Is change coming? State proposes new hunting with hounds rules

Published 12:30 am Friday, May 31, 2024

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Should there be more rules controlling when and how you can go hunting with hounds in Buckingham County? How about in Cumberland or Prince Edward? The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources has introduced several new proposals and now want residents across the Commonwealth to weigh in. 

The 45-day comment period runs through July 5 on two proposals. The first, a requirement for dogs used for hunting to have a GPS tracker. The second would clear up issues for enforcement officials dealing with complaints about hunting with hounds on private property without permission.

“There has been a growing number of complaints department staff received in the field, during general public comment periods for Hunting and Trapping Regulation Cycles,” said Shelby Crouch. She works with Wildlife as a public information officer. “(And there’s been) a growing volume of comments made to Board members regarding hunting hound conflict with private landowners.”

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Crouch said the department first studied and attempted to solve the problems back in 2007. 

“Unfortunately, issues have persisted,” Crouch said. 

A Stakeholder Advisory Committee had been created to consider these issues, consisting of 12 members representing organizations that included state government, hunters, animal organizations and landowners, along with two representing local governments, one person representing a tribal nation and six individuals serving as at-large citizen representatives. That’s where the two proposals came from, this advisory committee’s work.

Proposals on hunting with hounds

While there were multiple proposals that grew out of the advisory committee’s findings, the DWR board opted to send just these two through for public comment. Let’s go more in detail on both. 

The first, as we mentioned above, would require deer and bear hunters to use GPS tracking on their dogs.

“It aids in dog recovery both by showing location of the dog and tracking the dogs’ movement patterns, which assists in predicting where the dogs may be going to help facilitate recovery at opportune places,” DWR stated in a document explaining the issue on its website. “It also allows a hunter, should they desire, to show where their dogs have been (and also have not been) over the course of a hunt if that is in question.”

The second proposal would require hunters to make a reasonable effort to keep hunting dogs off private land that they don’t have permission to use. That’s been a problem in recent years across this region and in Virginia overall. This past year alone, there were 749 calls about lost dogs showing up on someone’s property across the state. There were also 327 calls to law enforcement about some type of law violation. 

Historically, state and local regulations haven’t banned hunting dogs from being present on the lands of others in most circumstances. It states that the majority of deer and bear hunting with dogs occurs without the request for involvement of law enforcement.

“DWR’s Law Division does, however, receive complaints and requests for service related to hunting with dogs throughout the hunting seasons,” the website document stated. “During the past year, 2002 of 6,128 total calls for service for hunting complaints mentioned dogs. By far, the most common complaint received is hunting dogs being present on private land without landowner permission.”

Buckingham, Prince Edward labeled as ‘hot spots’ 

However, in the findings reported to DWR, hound hunters complained the issue is not widespread and instead occurs in a few “hot spots.” Parts of Buckingham, Prince Edward, Charlotte, Lunenburg and Nottoway counties were shown to be part of a Central Virginia hot spot, with between 130 and 336 complaints filed between Jan. 2, 2022 and Jan. 7, 2023.

Landowners suggest that the reporting of incidents is skewed because many instances are not reported due to a fear of retaliation and a lack of follow through by law enforcement.

This second proposal suggests use of a complaint or notice-driven process to avoid creating new requirements for unproblematic situations and to allow both hunter and law enforcement efforts to be concentrated on avoiding or resolving potential conflict situations.

The language in the proposed regulation states that someone found to have been hunting with dogs without permission to be on private property twice in a year would “create a rebuttable presumption that reasonable efforts have not been undertaken.”

“To ensure that the hunter remains judged by his or her actions, on the other hand, this presumption is rebuttable, and the hunter may demonstrate that reasonable efforts are being implemented,” according to DWR’s website. “Finally, receipt of landowner permission for the presence of dogs on the landowner’s property in connection with the hunter’s activities resolves any need for further action.”

There was not a consensus on either of the two regulations in the comment period by members of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee.

County supervisors haven’t read yet

Boards of supervisors in Charlotte, Lunenburg and Buckingham counties have not considered taking a stand on these DWR proposals, their respective county administrators noted. However, Buckingham supervisors did approve a resolution in February opposing legislation that would require permits or registration to hunt with hounds.

“The Buckingham County Board of Supervisors hereby expresses its strong opposition to any requirements of obtaining a permit to hunt with dogs and urges the state legislature not to adopt such a proposal in light of its potential impacts on local traditions, autonomy, and the well-being of our rural community,” the resolution reads.

Charlotte County Administrator Dan Witt noted that these types of complaints would usually be reported to the sheriff’s office.

“I occasionally hear from a property owner who would like the dog hunters to keep their dogs off their property and I occasionally hear from dog hunter advocates who enjoy dog hunting, and they talk in support of dog hunters’ rights,” Witt said Tuesday.

A request sent by the newspaper to DWR for comment and data showing the breakdown by county on trespass complaints involving dogs received no response. 

Submitting claims about hunting with hounds

DWR stated in a news release that the online comment system is the most efficient and effective way to submit views. Individuals may also submit comments by email at or mail them to the department at Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, 

Attn: Policy Analyst and Regulatory Coordinator, P.O. Box 90778, Henrico, Virginia 23228. Comments must be in writing and accompanied by the name, address and telephone number of the party offering them. Comments submitted by means other than the online comment system must be received no later than 4 p.m., July 5, the agency stated in the release.

Editor’s note: Now we know what the two proposals on hunting with hounds are. But what did the report requested by Wildlife Resources add? Is there an actual problem in Buckingham and the surrounding “hot spots”? We’ll take a look at that in the next edition.