2019 Whitetail Report: Laws on Deer Tracking Dogs by State


For states that still don't allow dogs for the purpose of blood trailing wounded game, it's a shame. Anything that makes us more ethical should be a permitted. (Shutterstock / NSC photo)

Deer hunting is filled with highs and lows. The highs are great. But the lows really aren’t. One such low is when you shoot a deer and can’t find it. Hours of searching. Acres of land combed and grid-searched. It can be all for not if you don’t (or can’t) deploy a dog. Their value in such a situation is invaluable. With a nose 100 times greater than our own, (approximately 300 million olfactory receptors), we really don’t compare. Sadly, not all states permit the use of this resource. The Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) recently discussed this topic in the 2019 Whitetail Report.

The inability to locate a wounded game animal is devastating to a hunter, QDMA said. Irrespective of skill level, most hunters will at some point in their hunting career be unable to find an animal they have wounded. Rain, terrain and several other factors can play a role in these unfortunate situations. Regardless of cause, hunters and policy makers have a moral and ethical responsibility to do everything in their power to make sure every wounded animal is recovered.

That’s where the use of dogs to recover wounded game comes in.

We surveyed state and provincial wildlife agencies to learn where tracking dogs are allowed to locate wounded game, and, if they are permitted, whether they had to be on a leash, QDMA said. Their use ranges from about half of the states in the West to all states in the Southeast. In total, 35 of 48 states (73 percent) allow tracking dogs, and 25 of those states (74 percent) require the dog to be on a leash in at least some situations. A few notes include South Carolina requires a leash in some areas but not others, tracking dogs are allowed in all of Texas except 10 counties, and Maine requires a permit to use a tracking dog.

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So, what states fall into which category?

States that permit the use of a tracking dog include: Utah, Arizona, Nebraska, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Michigan and Delaware.

States that permit the use of a leashed tracking dog include: California, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

States that do not permit the use of a tracking dog include: Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, West Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

For states that still don’t allow dogs for the purpose of blood trailing wounded game, it’s a shame. Anything that makes us more ethical should be a permitted. If you hunt in a state that doesn’t recognize this ethical practice as a legal resource, contact your representatives. Talk to your wildlife agency. Make a change.

2019 Whitetail Report

  1. New Antlered Buck Harvest Statistics
  2. The States Tagging the Youngest and Oldest Bucks
  3. Deer Disease Updates
  4. Where Deer Urine Is and Isn’t Banned
  5. Laws on Deer Tracking Dogs by State
  6. New Deer-Related Automobile Accident Trends
  7. Where Most Non-Resident Deer Hunters Are Going Now
  8. The Current Status on Deer Processing
  9. What Fawn Recruitment Rates Look Like Today

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>