Roaming dogs create a serious menace for deer hunters
I am a dog owner and a dog lover. I am also an avid deer hunter. I spend months of time and thousands of dollars planting food plots, clearing shooting lanes, setting up stands and scouting deer signs.
I do this for two reasons: to maintain a healthy deer herd on my leased property and to determine the best strategy that will put me in the right place at the right time to shoot a trophy buck or a doe for table fare.
The 2,500-acre property is approximately 60 miles from my home, so it is roughly a three-hour round trip and costs approximately $30 in gas.
I typically park a half mile from where I’m going to hunt and spend about 20 minutes sneaking in quietly. I then expect to sit motionless for two hours before having an opportunity to see a deer. This deer is traveling in its natural environment using its incredible senses of scent, hearing and motion detection to avoid me.
About 25 percent of the time I go through all of these steps to hear the extremely disappointing sound of dogs howling and chasing deer through my property.
These dogs are very rarely set loose on their owners’ property. They are intentionally set out on public roads or very small parcels of land with the dog owners’ intent to drive deer from neighboring properties for an opportunity to benefit from others’ expense and hard work.
The deer are unable to use scent, sight or hearing as they are being chased by howling dogs. They are typically shot at while on the run, dramatically increasing the chances of simply wounding the animal.
These dogs, for the most part, are not pets. They are not trained. They are simply kept in cages and set out to do what a beagle or hound instinctively does, pursue deer.
They have no knowledge of boundaries, of course, nor will they come to calls. They simply run and pursue deer until they are too exhausted to continue. Then they are located and caught by their owners.
Although I am not capable of shooting a dog, I completely understand how others would see no other option.
I have made numerous phone calls to the Department of Natural Resources and sheriff’s office and have never seen any enforcement or penalties to the dog owners. Most of the time there is no response at all. The dog owners are typically in their trucks miles away and never seen.
The last day of the season I found a dog with a GPS collar and a name tag. He was almost a skeleton from lack of food or health care. I was able to catch him and drove 30 minutes to the closest animal shelter in the hope that the owner would be investigated for animal abuse and neglect.
Later that day our hunt was ruined by no less than four separate packs of dogs in different areas of our property.
I was approached at the gate by one dog owner who asked if I had seen his dogs.
I asked him what property he was allowed to hunt and where the dogs were set out and was told three miles away. Three miles!
There is simply no way for the most responsible dog hunter to keep his animals on his property. This is why most of the largest land owners in the state, paper companies, no longer allow dog hunting.
As a “fair chase” hunter, I find it incredibly frustrating dealing with this menace. There is little to no law enforcement. What does a hunter do?
It is not the dog’s fault. The dog is simply doing what comes natural.
It is the dog hunter’s fault that his dog is trespassing on another’s property and the dog hunter should be prosecuted.
Until there is enforcement of these poachers and trespassers there will continue to be stand hunters killing trespassing dogs.
Isle of Palms