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Pennsylvania Sportsmen Fight to Allow Tracking Dogs for Deer Recovery

Andy Bensing uses his trained wire-haired dachshund to recover mortally wounded deer for hunters. He takes about 40 calls a year from New York and Maryland hunters who have been unable to find deer they believe to be mortally wounded. Unfortunately Andy is unable to help hunters find wounded deer in his home state of Pennsylvania.

Like most volunteer trackers, he is passionate about working with tracking dogs and recovering game that would otherwise go to waste. He and his dog recover 35% of the wounded deer they track and virtually all of those mortally wounded. Antiquated market-hunting laws prohibit the use of dogs to track wounded big game in that state. Even though it’s legal to use tracking dogs in 31 other states, Pennsylvania hunters are forced to recover mortally wounded big game without the help of a trained dog. As one state official remarked “this is wasteful”. The practice is generally carried out in states where it is legal without incident or controversy.

Happily, that may be about to change. Bensing and the 200 or so members of the Deer Recovery of Pennsylvania group have worked tirelessly to legalize the use of tracking dogs to recover wounded big game. They finally appear to have not only the support of conservation minded hunters, but the State Game Commission and the Legislature as well. The bill needs to get out of committee and be voted on but if all goes right, by summer’s end it could be law.

But similar bills have been de-railed over the 12 years Bensing have been trying to legalize the use of tracking dogs. Bensing and the Deer Recovery of Pennsylvania group need your help to get the bill finally passed. They are urging sportsmen to contact their legislators (especially members of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee where the bill currently sits) to move the bill forward. Go to to register your support and contact the appropriate lawmakers. The site also has a neat blood tracking video, training and tracking articles and other useful information about recovering mortally wounded game.

A trained tracking dog is often the difference between finding a wounded big game animal and losing it. Tracking dogs and their handlers can readily follow day-old scent trails to recover mortally wounded big game. They will stay on a track for hours and occasionally days to recover a mortally wounded deer. Non-mortally wounded animals are followed until the experienced handler determines that the wound is non-fatal and the animal is left to heal and recover.