Dogs vs. deer

I was out jogging with my dogs this morning when a big pickup pulls up and a guy rolls down the window and says, “You gotta keep them dogs chained up. There’s a big deer herd right over there, and my deer are gonna freak out.”

First instinct: Swear at him.

Second instinct: “YOUR deer? Do they have brands on them? Do you feed them and take them to the vet? Do they stay on YOUR land or trespass on the neighbors’ property? If they’re YOUR deer, why not put up a fence to keep them in and keep my dogs out?”

Third instinct: This mighty hunter apparently wants his prey to be so docile that come November, he can walk right up to them, pick out the 10-point buck he wants for his next mount, and drop it from point-blank range. What kind of hunter wouldn’t want deer to be accustomed to running from canines, as deer have been doing since the beginning of deer-time?

I said, “Okay,” and went on running. I don’t run that road often anyway and would prefer to stick to friendlier neighborhoods.

I’ve lived in the sticks for close to 20 years, and I’m well aware of the unwritten rules about dogs “runnin’ deer,” and the law of the jungle that allows hunters to kill dogs caught chasing them. I’ve learned to control my dogs or suffer the consequences.

I’m also aware that in many jurisdictions, including Mille Lacs County, where I live, there are dog ordinances that require dogs to be on a leash or continuously within range of and responsive to voice commands. I routinely violate that ordinance, as do most people in this neck of the woods, judging by all the dogs (friendly and otherwise) that come out to greet me as I jog down public roadways — including the Norwegian elkhound that took a bite out of my neighbor and had to be pulled off her by its owners — a dog that still runs freely into the road when I jog by.

But come on, there are extremes when it comes to violating laws (written or unwritten) and when it comes to enforcing them. Yeah, if a dog or pack of dogs develops a habit of chasing deer, the owners should do something about it or face the possibility that their dogs will be “disappeared.” But when you feel the right or the obligation to protect “your” deer from even an occasional encounter with relatively well-trained and under-control dogs, then you’ve got a problem.

Maybe my first instinct was the right one.


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