The Legalization of a Leashed Dog To Track Wounded Deer in Iowa

The use of a leashed dog to help recover wounded deer in Iowa is still not allowed. I have been working to try and get it legalized about 4 years now. When I first started this process it was recommended to go through a petition process and present my case in Des Moines to the Natural Resource Committee. At that time wildlife rules could be adopted through a petition process. I did that and was happy as the petition was unanimously approved by the committee. I was then asked by the Iowa DNR if I would wait until the following year to move forward with this rule as the hunting season was fast approaching and there wouldn’t be enough time to get everything done that year. Wanting to work with the DNR I agreed to do so. Unfortunately a new Governor was elected in January and he decided he was going to do away with the process I had successfully worked hard on. If I would have not agreed to wait until that next year I believe tracking with a leashed dog in Iowa would have been a done deal back then.

Since then I have been going through the Iowa legislation trying to get this done. To say it has been a frustrating job is an understatement. Although the overwhelming majority of Iowans support the use of a leashed dog as a tool to help recover a wounded deer that the hunter cannot find, the committees in the legislation seem to listen to a few vocal minorities, and come up with enough  concerns to not move forward. This year the proposed bill was labeled HF 90. It did not make it through the first funnel date.  I was told the concerns were that using  tracking dogs would scare away deer because of the noise and the fact they would be running through the woods chasing the deer. They felt it would ruin the hunting area. If a dog is on a leash as the rule is written it is not going to chase deer through the woods. That is not how it is done. If a hunter hits a deer and cannot find it they are going to grid search, probably with a few friends to help and look for the deer. Using a leashed dog to search for and recover a deer is probably going to dirty a smaller area because a dog will stay tighter to the line and not spread out as much. At any rate whether you’re using a dog or not it will take a few days for the scent to die down depending on the weather.

It is legal to track wounded deer in 36 other states. South Dakota is the latest state to legalize it. The states that allow it surrounding Iowa are Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri,Nebraska, and South Dakota. If you live in Iowa and want to allow tracking please take the time to contact your legislators. You can find them at  One of the key people to contact would be Representative Henry Rayhons. He is the chair of the Iowa Natural Resource Committee in the Iowa House. He is the leader of that committee and has refused to move this forward for a vote in the house the last 2 years. He can be reached at or ph# 515-281-3221. I am continually told that I am one of the only people they hear from.