VDGIF releases deer-dog hunting report

Published 2:17 pm Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Dog-related complaint rate

Dog-related complaint rate

After receiving complaints from the Virginia Landowners Association, board members from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries in October requested a report for the upcoming January meeting on the issues surrounding deer-dog hunting and potential options to address any issues between hunters and landowners. The VDGIF released that report on Thursday, which borrows heavily from the “2007-2009 Hunting with Hounds in Virginia: A Way Forward” assessment.

“With the public interest being as consistent as its has been, they’ve requested some background information on hunting with dogs, the history and laws associated with it and the issues that the different agencies, hunters and landowners have faced,” VDGIF Communications Manager Lee Walker said.

The report cites the Virginia Deer Management Plan as to why it does not recommend that the board make any regulatory or legislative actions as requested by the VLA.

“[It] directs the VDGIF to preserve the heritage and tradition of hunting deer — including with dogs — for both management and recreational benefits, while ensuring that hunting methods are consistent with and respect the rights of private property owners and other citizens,” the report said. “Deer hunting with dogs is an important tradition and deep population management tool in eastern Virginia, but it can generate concerns from other hunters and landowners regarding ‘trespassing’ dogs and hunters and hunting from or near roads.”

The report stated that the VDGIF received more than 5,400 hunting complaints from July 2014 through June 2015, but only 255 involved dogs. There were 182 total complaints — seven involving dogs — in the City of Franklin and Southampton and Isle of Wight counties.

“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 report continued. “Changing land uses, demographics and societal attitudes are exerting pressures on the sport not seen generations ago.”

Eight other states in the southeast — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina — allow deer hunting with dogs, and those that do not cite landowner conflicts as the primary factor for its restriction.

The VDGIF does not have the authority to pass regulations on hunting, but recommends that several potential strategies to address the conflicts between dog hunters and private property owners. This includes, but is not limited to, using surveys to identify and describe deer hunting activities that may result in conflicts; developing and implementing educational programs to help reduce conflicts; and establishing a dialogue between deer hunters and landowners who experience problems.

The report will be open to public comment at the VDGIF’s meeting in Henrico on Thursday, Jan. 21. It is also available online at http://blog.wildlife.virginia.gov/outdoor-report/2016/01/a-report-on-deer-hunting-with-dogs/.