Contact: Joe Mullin, Assistant Manager, Northeastern States
Why it Matters: Across the nation, dogs play a crucial role in the hunting community. Whether tracking game, pointing and flushing upland birds, or retrieving downed waterfowl, they serve as a valuable asset to sportsmen. Working with dogs is a cherished part of the hunting tradition for many; thus, sportsmen and women often dedicate significant time and money into the training and upkeep of their dogs’ skills. In New Hampshire, dogs are a regular part of the hunting culture and play a vital role to dog trackers (who work on a voluntary basis), and to sportsmen in the field and on the water. Curbing the training of a sporting dog not only dulls its skills going into the hunting seasons – it runs the risk of putting the dog in significant danger. Training dogs with the use of wild game allows the dog to replicate the exact conditions that it will face in the field, affording it the opportunity to better develop the requisite skills needed.
On December 14, the New Hampshire Fish and Game (NHFG) Commission’s Legislator Committee and Strategic Planning Committee convened at the NHFG Department headquarters in Concord, NH to take positions on legislation that will be forthcoming in the 2022 regular sessions. As part of its discussion, the Commission voted 9-1 in opposition to House Bill 1308 (HB 1308). This legislation would upset the way in which sporting dogs are trained by prohibiting individuals and dog clubs from the live taking of wild snowshoe hares or rabbits for the purpose of using them for dog training, to stock a training site, or in field trials.
In New Hampshire and across the nation, sporting dogs are commonly trained over live, captured rabbits and/or hares under conditions that simulate situations the dog will see while hunting or taking part in a field trial. The use of these rabbits and hares is also an important component to field trials, during which a dog’s ability to perform under hunting conditions is both tested and scored. The value and ethics behind preparing a dog for the elements it will see in the field is something that cannot be adequately replicated without the use of live game. Similarly, there is something to be said for the effectiveness of hunting over a dog that has spent considerable time with such training.
By prohibiting the use of wild hares and rabbits for dog training, to stock a training site, or in field trials, HB 1308 will have two likely effects: it will send undertrained and underqualified dogs into the field in the pursuit of game, and it will drive a significant portion of New Hampshire’s dog training business into surrounding states, such as Maine and Vermont. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted testimony to NHFG Executive Director Scott Mason for distribution to the Commission members, highlighting the above-mentioned points.
CSF will continue to fight to protect opportunities for sportsmen and women to better train their sporting dogs for hunting seasons and field trials. Updates on this issue will be provided as they are available.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?