Dogs play a critical role in the sporting community. One important role, blood tracking, is the practice of using dogs to assist in the recovery of harvested game. Contrary to the name, blood tracking dogs are employed when there is very little blood to track and instead find harvested game following its scent. The use of blood tracking dogs greatly increases the chances that a hunter will recover harvested game.
Beyond their reputation for being man’s best friend, dogs play many critical roles in the hunting world. One important role, blood tracking, is the practice of using dogs to assist in the recovery of wounded game. Contrary to the name, blood tracking dogs are employed when there is very little blood to track, and instead. find wounded game following other scents. The use of blood-tracking dogs greatly increases the chances that a hunter will recover wounded game that otherwise may be lost.
The use of blood tracking dogs has always been legal in the majority of the Southern states, whereas many Northern states outlawed the use of blood tracking dogs in the late 1800s. Over the past 25 years, however, this ban has been lifted in 15 Northern states.
Points of Interest
- Blood Tracking is allowed in 43 states.
- Blood Tracking is allowed under certain circumstances in one state (CA).
- This practice is not allowed or has unclear regulations in 6 states (AZ, CT, MA, NV, OR, RI).
- A study conducted in South Carolina found that of the 493 deer that were harvested in the study, almost 20 percent were only located as a result of the use of blood tracking dogs.
- West Virginia passed legislation in 2020 that authorized the use of leashed dogs to track mortally wounded deer or bear, and in 2023, West Virginia authorized the use of leashed dogs to track mortally wounded elk, turkey, and wild boar.
The following legislation was successfully passed through their respective legislatures. To increase the chance of pro-tracking dog legislation to pass, the below language may be used as a model when drafting legislation:
- Virginia Title 29.1, § 29.1-1516.1: “Tracking dogs maintained and controlled on a lead may be used to find a wounded or dead bear or deer statewide during any archery, muzzleloader, or firearmbear or deer hunting season, or within 24 hours of the end of such season, provided that those who are involved in the retrieval effort have permission to hunt on or to access the land being searched and do not have any weapons in their possession.”10
- Colorado Chapter W-0 Article IV #004: “A leashed dog may be used as an aid in locating and recovering wounded big game wildlife, except for black bears, with the purchase of an annual tracking permit…A dog may only be used to pursue or locate wounded big game during legal big game hunting hours. Provided, however, that such pursuit may continue after legal big game hunting hours if the handler contacts and obtains the permission of a Wildlife Officer before continuing such pursuit…The dog must be leashed at all times and cannot be used to kill, chase, or harass wildlife.”
Exhausting all available resources when tracking and recovering game is one of the cornerstones of hunting that all ethical sportsmen and women share. It is recommended that legislators in states with bans or limitations on the use of blood tracking dogs consider lifting these restrictions, as the use of blood tracking dogs increases the chances that hunters recover their game.