What’s the Deal with Using Dogs to Recover Deer in Iowa?

Contact: Kent Keene, Lower Midwestern States Coordinator

Following the passage of House File 2455 (HF 2455) at the end of the 2020 legislative session, Iowa State Representative Steven Holt introduced House File 23 (HF 23), which would amend the laws surrounding the use of leashed dogs to assist in the recovery of wounded deer. The purpose of HF 23 is to repeal the requirement that both the dog and the handler assisting in the recovery of a wounded deer must be trained in blood tracking. While there are certainly training methods that can be used to allow both the dog and the handler to be more successful in their efforts to recover deer, there has been confusion surrounding this requirement as it is currently included in statute.

The use of leashed dogs to assist in the tracking of wounded deer has been a priority for many Hawkeye State sportsmen’s groups for several years, ultimately leading to the passage of HF 2455 in 2020. Originally introduced as HF 657, the initial language of this bill required the dog and the handler to be certified in blood tracking. However, a certification program to meet this requirement currently does not exist in Iowa or other states that allow the use of dogs to track wounded deer. Instead, the legislature, led by Iowa Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Representative Tom Jeneary and sponsored in the Senate by Caucus Co-Chair Senator Chris Cournoyer, introduced HF 2455 which removed this certification and simply stated that dogs and handlers be trained in blood tracking techniques. However, even this requirement has caused confusion among those interested in utilizing their four-legged companions in the recovery of game. 

Ultimately, the purpose of this law is to allow hunters to exhaust all available resources in their attempt to recover game and put meat on the table. Given the lack of a universal training program in blood tracking techniques and the difficulty in enforcing the provision, HF 23 seeks to remove the confusing and unnecessary requirement from statute.

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