fair bit about killing mature deer. He was raised up hunting the river bottoms of Kentucky. And he still hunts there—among other places—to this day.
Follow along as he shares his adventures, experiences and knowledge of the white-tailed deer.