Friday, June 22, 2007

Dog Hunting

Heat from dog-hunting issue generates plan to take action
Friday, Jun 22, 2007 - 12:06 AM
By LEE GRAVES
TIMES-DISPATCH COLUMNIST

Denny Quaiff used to rank Sunday hunting as the most volatile issue among hunters. No longer. "Since this has been on the table, I've had more correspondence on this than I ever had on Sunday hunting," he said. The issue is hunting deer with dogs, and Quaiff, who is executive director of the Virginia Deer Hunters Association, is among a group of key players hoping to quiet the baying that's developed between various factions.

"Our position is to work with the [Virginia] Department of Game and Inland Fisheries on this and see if there isn't some way to improve the situation," he said. "We're not in any way, shape or form wanting to abolish deer hunting with dogs, but we recognize that there are some problems here and they need to be addressed."

Bob Duncan, director of the wildlife division of VDGIF, said he plans to propose at the July 17 board meeting that a process be initiated similar to the one used to develop the state's long-term deer and bear management plans.

The first step would be a series of focus groups to identify issues. Landowners, bear hunters, deer hunters, fox hunters - all will be considered, Duncan said.

Those concerns would be addressed by an advisory committee made up of a cross-section of stakeholders. Using technical support from VDGIF staff members, the group would draft recommendations that would be reviewed by the board and the public. A final report would follow that could include potential legislation to be considered in the 2009 General Assembly.

Duncan and his staff already have fashioned a proposed objective: "To provide a diversity of opportunities for hunting with hounds in Virginia in a manner that's fair, sportsmanlike and consistent with the rights of private property owners and other citizens."

The dog-hunting issue went from a bubble to a boil this spring. In April, the VDGIF Web site posted preliminary staff recommendations about regulatory amendments. Only one mentioned dogs, and it suggested using a tracking dog on a leash to retrieve wounded deer.

One citizen's recommendation, however, led to an online forum with hundreds of postings.

The issue gained momentum in board meetings and in a letter sent by the Virginia Deer Hunters Association to members in May. The letter cited regulations adopted in Florida and Georgia and legislative efforts in South Carolina.

"We've got the same issues alive and very well here in South Carolina that you do in Virginia," Charles Ruth said in a phone interview this week. He's deer and turkey project leader in South Carolina, where regulatory changes are determined by the state's legislature, not the game department.

State law for years has allowed deer hunting with dogs in South Carolina's Coastal Plain but not the Piedmont. As in Virginia and elsewhere, Ruth said, large tracts of land have shrunk, tightening the collar on the space that dogs have to hunt.

A bill introduced in the South Carolina Senate proposed changes akin to those adopted four years ago in Georgia. The measure rests in a subcommittee.

"I think that was more of a message being sent out that [legislators] are tired of hearing about the complaints," Ruth said.

Georgia's requirements essentially are three-fold:

  • Anyone owning or leasing property where dogs are to hunt needs a permit.
  • The property must contain at least 1,000 contiguous acres.
  • All dogs and vehicles used in the hunt must be identified with their permit numbers.

    Todd Nims, a Georgia wildlife biologist who runs the permitting program, said complaints have decreased since the regulations took effect.

    Last year, warning letters went out to two clubs out of 333 groups that had received permits on 398 tracts of land. That's less than 1 percent and consistent with the trend, Nims said.

    "There are certain clubs that have always been the problem, and those are the ones that are getting ferreted out," he said. "The ones that go out there and do things right have not been a problem whatsoever."

    In Florida, dogs and property must be registered, dogs must be kept on registered property and restrictions are placed on training periods.

    At the VDGIF board's March meeting, a Gloucester resident suggested following Georgia and Florida's lead because residential growth in parts of Virginia has created conflicts in densely populated areas.

    Quaiff is not comfortable with Georgia's 1,000-acre rule, but he acknowledges something needs to be done. Roughly half the association's members hunt with dogs.

    "It's the kind of thing we can't bury our head in the sand over," Quaiff said. "I think we can put something together that will be meaningful for everybody and preserve dog hunting in the right way for a long time."


    Contact Lee Graves at (804) 649-6579 or outdoors@timesdispatch.com.

  • 16 comments:

    Anonymous said...

    deer hunting with dogs is one of the best traditions in the hunting woods. to take that away would be robbing our children and their children of the opportunity to enjoy the woods the same way that we did when we were youngsters listening to our first chase with our fathers. the bond that is created between friends and family while running dogs is one that cannot be replaced. PERIOD. we cannot allow running dogs to be outlawed. remember, it is our job as outdoorsmen to obey the laws that are set in place, and by doing this we will continue our great tradition. dont let the government change our rules...also, dont give them a reason to, because if we give them and inch they WILL take a mile. and then its only a matter of time before we will be sitting in our living rooms on saturday mornings telling our children about the good old days they will never experience.

    Most Citizens said...

    I have hunted in virginia most of my life, and recently the attitude of most dog hunters has been less than kind to most landowners. There is a growing resentment of "outsiders" buying property in long held club hunting areas. Many dog clubs purposefully trespass of posted, private property because they know nothing can be done about it by anyone. They always say, "dogs can't read signs" and continue to break the law. Finally someone will force the hunters to read the signs and obey the laws!! I would not like to see dog hunting go away,.., but I would like to see private property rights upheld and individuals as well as groups held responsible for breaking the laws. Each hunting season dog clubs line the highways where I live shooting in the same roadways that motorists must use to travel to and from work, church, etc. It is so unfair for Virginia to allow private citizens to loose their rights and even their lives to rogue hunters. Amen, Amen, finally something might be done to bring common sense to hunting in Virginia!!

    Virginia Citizens Committee said...

    The Virginia Deer Hunters Association is really a pro-dog club. They pretend to act on behalf of all hunters, but they have one agenda, preserve dog hunting as it is!!

    50% of all dog hunters are great people; very respectable and great sportsman. The other 50% belong in Jail!! I am so tired of having dog hunters trespass on my farm purposely I could just scream. My wife and I cannot walk or let our grandchildren play outside of our yard for fear of being bitten by hounds or shot by hunters. It is truely pathetic that each year I loose my property rights to rogues and criminals. Keeping dog hunting alive and legal will be the biggest mistake the state of Virginia will ever make!!!

    Anonymous said...

    Twice now I have had dogs or dogs and their owner mess up a hunt. Sitting on private land both times when the dogs came through. Last Thursday in Spotsylvania I shot a nice little 6 point, I would normally sit and let the animal die. This time I had no chance. After the shot, I watched the deer stumble, turn and go back in to the woods from where it came. I heard the animal fall, and figured that is where I would find him, WRONG. Here come the dogs, got the deer up and ran him. Needless to say, he was never found. Dogs and deer drives should be outlawed. I have hunted here for 15 years, and in NC where dog running is also legal. I guess if dog running is outlawed, then people will still do it. This incident happened during Muzzle loader season which all of the above is illegal. Get out in the woods and hunt, don't let the dogs do it for you.

    Anonymous said...

    Although running deer with hounds has been a tradition for year in Va. Times have changed. Tracts have become smaller and the has been an increase in the number of none dog hunters. The days of muddy 4x4 with antennas wipping, dog boxes with blood dripping off the fenders in over. The importance of an individuals right to hunt without interuption from outside hunters ie...dogs to include a non hunting propert owner who does not want dogs on their property should be paramount. Remember when hound hunting was in is hay days 30+ years ago, land tract were much lager, Fewer hunters still hunted, and practically everyone who lived in out the country hunted. There are now many large homes and tracts out in the country that people have no interest in hunting.

    c.t. said...

    I laese several hundred acres on the eastern shore of virginia and have for over 20 years. Each year unwelcome dogs come on to my property and ruin my hunts. This is a violation of my rights! If they can keep their dogs off my property then there is no problem. They cannot.

    Chasin' Ain't Hunting said...

    Dog hunters are the most visible form of hunting in VA. They also cause most of the problems. We've all heard the reasons and justifications for their actions but it's time for a change and the madness to stop. I'm not against dog hunting but the laws need bite and rules need to be set and enforced. It's unfair to other forms of hunting that dogs can be trained out of season. The trespass law needs to be stopped to preserve landowners rights. I hope VDGIF is listening and most importantly acts quickly and decisively to fix the problems with dog hunting that have been a nuisance to others for years.

    Anonymous said...

    as a private land owner in stafford county - whos land is trespassed upon every year by dog hunters, I welcome any opportunity to place controls on the season. sadly, on the most recent violation, I called the hotline and when I described that I had dogs running across my private land the woman said "dogs can't read."

    ban it, or make a season for it. I like the laws in SC (1000 acre tract, permits, etc.) I'm tired of the lazy hunters poaching and trespassing.

    Anonymous said...

    I live in SC, and last Saturday was my first experience with the dog hunters. (I am not a hunter.)

    I was driving down a public road through my Father's property when I encountered what appeared to be a police stop or possibly a police checkpoint. You know, several trucks pulled over along the side of the road. When I approached them I was only going about 5 mph, so I quickly saw that they were dirty, camo-dressed men with shotguns. Thank goodness my doors were locked! Here in Columbia, we don't see that kind of thing.

    Well, it turns out that they were the dog hunters who have NO permission to be anywhere near my Father's property AND who have been asked to leave many times. They will not leave nor will they hunt elsewhere because they prefer to harass my 86-year-old Father and to fire their shotguns in the right-of-way or in the roadway as they see fit.

    What they will do is run away like little school girls when they are under observation, but, of course, these brave, courteous souls come back immediately when they think nobody is watching.

    They hunt in an area less than 1 mile from my parents' home. My parents are 86 and 82. To continue to do this after being asked to leave is pure harassment.

    As I said before, they have been asked to leave, but they keep returning. (Yes, we are sure they are the same people because they are local undesirables.)

    I saw them for the first time last Saturday, and I saw them violating the SC Code. What does that tell you? Unfortunately, though they have been reported numerous times, none of the game wardens have caught them violating any laws.

    It's probably a good thing for them that the season is over. I would hate to have to go hunt the dog hunters this weekend, but I would if they would be there. I would hunt them from sunrise to sunset with a long lens camera and gather as many photos as possible of every violation of SC state law I could see. Photos don't lie, so maybe that would help get rid of them.

    If there are good, reputable dog hunters out there among you, I assume you know that scumbags like these are giving you a very bad reputation.

    Maybe next season we will have to make ridding oursevles of this particular group of hunters a pet project. I can put up with creeps in public with shotguns far better than I can, or will, put up with creeps harassing the elderly.

    For your sake, I hope you don't do this, and I hope you don't condone the actions of those who do. After all, you never know when someone is watching you through a long camera lens.

    Anonymous said...

    And where are my rights? I get woken up early practically every weekend morning by hunting dogs barking profusely during deer hunting season! They're not on my land, but I can usually see them through the woods so they're that close to the house. Definitely nothing but a huge nuisance to me.

    Anonymous said...

    The only thing lower than a dog hunter is dung as far as I am concerned. I hunt in SC. The dog hunters drop their dogs at the NC/SC state line and then run them across private land/leased land. Every year, my hunt club has words with dog hunters. They see nothing wrong with what they are doing. They trespass to get their dogs. They shoot deer on land that does not belong to them. The state of SC tells us that we can catch their dogs and turn them over to the dog pound of our choice or keep them for 3 days and charge the owner for keep. Since "dogs cannot trespass" we have to endure this year after year. Of course, it is illegal for us to shoot their dogs. Yet it is perfectly legal for these dirt bags to defraud and deprive legal hunters of their hunting priviledges. Of course, some will claim heritage and history and honor when discussing dog hunting and hunters. Yeah guys in their beat up pickups driving up and down roads with TV antennas sticking out of the windows is heritage and history. Dog hunters have no honor and the states that allow the practice of dog hunting need to take a hard look at the practice before people start getting hurt. I for one feel like I am being robbed everytime I see the dogs run in front of my stand.

    Shawn from Chesterfield.

    Anonymous said...

    Interesting that we started talking about Virginia and ended up talking about SC and the negative side of Dog hunting. There is more at stake here than deer hunting no matter how we approach it. The thing called tolerance with your fellow man. I hear alot of slang names being given to the dog hunters. To those that are intolerant-I just call Bitchers.

    Anonymous said...

    This is not an issue of tolerance or intolerance. It is an issue of respect of the individual and of the law. I have personally only had negative interaction from dog hunters in SC. Many of the posts on this site complain about dog hunters that feel that private land is for their use with or without permission. If dog hunters as a whole, respected boundaries and laws, then this blog would not exist. It has gotten to the point that law enforcement cannot or will not enforce dog hunting laws. So to answer the last "Anonymous" post concerning tolerance. How tolerant would you be if you found me using you car for my personal enjoyment? That is EXACTLY what we are talking about. Has nothing to do with tolerance. Do not confuse the issue.

    As far as making the laws more like SC, we have the same problems that are mentioned above in VA.

    Shawn from Chesterfield

    Anonymous said...

    So rediculous it is almost funny. It would be funny if these trespassers didn't ruin perfectly legal hunts by law respecting people who don't mind walking to a stand or anything more than few feet from their pick-up trucks. I had my first day of rifle season ruined by one of these lazy folks 2 years ago when he stopped over a ridge about a 1/4 mile from me, got out, slammed his door, and I sat and listened to his CB radio blare away from that distance. I didn't sit long. I really thought it was time for him to go back to whatever town or city this slicker came from. But I guess I should be happy that he wasn,t parked along the road with all his outdoorsman (HaHa) buddies

    max said...

    I am a 54 year old outdoorsman who became paralyzed from the waist down after a fall from my tree stand in Botetourt county Va.. Being in a wheelchair now, and after a few tumbles down the mountain sides, I can no longer hunt our family property safely, after 44 years. My wife and I searched for small tracts of land that I could access with a wheelchair and was closer to our home in Va. beach. While looking for counties where dog hunting is prohibited, I soon discovered that only the counties in the mountains where accessibility is an issue for me fit the tab. So after looking for a few months I realized I would have to compromise. We found a 72 acre cut over that I could have paths made on and be able to access the rolling country side. After buying the land and having some paths made I soon realized the selfishness of a bordering property owner who had been using the property we bought for his, his wife's and their ratpack of so called deer hounds own free for all. We asked him if he kindly would keep the dogs pined up during non deer hound seasons and respect our rights as landowners as well as myself as a disabled hunter, who has enough obstacles while hunting without his hounds free roaming our land day & night. Thanks to trail cams, I have countless pictures of his hounds, any hour, of any day/night, running back & forth on the very paths I need for my wheelchair. Its abundantly clear that he, as a deer hound hunter /human being has no morals, respect for land owners, the disabled, wildlife or fellow hunters! I have talked to MANY wardens only to get the same line.The way the laws are written, hounds can run loose day,night,out of season, Sundays & holidays continuously with no restrictions by simply using the loosely coined phrase coon/coyote training.Unless there is a leash law in that city. My question to our local officials and V.G.I.F. department is, HOW CAN YOU LET THESE ROGUE DEER HOUND ________, make a mockery of THE STATE OF VIRGINIA'S GAME & INLAND FISHERIES DEPARTMENT!!! MAX

    Anonymous said...

    I am a life long hunter and rabidly defensive of hunting rights BUT hunting deer with dogs in Virginia needs to go or at least needs to be dramatically regulated. For instance, like other states that allow deer hunting dogs have done, Virginia needs to at least require minimum contiguous acreage (3000 acres) for a club to hunt deer with dogs. Not only are these clubs that run their dogs on small tracts and posted property pissing off non hunter and land owners, they are pissing off all the other hunters that choose to "still" hunt for deer. As a still hunter, I spend months preparing with my young son, teaching him game trails and sign, picking just the right spot to set up (on my own private posted property) only to have our hunt end within minutes of opening morning as packs of dogs move through my set up and my entire 200 acres. Almost immediately making the deer nocturnal and as a result another young person loses interest in hunting. Now to make matters worse, we have an exploding coyote population and an unprecedented number of rabies cases. I have tried to trap and set snares for them only to have the dog hunters gripe when their dogs get caught up in my sets and have found dog hunters sneaking on to my property molesting my trap line. It's my property, I pay the taxes on it, I am legally trapping and hunting on it only to have them try to take my trapping rights away also. I have heard it over and over... "my dogs can't read posted signs" and "I can't control where my dogs go"........ well if that the case, if they can't control or be responsible for their dogs, their property, then the deer hunting with dogs needs to go!! It is not my responsibility to provide and pay for their entertainment while they sit in their vehicles along the hard road with tracking collars to know where the deer are going and their CB radios. My 200 acres has 90 acres of woods. those woods are in the middle of 1500 acres of cleared tilled land. The dog hunters surround my place staying just off of the property line and release their dogs. There is nothing accidental about it. It is purposeful and malicious legal poaching of my property. The game warden recently told me that this issue comes up in the legislature every year and the law makers continually treat it like the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about. Its time to call them out and force their hands to stop this blatant abuse of land owners rights!