Deer Hunting with Dogs: Should We or Not?

As much as I’d like to fool everyone into thinking that I stay in the woods or on the water 24/7, I don’t. I’m pretty much like most everyone else. I have a job that requires quite a bit of time and a family that I enjoy doing things with. However, being in the outdoors is certainly a passion and my mind often wanders at times during the aforementioned. I’d also like to fool everyone into believing that I’ve got the whole hunting and fishing thing figured out. Once again, I don’t. I learn something new pretty much each time I go. I’ve also had the privilege of being around some guys that have forgotten more about the outdoors than I’ll ever know. A topic that I know very little about, and one that leaves me with all kinds of questions, is hunting deer with the use of dogs.

As I kid I would get to tag along with my great uncle from time to time on deer drives. At the time I’d never killed a deer, so each trip brought on excitement that this might be the day. We’d wake up early and load the dogs up in his truck in a special made aluminum box. Uncle Elvin had quite a few dogs back in those days. He had a few Beagles for rabbit hunting and three other dogs for deer hunting. Two of the three that he used for deer were also Beagles. The other one was a Blue Tick Hound, named Blue. If I’m not mistaken the two Beagles were named Charlie and Randy. Each dog was equipped with a collar with his contact information on them. Back then, we didn’t have GPS locators for dogs, or if there was such a thing, we certainly didn’t have the money to afford it.

Uncle Elvin was in a hunting club that bordered the Bienville National Forrest, so most of the time we’d go there for dog hunting. There were a bunch of members of the hunting club that would meet up for the hunt. A few of the other guys had dogs, as well, but Uncle Elvin’s dogs were usually the talk of the group. They had a reputation of jumping and running deer all across Smith County. I can remember on more than one occasion leaving the woods without ever retrieving the dogs. It always bothered Uncle Elvin when he couldn’t catch the dogs at the end of the hunt. He’d usually get a call later in the day, or a couple of days later, from someone that found the dogs. The two Beagles were especially bad about running deer for a couple of days at a time.

As a kid, I didn’t understand why Uncle Elvin would be so disappointed not to get the dogs back that morning. They always turned up later on, so what was the big deal? Now that I’m older, I understand it entirely. Uncle Elvin knew those dogs would end up on other people’s land, and that was never a good thing. Fortunately, he was pretty well known around Smith County and respected as a man that tried to do right by people. I’m sure he had a “run-in” or two over the years with angry landowners about the dogs, and I’m sure he did whatever was necessary to make things right. Now that I’m older, I probably relate to the landowner more than the dog hunter.

Before I go any further, I want to be clear that I’m in no way against the sport of hunting with dogs. I have some very fond memories of hunting with those guys as a kid. At times, I can still hear that old hound trotting through the woods on a crisp morning. His howl was music to my ears when he was on a hot deer trail. When it worked and a deer was killed (I never killed one), it was a very cool experience. On the other hand, I can absolutely see how it is bothersome to other hunters in the woods. One of the pleasures that I get from hunting now is silence. Living with four girls, the last thing I want to hear when I’m hunting is some yapping dog.

Hunting with the use of dogs, like everything else, has evolved over the years. Now the handlers have GPS tracking devices on them creating the less likelihood of not catching the dog after the hunt. Even with those devices, though, you can’t entirely be sure you’ll keep the dogs from venturing onto property not meant for dog hunting. There has been more than one occasion that I’ve been “still hunting” only to have dogs from a neighboring property push the deer right off of me. It’s frustrating when that happens, but there’s a lot of frustrating things that happen while hunting.

I’ve heard people speak of banning the use of dogs for hunting deer. While I’m not a fan of using dogs, it would be sad to see a ban take place. Mississippi has a long tradition of hunting with dogs, and the idea of getting rid of hunting traditions is worrisome. There is a Facebook group dedicated to hunting dogs in Mississippi and it has over 8,000 members, so getting rid of it isn’t a viable option, nor should it be. What has to happen to keep the cries for a ban from growing louder is a mutual respect of one another.

As we approach the season where the use of dogs is allowed, a couple of things have to be done right. For those, like myself, that choose not to hunt with the use of dogs, we have to understand that we aren’t the only ones embracing our way of hunting. Second, those that hunt with dogs must respect adjoining landowners that do not want dogs on their property. The State of Mississippi has arguably the most “hunter friendly” regulations in the country in regards to deer hunting. Let’s each do our part to make sure we keep it that way.

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