Below we present a brief overview of the history and current status of dog-deer hunting in several southern states. While the NCLOA mission is to promote private property security and peaceful enjoyment, dog-deer hunting is one of the major hurdles to fulfilling our mission in the below areas, and as such deserves special consideration.
Dog-deer hunting rights have seriously eroded in Alabama. Of the 67 counties in the state, 35 have completely or partially banned dog-deer hunting. U.S. National Forest Service land in 13 Alabama counties is also closed to dog-deer hunting. Of the counties that still allow dog-deer hunting, five have established regulations to govern hunting clubs. The clubs can be placed on probation or have their dog-deer hunting permits revoked by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) for violation of state hunting regulations or if the number of public complaints becomes excessive. An ADCNR spokesman said that violations of hunting regulations and the number of public complaints have been noticeably reduced in the five counties that adopted permit requirements for dog-hunting clubs.
Recently, ADCNR approved a statewide permit system for dog-deer hunting. See the article at http://blog.al.com/pr/2009/05/model_system_for_dogdeer_hunti.html. Click on “download document” at the end of the paragraph to view the permit system. This permit system is shorter and simpler than the Georgia regulations are.
Arkansas has 19 deer management zones. Dog-deer hunting is allowed in 12 of these zones, the others are closed to dog-deer hunting. Ozark National Forest has prohibited deer hunting with dogs. Dog-deer hunting is legal in the Ouachita National Forest except in the Wildlife Management Areas.
In 2005, the Florida Wildlife Commission required registration for deer dogs and the tracts of land where they hunt for private landowners and deer hunting clubs. Registration is not required for hunting deer with dogs on public land, such as the Ocala National Forest. Each deer dog must have the registration number on their collar, and hunters with dogs must have permits. The Florida Wildlife Commission officials said that dog trespassing complaints have fallen significantly following the registration requirement.
All national forest land in Georgia is closed to dog-deer hunting. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources implemented a permit system for deer-dogging on private land in 2003. Their permit system requires the following:
- Each dog-deer hunter must have a special license in addition to their hunting license.
- A land-permit must be issued by the Department for private tracts of 1000 contiguous acres or more to be deer- hunted with dogs.
- Each dog must display on their collar the permit number of the land tract.
- The permit number must be displayed on each vehicle used in dog-deer hunting.
- Penalties for dogs getting off the permitted property range from warnings to fines and revocation of the permit. During the first year following implementation, their land permits were revoked.
From 2003 to 2007, warnings and citations decreased significantly. Enforcement workload for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources decreased also as a result of the new law.
For purposes of deer hunting regulation, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fish (LDWF) divided the state into eight zones. In five zones, dog-deer hunting is allowed during seasons that do not coincide with still-hunting for deer. In the remaining three zones, dog-deer hunting is not permitted. The LDWF retains the final legal authority to establish or amend all dog-hunting regulations.
On the 640,000-acre Kisatchie National Forest (KNF), the USFS proposed to ban dog-deer hunting during the 2009-2010 hunting season, but the influential Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (LWFC) voted unanimously to allow eight days of dog-deer hunting in the KNF that season. Eight days of dog-deer hunting were allowed during the 2010-2011 season, as well.
(Louisiana continued) Dog-deer hunting was banned completely for the 2011-2012 season on Kisatchie National Forest. A federal appeals court upheld the ban:
O.C.G.A. 27-3-17 (2010)
27-3-17. Hunting deer with dogs; seasons; permit required
(a) It shall be unlawful to hunt deer with dogs except during such special open seasons for the hunting of deer with dogs as may be designated by the board on a state-wide, regional, or local basis.
(b) In accordance with subsection (a) of this Code section, the board is authorized to promulgate rules and regulations establishing an open season for the hunting of deer with dogs as may be appropriate based on sound wildlife management principles.
(c) It shall be unlawful for any person to hunt deer with dogs on any tract of real property unless a permit for hunting deer with dogs has been issued by the department for such tract to the owner or owners of such tract or the lessee of deer hunting rights for such tract. A permit for hunting deer with dogs shall not be issued to a lessee of deer hunting rights for any tract of real property that is less than 1,000 contiguous acres or to the property owner or owners for any tract of real property that is less than 250 contiguous acres. Any application for a permit for hunting deer with dogs shall be on such form as prescribed by the department and shall include a written description of the tract boundaries and a map showing key features such as public roads or streams on or bordering the tract and occupied dwellings on adjacent properties. The application must be signed by all persons owning any portion of the tract of real property or an authorized agent thereof.
(d) The owner of any dog that is used for hunting deer must cause such dog to be identified at all times during the hunt with the permit number for the tract being hunted.
(e) Any person operating a motor vehicle used in conducting a deer hunt with dogs shall during such hunt clearly display in the front or rear windshield of such motor vehicle a decal or card showing the tract permit number in numerals not less than two inches high.
(f) The department shall thoroughly investigate for validity any complaints from adjacent property owners regarding hunting deer with dogs in violation of this title or rules and regulations issued pursuant to this title. The commissioner may take action against a permit as provided by Code Section 27-2-25 for violations of the provisions of this title or rules and regulations issued pursuant to this title occurring on the tract of real property for which the permit was issued.
(g) Any person 16 years of age or older, including without limitation any person hunting on his or her own property, who hunts deer with dogs must obtain and possess a deer-dog hunting license in addition to all other required hunting licenses and permits. The license fee for such deer-dog license shall be $5.00 for a one-year period, except that there shall be no charge for any holder of a valid honorary hunting license, sportsman’s license, or lifetime sportsman’s license issued pursuant to this title.
(h) In addition to the provisions of subsection (f) of this Code section, the commissioner may revoke a deer-dog license for any hunter who, within a single hunting season, commits two or more violations of dogs off of permitted property.
Of the 100 counties in North Carolina, 51 counties have completely banned deer hunting with dogs, three counties are split, and 46 counties allow dog-deer hunting. Most of the eastern half of the state, and all counties in the south and along the coast allow dog-deer hunting. In recent years, eastern counties such as Wayne, Johnston, Wake, Chatham, Durham, Lee and Alamance have banned deer hunting with dogs.
While dog-deer hunting proponents often tout the long standing history and heritage of hunting deer with hounds, the reality is that as more large parcels of land are split into smaller acreage tracts, the ability to run deer dogs without encroachment on another persons private property has eroded significantly and leads to much conflict. Further, the historical significance of land ownership and peaceful enjoyment of private property far outweighs any perceived right to utilize the property of another as if it were your own.
In a recent North Carolina Wildlife Commission annual survey, the results showed that nearly 91% of hunters in the state still hunt only or primarily, while just 9% hunt with deer dogs exclusively. Given that most North Carolina hunters hunt tracts under 500 acres, and half of all hunters hunt properties under 100 acres, the continued use of deer dogs (which can travel through 100 acres in mere minutes) in these ares will surely result in increased conflict with property owners unwilling to accept the usual “my dog can’t read your no trespass sign” response from the dog-deer hunter.
Recently, several bills have been introduced at the state and county level to curtail some of the conflict by imposing trespass rules for deer dogs on another’s posted property, eliminating dangerous road hunting and other highway conflict with the traveling public, and requiring minimum contiguous acreage to release and use deer dogs for hunting. All reasonable efforts have been viciously attacked by the dog-deer hunting community, who have considerable support at the state legislature driven by large eastern dog associations which contribute to political and election campaigns. In the end, the dog-deer hunting supporters failure to recognize and properly manage through compromise the loss of historical hunting grounds to community progress may be their downfall, as new landowners who spend considerable sums to purchase property in North Carolina will not succumb to threats or intimidation, and will eventually have their private property rights defended by local and state politicians.
Eighteen counties in South Carolina are closed to dog-deer hunting. The rest of the state is open for dog-deer hunting. In recent years, land owners, lease holders, and still hunters have become increasingly active in seeking relief from unwanted dogs on their land during deer season. In 2008 a series of stakeholder meetings was held around the state to hear both sides of the story. During the stakeholder meetings, permit systems similar to the one used in Georgia was discussed. No effective legislation has yet been passed to remedy the problem. Some landowners in South Carolina have taken steps toward an outright ban on dog-deer hunting in their state.
Dog-deer hunting is not allowed in Tennessee.
Early settlers in eastern Texas traditionally hunted deer using dogs. The tradition had been established in the southeastern states before settlers came to Texas. After several decades of unrestricted hunting and widespread habitat loss, deer were virtually extirpated from eastern Texas. In an effort to protect the limited resource, deer hunting using dogs was prohibited in 1925, but special laws allowed the practice to continue in some counties. By 1983, hunting deer with dogs was permitted by special law in 10 counties of eastern Texas. However, passage of the Wildlife Conservation Act of 1983 by the 68th Texas Legislature placed all wildlife resources under the regulatory responsibility of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and repealed special laws permitting hunting deer with dogs. In 1984, opposition to closing deer hunting using dogs and strong public sentiment against dog hunting prompted the TPWD Commission to conduct a 2-year study of the effects of hunting deer with dogs. The regulation that permitted hunting deer with dogs remained unchanged pending the conclusion of the study. The study (Spencer 1986) documented that hunting deer with dogs was a volatile social and political issue with associated negative impacts on biological aspects of deer management. As a result of the 1984 study, the TPWD Commission reduced the season for hunting deer with dogs during the 1986-1987 hunting season to the last half of the regular deer season in the 10-county area where the practice was legal. This response was an effort to reduce the tension between landowners and sportsmen using dogs and to retain the traditional method of deer hunting with dogs.
Once again, public pressure to close deer hunting with dogs in eastern Texas and hunter pressure to allow use of dogs for the entire regular deer hunting season precipitated another investigation by the TPWD Commission. In 1989 a study was conducted to evaluate any changes that had occurred during the interim in sociological and biological aspects of hunting deer with dogs. The objectives of this study were to determine landowner and sportsmen attitudes toward hunting deer with dogs and to determine the magnitude and distribution of dog-hunting. As a result of these investigations, the TPWD Commission voted to prohibit hunting deer using dogs beginning with the 1990-91 season.
Campo, J.J. and G.E. Spencer. 1991. Regulatory response to deer hunting with dogs in eastern Texas. Proc. Annu. Conf. Southeast. Assoc. Game and Fish Comm. 45:235-240. (first two paragraphs of paper, quoted verbatim above)
(The 10 counties are Hardin, Harrison, Jasper, Newton, Orange, Panola, Polk, Sabine, San Jacinto, and Tyler.)
Virginia is a very pro-dog deer hunting and anti-property owner rights state. The below is an excerpt from a 2016 Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries report. The report even includes the dog hunting code of ethics and helpful info to the dog-deer hunter. Virginia’s Right to Retrieve (RTR) as per the last sentence below, has been a serious issue for private property owners as it effectively legalizes unwanted encroachment onto the property of another, and has frequently been used by the dog-deer hunting community to hunt property they otherwise had no permission to hunt.
Due to the distances covered during deer chases, high visibility, and frequent interactions with landowners and other outdoor users, deer hunting with dogs can be controversial at times. The Department receives complaints from residents and other hunters about trespass, violation of privacy, and interference from deer hunters who use dogs. Changing land uses, demographics, and societal attitudes are exerting pressures on the sport not seen a generation ago. Under the pretext of other legal pursuits, some deer hunters who use dogs may engage in activities that lead to conflicts with other citizens or that are viewed as objectionable by the public (VDGIF 2008a). For example, some hunters may chase game or disturb other citizens on prohibited lands under the guise of retrieving hunting dogs (Code of Virginia §18.2-136), chase deer out-of-season during year-round fox chase seasons (Code of Virginia §29.1-516), or road hunt under laws or ordinances which vary considerably by locality. A number of states permit retrieval of hunting dogs without landowner permission under certain conditions (e.g., on unposted properties), but Virginia appears to be one of only two states where hunters can lawfully retrieve dogs even when access has been expressly denied by the landowner.