ROCK SPRINGS — A bill that would allow hunters to use a blood trailing dog to track big game has the support of local legislators and outdoors groups.
Rep. Stan Blake, D-Green River, who is the main sponsor of House Bill 73, said he got the idea from a Facebook conversation he had with his former high school classmate.
“He wondered why he wasn’t able to use dogs to try and find and recover wounded big game animals,” Blake said. “He said that Utah and Idaho allow it, as does every other state connected to Wyoming. I told him I would look into it and decided that it was a good idea.”
The bill is scheduled to be introduced for first reading in the Senate on Friday.
“I am very happy that it has made it this far and hope it passes the entire process,” Blake said.
House Bill 73 places conditions on hunters, including:
— Maintaining physical control of the dog at all times by using a leash.
“If you use a dog in this manner, you must maintain physical control of the dog at all times by means of a maximum 50-foot leash attached to the collar or harness of the dog,” said Rep. JoAnn Dayton-Selman, D-Rock Springs.
— Wearing fluorescent orange or pink.
— Attaching a proper coupon to the animal killed under the hunting license.
— A dog handler accompanying the licensed hunter that wounded the animal is exempt from the licensing requirements of the bill.
Blake said HB 73 will lead to the opening of dog tracking services in the area.
“If a Wyoming person had these types of dogs, they could offer their services to hunters,” he said.
Examples of blood tracking dogs include Bavarian Mountain Bloodhounds, dachshunds and mixed breeds like part beagle, part Walker hounds.
Dayton-Selman said she voted in favor of the measure, which the House passed after third reading on Jan. 22.
“Our hunters travel over some very rugged land in pursuit of big game,” she said. “After shooting the animal many times, it’s only injured and runs. Having a dog to track helps to ensure the retrieval of the animal.”
In a 5-0 vote Tuesday, the Senate’s Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee recommended moving ahead with the bill, which included an amendment to allow a hunter to use the dog for 72 hours.
The committee is comprised of Sens. Liisa Anselmi-Dalton, D-Rock Springs, Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, Tom James, R-Rock Springs, Glenn Moniz, R-Laramie, and Jeff Wasserburger, R-Gillette.
“I thought this was a great bill for the simple fact that this would help recover game that has been wounded so that way it can be harvested and it would help keep numbers accurate when the Game and Fish decide how many tags to give the following year,” James said.
Muley Fanatic Foundation President and CEO Josh Coursey said tracking deer and big game animals “is an art and often is a major part of the hunting experience.”
“But, for those tough tracking jobs, utilizing the services of a trained tracking dog may be a step in the right direction,” he said. “The bill’s language is clear on the uses and applications for the use of a dog in the recovery of a wounded or deceased big game animal.
“Misplaced shots, inclement weather, shooting at dusk and a variety of other factors can impact a hunter’s ability to successfully recover their kill.”
If allowing the use of a trained tracking canine to assist in locating and recovering a downed animal “is the difference between an animal being harvested or wasted, I would be in complete support of this measure,” Coursey added.
Anselmi-Dalton said HB 73 helps hunters retrieve game in a timely and efficient manner.
“I’ve heard from constituents who spent days combing mountains after a hunt, and there’s no need for that when there’s a better way,” she said.
She added that she amended the time limit from 48 hours to 72 hours “because it may be that the hunter wants to recover a trophy animal even if the weather is too warm to have the meat be safely harvested.”
“It also gives people time to work with outfitters or dog owners to ‘leave no trace’ after a hunt, and leashed hounds aren’t a danger to other hunters or wildlife, so there’s no reason to vote against it,” Anselmi-Dalton said.
Bill cosponsor Sen. Fred Baldwin, R-Kemmerer, agreed.
“It’s common sense to vote for an easy and safe practice that almost every other state has already instituted,” he said. “We’ve one of only five states that don’t already allow this, and hunters shouldn’t have to waste time and resources to finish their hunt.”
Wyoming Wildlife Federation lobbyist Jessi Johnson said the group worked with legislators to place stricter language around the bill to make sure the intent and the content matched.
“This bill can help with wounding loss and the hunters that make a kill shot, but for some reason cannot find their animal,” Johnson said. “The leashed part is important to us at the federation, as is the ‘maintain physical control of the dog at all times.’
“There is an hour restriction as well in place that gives the hunter a small window to use the dog and a mandate that it only be during legal hunting hours with the legal weapon of the season.
“If we can help hunters recover lost or wounded game and aid in the decrease of hunters taking a wounding shot but continuing to hunt, I think the overall effect for both hunter ethics and hunting opportunity will be favorable. Every state that touches Wyoming has something like this and we relied heavily on language from the states as well as best practices.”