Sunday, February 7, 2010

The dog-hunting debate and fair chase

The following is a link to an article from North American Whitetail about the hunting of deer using hounds as is practiced in the American South.

I'll include some excerpts here.

Does the use of hounds to hunt deer violate the norms of fair chase? Why or why not? Is the use of hounds to hunt deer below the threshold of what "ethical hunters" should tolerate or support? Should there be a national prohibition against the hunting of deer with hounds?

To some, hunting whitetails with dogs is a rich tradition that has been around since colonial days, and for those hunters there is nothing more exciting than hearing the music of the dogs as they get on the trail of a deer. To others, hunting deer with dogs is an annoying and outdated method of hunting that ought to be outlawed. Here is an in-depth look at dog deer hunting in America today.

According to archeologists and historians, man has used domesticated canines to hunt wild game for as long as 15,000 years. When European settlers reached North America in the 1600s, they brought their hunting dog traditions with them. Experts believe that the first authentic pack of hunting dogs in the colonies was established by Robert Brooke of Maryland in 1650.

But hunting with dogs in early North America represented a tectonic cultural shift away from the European style of hunting. For centuries in Europe, hunting wild game was a diversion available only to the rich and powerful. Game animals traditionally belonged to royalty and the landed gentry. Peasants caught "poaching the King's deer" often met their fate at the end of a hangman's noose.

In the colonies and later in the newly independent United States, wild game belonged to all free white males, regardless of their wealth or social class. Unfortunately, women and people of color had no similar rights, but that injustice was eventually rectified. The influx of Scotch-Irish immigrants to America in the mid-1700s ushered in the use of trained hounds to hunt so-called "Virginia deer" in Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

But storm clouds began to gather early for dog-hunting in America. (Note: Hunting deer with dogs is commonly referred to as "dog-hunting.") In 1738, the Virginia House of Burgesses passed a law that required owners of deer dogs to keep their animals confined except when they were actually involved in a deer hunt. In 1876, Wisconsin became the first state to ban dog-hunting altogether. The bitterly debated Adirondack Deer Law of 1888 imposed tight strictures on dog-hunting in New York. By 1920, all of the Northeastern states had outlawed dog-hunting for deer.


As many deer hunters know, dog-hunting can be highly effective. By 1900, whitetail numbers were at an all-time low. Thanks to conservation efforts, the ever-resilient whitetails made a dramatic recovery in the last century. Now there are an estimated 30 million "Virginia deer" spread across 45 states.

Today, 11 states still allow deer hunting with dogs. However, two of the states, California and Hawaii, have no whitetail populations, and state game management officials tightly control the use of dogs to hunt axis, blacktail and mule deer. So the last bastion of dog-hunting for whitetails is found in nine states that were once part of the Old Confederacy: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Another former Confederate state, Texas, allowed dog-hunting until 1990, when it was banned due to a flood of complaints from landowners and non-hunters. Incidentally, Texas now has an estimated 4 million whitetails, which is the largest population in any individual state or Canadian province.

Deer hunters who believe that their sport is under attack may be surprised and pleased to learn that the country as a whole still overwhelmingly supports the preservation of our hunting tradition. An extensive 2008 public opinion survey indicated that 78 percent of Americans approve of continued legal hunting for wild game. Unfortunately, the same poll showed that support for dog-hunting is dangerously low.

Read the rest of the article here. Enjoy.


  1. In Ives book, "George Magoon and the Down East Game Wars", he describes why hunting deer with dogs was outlawed primarily because it was used by market hunters. The market hunters were so outraged at the law they attempted to murder the newly hired wardens that were trying to enforce it.
    The description of deer and bear hunting with dogs in Faulkner's "The Bear" seems like fair chase to me. Just as hounding bears in northern New England has plenty of fair chase, so it seems to me using dogs in the swampy and thick south would be also. There could be an issue with clean kill in shooting at running deer. But with practice and restraint it could be overcome.

  2. If you want some interesting reading head over to
    Here is the post that got 'em going at each other's throats:
    I want to become the most responsible, ethical hunter I can, and thanks to this forum I have learned how to hunt the "right way".

    Here are a few:

    - Hunt only with the most primitive weapon possible, anything else is not “hunting” so all firearms and compound bows are out.

    - The absolute quickest means of killing the animal must be used at all times, anything less of instantaneous death is unethical. So archery equipment is out.

    - Do not discuss, share, show anything related to the animal I take, or god forbid “preserve” any part of the animal as this process is considered “bragging” and is highly unethical.

    - Do not kill anything less than a trophy animal, because to do so is too easy, and just isn’t hunting.

    - Do not kill a trophy animal because it is widely known that if you do, your not going to eat it.

    - Find what area of the state is “mine”, there should be no one else there using this land for there activities, because again, this is MY land.

    - Do not use any type of a motorized vehicle as the trails it leaves are way worse than game trails, which is not a concern since the only way I should be able to hunt is if I live in the bush year round anyways.

    - Do not use any “high tech” gadgets, to do so renders you incompetent of “real hunting”

    - When the fish and game state I can shoot 15 birds, they really mean one.

    - If the limit is 15, I am going to kill 15 each and every time.

    - I should be able to kill any animal, as many as I want, whenever I want, for whatever reason because it is my right.

    - When hunting, I should not kill any animal, since the purpose of hunting is just to enjoy the outdoors, and I am a hunter, not a killer.

    And on it goes...

  3. These are the very same issues that our bear houndsmen faced about 15 years ago in Vermont. Landowner complaints about dogs on their property and hunters in 4 wheel drives trying to retrieve them or get to treed bears. Our solution was to restrict the number of out of state packs to 10% of the registered VT packs. By reducing the numbers the complaints dropped and most could live with it. Not the best solution if your looking to keep the number of hunters up or looking for more license sales...

    "There is no requirement for dog registration or identification, and errant dogs may be legally retrieved from private property. Much to the chagrin of South Carolina landowners, the SCDNR has no legal authority to act on dog trespassing complaints.
    "At the root of the problem," Espy wrote, "is a competition of values between dog-hunters and landowners. While dog-hunters are aware that issues of property rights are involved, many dog-hunters feel that such rights are not as important as preserving a Southern tradition. . .
    An old aphorism holds that the best solutions are those that leave all interested parties equally unhappy. As we have seen, there are plenty of unhappy dog-hunting stakeholders across the Deep South. The visceral disagreements between dog-hunters and landowners cannot simply be papered over. It is clear that there are elements of class warfare between the modern-day dog-hunting "peasants" and the "feudal lords" who control vast expanses of hunting land. Such resentments run deep, and they cannot be legislated or regulated out of existence.

    But Florida and Georgia seem to have set the example for how to reconcile the conflicting interests of dog-hunters and landowners. In both states, legislators, regulators and stakeholders moved quickly to formulate and implement "rules of the road" that all interested parties could tolerate, at least for the foreseeable future."

  4. I was never a big fan of dog hunting, but I never really cared if somebody else wanted to do it, either. To each their own. However, after moving to North Carolina from Maryland (where there is no dog hunting), I can appreciate why Southern hunters use this tactic. I recently joined in on a lease in the mid-eastern part of the state, and it is swampy and the cover is thick. This lease is in the third highest-producing county in the state, yet while still-hunting this year, I can count the number of deer I saw with both hands, and have a few fingers left over. There is no doubt in my mind that had we been hunting with hounds, our success rate would have doubled (If you measure success by number of deer killed, that is). I'll stick to my still hunting, because I don't like the noise or shooting at running deer with buckshot, but I won't fault the guys that want to hunt this way!

  5. Running deer with dogs violates personal property rights. Period. If your dogs are on my property we have a problem. Until dog hunters learn to keep their dogs off of others private property, I will worked hard to see this practice banned in NC

    1. There is no way any respectable legal authority that can justify dog hunters releasing their dogs and allowing them to run (trespass) over multiple landowners properties especially when some of those landowners manage their land for deer hunting. I'm not totally against dog hunting but it has gotten extremely out of control, I would rather see it banned.

  6. Anonymous 2/18 - You hit a tough issue for the folks who like to use dogs. Is it possible to control them or the critter they get chasing?
    How does the law in NC read on dogs on private land?

    1. no, but it is easy enough to have the dog on leash and not chase the animal over someones property line! Fixed the dog running problem that easy, didn't I?

  7. I am not agree with the dog hunt because i like them so much.

  8. I dont have a problem with hunters hunting with dogs, but I do have a problem when the dogs running all over evrey property in the area and still hunters can't hunt in peace. If dog hunters have the right to listen to that noise then still hunters should have the right to not to listen to it....After dog season comes in you might as well hang it up for still hunters because those dogs make the deer move at night....How is that fair?

  9. Most dog hunters are basically road hunters and road hunting is illegal. They have no ethic or concern for others. I'm tired of dogs running all over my 1500 acre lease and will take care of it my way. The government should outlaw dog hunting deer.

  10. If ANYONE pro-deer dog could reside on my farm for one deer season in Va, they would leave with an anti-dog sentiment, all because of one greedy local hunt club that has thousands of acres of their own, but insist on encroaching their dogs onto smaller, privately-owned posted properties. This past week, they intentionally killed a neighborhood pet albino doe that had been around here for 3-1/2 years. They had told a neighbor last year that they would not kill it, but did so last week and then "paraded" it on the back of a truck in front of the very ones who didn't want it killed. Of course they're members of one of those "dog alliance" groups to protect their rights to hunt with dogs, too. This albino spent her entire life on posted property(mine included), but those deer dogs "can't read"(famous excuse)

  11. No doubt, everyone has their own opinion of what where and why, but the regulations allow us all to enjoy our own version or tactic used to hunt. I personally grew up hunting with dogs and do my best to respect others land. The problem for arises when an area predomimately used by dog hunting clubs for years, is now being envaded by "professional still hunters" who are anti dog hunting. They rent 200 acres out of the 5000 acres that lays within the dog hunting area, and then tell the dog hunters to keep out, shoot and kill the dogs running through the property and etc, etc all in the name of killing a "trophy" as seen on television.

    TV has created the modern professional still hunter who doesn't hunt for the meat, but for the trophy. I respect the fact that they only want the trophy, to each his own, but don't envade my rights and tell me how to hunt or how to feed my family. The same areas that have outlawed hunting with dogs, or even hunting all together, now beg the game and fish commissions to allow small groups of hunters to kill and remove the deer herds from their areas. Their gardens and landscaping is being destroyed and now have to fence in their property to protect it. The simple use of vehicles on the roads or "accidents" in the urban areas is not enough to thin the herds.

    Maybe our definitions of hunting have changed over time, but common sense is a trait we are born with, but don't always use.

  12. To be honest, most of the conflicts with landowners and hunters could be resolved through regulations.

    If dog-hunters want to keep their traditions, then they should really take a hard look at Russia, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia and other countries which have deerhound-hunting cultures and still retain them into the 21st century.

    One aspect would be forbidding animals being shot within 100 meters. Another aspect would be forbidden the use of motorized vehicles during the hunt itself, and can only be used for transporting to and from the hunting grounds with permission of the landowner. Another one would be making mandatory to pass the shooting tests. In some of those countries, the size of the pack is limited from anywhere between 2 to 6. Usually only one dog is used though.

    Unfortunately, by not looking at legislation from other countries or other states and provinces, houndsmen generally shoot themselves in the foot when they try to defend their stance against the non-hunting public.

    1. Sorry, within 100 meters of the road.

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