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Do I Need a Tracking Dog on my Hunts?

Hunting dogs have a long and storied tradition. Man’s best friend has had a role in helping hunt since before recorded history. However, in the late 19th century, regulations around hunting with dogs changed across the United States. For this article, we’ll largely focus on hunting deer with tracking dogs, but also consider reading our article on mountain lion hunting.

Hunting Dogs vs. Tracking Dogs

There's a distinction between hunting dogs and tracking dogs. Hunting dogs, or “hounds” flush out deer actively similar to a deer drive. Tracking or “gun” dogs track an already wounded animal via scent or blood trail. Hunting with hounds is very active and can involve up to a dozen hounds, multiple hunters in different roles, and occasionally motorized transportation or GPS tracking of dogs.

night vision view of multiple deer in fieldWhy Hunt With Dogs?

Dogs offer hunters an advantage due to their extremely sensitive senses. Dogs also are much more efficient forest travelers, saving hunters energy and time. Hunting with hounds is also is a more active and exciting pursuit. When hunting with hounds, hunters must shoot at mobile flushed deer rather than unaware, ranging deer. Hunting with tracking dogs offers a massive advantage in tracking wounded animals. Dogs can follow blood trails a hunter won’t even notice. Furthermore, a dog can a deer with its far superior sense of smell. Dogs can find a downed animal hours or even days after it was shot. Some hunters enjoy hound hunting for its exciting and adventurous nature. Other hunters enjoy raising and training hunting or tracking dogs. Some areas also have professionals who provide their dogs as an on call service.

man viewing night vision up closeIs It Legal in My Area?

Before deciding to hunt with dogs, it’s important to understand the rules. Most states ban the practice outright, while others require hunters to keep animals on a leash. Here is a resource detailing various federal and state laws around hunting dogs. Generally, southern states allow dog hunting, but some individual counties have bans or other legislation regarding the practice.

Is It Feasible In My Area?

Even if using dogs for hunting is legal in your area, there are more things to consider. It’s important to be courteous to other hunters, and dogs can disrupt other hunters with barking or their scent. Local landowners are also a consideration, as dogs may chase prey across property lines onto private land. Because it is so important to engage with landowners positively, keep this in mind before choosing to dog hunt. You can also check out other dog hunting tips on our blog here.