Hunting dogs may trespass in Virginia — for now

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By the coming fall, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries wants to have a plan to address growing concerns from users of hunting dogs and complaints by property owners regarding the running of hounds across their lands. The result could have a devastating effect on dog owners but also could bring relief to landowners who have had to watch helplessly as strange dogs entered their properties, urged on by various hunting parties.

I know a little about this. A relative of mine lives on several hundred beautiful acres in Floyd County, west of the Blue Ridge. There are times when hounds, sporting painted-on numbers, run all over his pastures and woods, and he has no legal right to stop them, though you would think the law would be on his side. Not so in Virginia.

Not long ago, Florida and Georgia enacted new regulations to govern hunting organizations that use dogs. Is Virginia in line to do the same?

Although I find it difficult to believe, the Virginia Deer Hunters Association says the state has somewhere around 150,000 deer hunters who run dogs during the season. That would mean something like half of the deer hunters in the Old Dominion use deer hounds.

Either way, future rules might affect dog-using deer hunters as well as hunters who run dogs to target bears, foxes, rabbits, raccoons and other species.

I’m really on the fence about all this. For starters, I prefer to hunt deer without the help of a canine. I even object to deer drives, using human “beaters” to bring deer to waiting shooters. I’m a solitary deer hunter, as are most consumers of venison.

The question also must be asked whether a man’s private property rights are less important than a dog runner’s right to trespass. Neither man nor trained hound should be allowed to enter private lands without the owner’s permission. On the other hand, if tough new rules come down from the VDGIF, they might impede my plans to hunt cottontailed rabbits with the help of beagles, even though I can’t recall retrieving beagles from property on which we did not have permission to hunt.

As a hunter I’m afraid that none of these questions will have an easy solution.

New shotgun slug — The Federal Cartridge Company, makers of Federal Premium shotgun and rifle ammunition, is adding another Barnes shotgun slug to its lineup to offer rifled-barrel shotgun shooters a more accurate and aerodynamic option. The Barnes Expander Tipped Sabot Slug is said to be a long-range projectile that pushes the limits of shotgun slug technology and promises outstanding long-range performance. It will be available in 20- and 12-gauge loads.

Boating course — A course in boating skills and seamanship by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 72 will be given twice a week for eight weeks Monday and Wednesday evenings starting Sept. 5 at High Point High School in Beltsville. Among the subjects covered will be boating terminology, required equipment, legal responsibilities, trailering, fueling, boat handling, weather, charts, buoys, knots, lines and radio communications. The instructors are trained volunteers of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. The cost is $45 for books and charts. For details, call Steve at 410/531-3313 (after 9 a.m.) or e-mail him at tsktsk10@hotmail.com or call Jean at 301/779-3184.

A record king mackerel — A 63-pound, 1-ounce king mackerel caught by Susan Smith of Virginia Beach on July 14 has been certified as a state record. Smith caught the fish while trolling in the Atlantic off Sandbridge. The king mackerel, which measured 651/4 inches in length and had a girth of 26 inches, hit a green, mackerel-back Mirrolure. King mackerel are powerful swimmers and fighters. Smith’s trophy fish twice nearly took all of the line from her reel. The former state record was a 52-pound, 2-ounce specimen.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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