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Landowners’ group to advocate for new regulations on deer dog hunting for 2016

Virginia Landowners Association (VLA) has announced the organization will be advocating for new regulations on deer dog hunting for the 2016 hunting season.

The state’s landscape has changed dramatically in the last 50 years with the population doubling, development booming and large tracts of land becoming less common.  The culture has also changed over the same time period and much of the non-hunting public is simply not as tolerant of hunting as they used to be.  At the same time, regulations governing hunting deer with dogs have not changed.  It is no surprise that the result is conflicts between deer dog hunters and landowners reaching an epidemic level throughout the state.

Virginia’s problems are not unique

Controversy surrounds deer dog hunting in all of the 9 states that still allow it to be practiced.  Deer dogs were banned from Louisiana’s Kisatchie National Forest in 2012, and deer dog hunters lost a subsequent lawsuit challenging the ban.  Timber companies have been responding to landowner conflicts by banning deer hunting with dogs on their properties going back over 10 years ago with International Paper ending it in some locations.  The trend is accelerating with Weyerhaeuser banning it in Northern Louisiana and Plum Creek Timber banning it on 72,000 acres that it holds in South Carolina for 2015.

Many states have responded to conflicts with new regulations.  Alabama and North Carolina allow deer dog hunting to be banned and/or regulated at the county level.  Both Florida and Georgia have implemented permit based systems where the permit to deer dog hunt is specific to an individual piece of land and can be suspended based on landowner complaints.  Georgia has the additional restriction of a minimum acreage requirement.

VLA’s solution

Aaron Bumgarner, VLA’s executive director, says “Let me be very clear, we support the privilege of deer dog hunting without infringement upon property rights.”  “In fact, many of our members and two of our board members are deer dog hunters that strongly believe the only way to protect the tradition for future generations is to adapt to the changing landscape”, Bumgarner adds.

The VLA believes a regulation modeled after Florida’s regulation is the right solution for Virginia.  The Florida deer dog permit/registration system requires mandatory registration of clubs or individuals planning to hunt deer with dogs.  All dogs must have a registration number on their collar and all hunters must have it in possession.  The expectation is that dogs are kept on permitted property.  If dogs stray onto neighboring property where they are not wanted, the landowner reports the permit number to game and fish.  The first complaint is a warning to the club and subsequent complaints come with fines, escalating to the club losing their permit should the problem persist.  If clubs have a good relationship with their neighbors and the landowners don’t mind trespassing dogs then there is no violation or consequence.  This system has been used successfully in Florida for 15 years. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission indicates the system has eliminated 90% of the conflicts that existed prior to implementation with no club suspensions occurring and license sales remaining stable or increasing after the system was implemented. The VLA believes the Florida model combined with a requirement used in other states that all dogs must have the club number displayed on their sides, will result in greatly reduced conflicts between landowners and deer dog clubs.
The VLA is hopeful that many in the deer dog hunting community will recognize that this type of regulation is in their best interest in the long run and support reform.  Bumgarner says “We look forward to working with dog hunters, the DGIF, legislators and landowners to create a meaningful solution that allows deer dog hunting to continue while respecting the rights of landowners.”

Additionally, the VLA plans to advocate for a uniform statewide law addressing road hunting, which VLA says is another source of significant hunter/landowner conflict.  Lastly, the VLA feels that stiffer penalties are needed for game law violations to act as a deterrent, especially those involving public safety and property right infringement.

About the VLA

The VLA is a grass roots organization focused on protecting private property rights.  VLA’s membership spans the Commonwealth and consists of landowners of all size and purpose.  They are a pro hunting organization and one of their primary goals is to reduce conflicts between hunters and landowners.

The Virginia Landowners Association can be found on Facebook at

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