There are few things more frustrating than to see a predator chasing deer right through your hunting area. In the common case of coyotes, there’s a simple solution: Most of us will just shoot the coyote. When the predator is a stray or lost dog or a pack of dogs, however, the situation is much more complicated.
While some states have laws that allow anyone to shoot a dog that is harassing wildlife or livestock, do you really want to be the person who shoots someone’s dog? Even those who would consider such a measure admit that it’s the very last resort.
Try to evaluate the dogs and the situation they’re causing. Are they wearing collars—clearly someone’s pets or hunting dogs that got lost? Or are they obviously feral, having probably lived in the woods as a pack for a long time? Are they just scampering through your setup, lost or playing, or have you witnessed them chasing deer to the point of exhaustion or even attack?
The first course of action is to speak to the owner of the dogs, if you know them, or to the landowner if you’re hunting private property. If you can reach them, it’s common courtesy to start here before escalating the situation. A friendly chat isn’t likely to get you very far with owners who are irresponsible enough to let their dogs roam the woods during hunting season, but if the landowner just let his dogs out by mistake, he’ll be genuinely grateful you let him know and he’ll likely do a better job of keeping them contained in the future.
But finding the owner might be a bit of a long shot, especially on public land, and even if you do reach them, they might not respond well. In this case, call the game warden and ask his advice. This starts a paper trail, and you’ll want each instance documented in case this continues. It probably won’t help you immediately, but if the same dogs continue to be a problem, a warden will eventually step in and find the owners or handle the dogs.
Taking matters into your own hands is just a bad idea, although it might be tempting to some frustrated hunters. Destroying someone’s property (especially a dog), no matter how justified it seems to you, opens the door to serious relational consequences—you might just start a feud with a neighbor, and those have a way of escalating irrationally. As frustrating as it is to have dogs ruin your hunt, let law enforcement handle it, and be patient—if this is an ongoing problem, it might take some time to solve.
Incidentally, all is not lost if you’re sitting on stand and some dogs chase deer through. Most of the time, they’re passing through, and the area will settle down after a while. There’s no need to stop hunting for the day if the dogs have moved on and show no signs of returning, especially during the rut when bucks have other things on their minds.