Proposal would allow Oklahoma hunters to use dogs for tracking game
OKLAHOMA CITY — Jack Tracy of Norman became interested in using dogs to help recover big game after not finding a big deer that he once shot on a ranch near Vici.
“I happened to shoot a really large buck,” said Tracy, vice president of the Oklahoma chapter of the North American Versatile Hunting Dogs Association. “I felt like I got a pretty good hit. It ended up running off and leaving a pretty solid blood trail for a while and then we just lost it.
“It could have been in brush 50 feet from me and I wouldn’t have known because it was so thick in some places. A leash tracking dog will give you a lot better chance of locating a deer like that.”
Tracy and other hunters may soon be able to use blood-tracking dogs to find wounded deer if a proposed regulation is approved by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
If approved, hunters next season could use dogs to search for a wounded deer as long as the dog remains on the leash and hunters don’t carry a gun or bow with them while tracking.
“That keeps them from shooting at another one that pops up,” said Bill Hale, chief of law enforcement for the Wildlife Department.
Hale said the number of hunters interested in blood tracking grows each year. The regulation change has even been sought by state lawmakers in the past, he said.
Hale admits that some game wardens have given permission for hunters to track a wounded deer with a dog in the past, but there was no distinction in the regulations between tracking and hunting with a dog.
“It was a gray area,” Hale said. “It gets down to the definition of hunting with a dog. It’s against the law to hunt deer, elk, turkey with a dog. This just kind of clears it up a little.”
The Oklahoman reports that, under the proposed regulation, hunters would have to inform a game warden of the area they would be searching, Hale said. If hunters couldn’t immediately reach a game warden, they could just leave a message and proceed with the search, he said.
Tracy said the use of blood-tracking dogs to recover wounded game is common in Europe and now legal in the majority of states.
“Every state that borders Oklahoma does allow some form of it,” Tracy said.
Tracy would like to see Oklahoma hunters be able to carry a pistol while tracking in case a wounded animal needs to be put out of its misery. Some states do allow that, he said.
Hale, however, said there needs to be restrictions on tracking — such as keeping the dog leashed and not carrying a gun or bow — to keep people from hunting deer with dogs.
“If you throw it wide open, I can’t keep guys from dogging deer,” Hale said.
If a wounded deer needs to be put down after finding it, “you can go back and put the dog up and come back out there with your gun,” Hale said.
Tracy said many breeds of dog can be good trackers. Some are naturally better than others, but any dog trained in blood tracking has a better chance of locating wounded game, he said.
German Wirehaired Pointers, Pudelpointers, Wirehaired Pointing Griffons and Teckels, also known as Wirehaired Dachshunds, are versatile hunting dogs and popular breeds for blood tracking, he said.
Tracy sent a position paper to the Wildlife Department two years ago in support of legalizing blood tracking with dogs for big game.
“It will allow ethical hunters to recover wounded game that otherwise would be lost,” he said.
Tracy said there are about 40 members of the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association in Oklahoma, and he thinks many would be happy to assist hunters in recovering big game.
“They would be more than happy to come out and help folks if it was on a day and time they could come out and do it,” Tracy said. “Helping someone do that would kind of be a reward in itself for the handler of the dog.”
Also, snagging for paddlefish at night in northeastern Oklahoma would end under a proposed fishing regulation for 2017, except for Riverview Park in Miami.
Hale said paddlefish are doing so well that they have been found in new areas, and the Wildlife Department doesn’t have the manpower to cover both day and nighttime activities.
“Ninety percent of that activity (nighttime snagging) goes on in the park in Miami. We are leaving it open,” Hale said “We can concentrate where the main area is going on in the park, and we don’t have to spend all of our manpower scattered all over the country.”
Snagging for paddlefish would not be allowed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. under the proposed regulation.