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Are Neighborhood Dogs Running Deer? What Hunters Can Do

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Are Neighborhood Dogs Running Deer? What Hunters Can Do

Posted 2023-12-08  by  Josh Honeycutt

Emotions can run high when roving canines mess up your deer hunt. Here’s how to resolve the situation peacefully and efficiently

Image: ImageBy_Alex_Zotov_dogs_running_deer

Dogs chasing deer can be a heated topic with hunters, landowners and dog owners. Image by Alex Zotov

For years, I’ve watched neighborhood dogs flash by treestands and trail cameras. And every time, I sit there and wag my head as they wag their tails. It’s frustrating, especially when such encounters ruin a deer hunt. But it can become downright infuriating when dogs start running deer.

I’m not talking about the legal running of deer by hunting dogs. Deer hunting with hounds still has a staunch following in parts of the South. Done legally, I have no quarrel with it. Rather, I’m picking at the scab of dogs habitually running deer — a hobby that shouldn’t be.

Of course, dogs don’t recognize property lines. Therefore, complete blame doesn’t fall on the dog. Much of it goes to the owner, especially if they’re aware of the issue.

So that begs the question: What should you do about neighborhood dogs running deer on your hunting land? Here are some options.

But first, a disclaimer: This is not legal advice. These are just considerations if you’re dealing with a situation in which dogs habitually run deer.

Q: How big and common is this issue?

If you encounter this situation, you aren’t alone. It’s quite common, and entire forums are dedicated to the topic.

“I usually get a few calls every deer season about dogs running deer, and for the most part, you respond in hopes of mediating the situation,” said Sgt. Dustin Burke, with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. “It usually ends up being a neighbor that just allows their dogs to run free and chase deer.”

Depending on the state, it’s also a crime for dogs to harass wildlife, which mirrors laws against dogs harassing livestock. Such states include Ohio, Texas, and more. When that occurs, if the dog owner refuses to stop the issue, law enforcement might be able to help.

Q: Is this a one-time ordeal?

A dog or group of dogs that chase a deer once isn’t automatically an issue. Dogs are dogs. They like to run and have fun. And most breeds have at least a smidge of prey instinct left in them. If they see a deer, they might run after it a short to moderate distance.

If that only occurs once, do nothing. Give the dog and its owner some grace. It isn’t worth your time or theirs to address it. And if it only happens once, is it even an issue?

Q: For repeated chasing, what should deer hunters do?

When dealing with this, react responsibly. “The right course of action is to call your local law-enforcement agency and game and fish [department],” Burke said. “The right course of action is to call the game warden and call the sheriff’s department. For instance, in Tennessee, there is a statewide leash law, actually.”


  • Speak kindly to the dog’s owners. Explain the issue. Ask them to take measures to keep their dogs on their side of the property line.

  • If they aren’t willing to cage or tie their dogs year-round, ask them to at least do so during critical times of year, such as just before and during hunting season.

  • Install fencing along problem borders. Cattle paneling starting at ground level or three strands of hot wire (with one close to the ground) hooked up to a fence-dedicated hot-fence box with a solar panel should do the trick.

Q: For repeated chasing, what should hunters not do?

There are many things you shouldn’t do when dogs are chasing deer. Sure, it’s a tense ordeal. But a cool head succeeds amidst a tumultuous situation.

Of course, Tennessee code and laws in many other states prohibit killing a dog — by bow, gun, trap, poison, or other methods — even if it’s chasing wildlife.

“As much as the urge to solve this problem comes to mind, do not injure or kill these dogs,” Burke said. “Because that also is against the law and will lead you to being in trouble legally and possibly civilly.”

Remember this checklist:

  • Often, problem dogs are strays. Don’t automatically assume they belong to someone.

  • Do not speak to the dog’s owner with attitude or disrespect. It’s wrong. And doing so will get you nowhere.

  • Do not trap the dog(s). This is illegal and wrong.

  • Again, do not kill the dog(s). This is illegal, and it’s immoral to shoot someone’s pet.

Obviously, this is a tense topic. Hunters and dog owners get heated when this issue arises. The best thing to do is stay calm. Think through the situation. Talk to the landowner. And call the authorities, if needed. Don’t take matters into your own hands. If you do that, things will only get messier.


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