Dog hunters defend their sport's reputation

Published: Dec. 1, 2009 at 9:08 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 1, 2009 at 10:02 PM CST
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By Steve Phillips – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -  Some South Mississippi deer hunters say their sport has been unfairly tarnished in the wake of a shooting incident in Desoto National Forest.

You'll recall a mother and daughter who were riding horses on the Big Foot horse trails were shot by a deer hunter. Both mother and daughter were treated and released from the hospital. The 10-year-old girl's injuries included a punctured lung.

The investigation into the shooting continues and the hunter has been issued a citation for "hunting from a public road."

Some hunters are now concerned about the reputation of their sport.

Matthew Scott is an avid hunter and secretary of the Mississippi Hunting Dog Association. He worries the recent shooting has cast all hunters in a negative light and says the vast majority of hunters follow the rules and respect the rights of others.

"You'll be coming down the road and you'll see the orange vests. We do stick out with them. We're normally eating lunch or just re-grouping. But some people are under the impression that we all have loaded guns and alcohol. And I can assure you that is not the case up here,"  Scott said.

Many dog hunters use expensive electronic collars and tracking devices to keep track of their animals.

Jimmy Seymour has been hunting for some 70 years.

"Oh, yes sir, all my life. All my life. I guarantee you, I love it," Seymour said.

But he worries some folks would like to do away with dog hunting.

"They really want to get rid of us, the dog hunting. And people think dog hunting, that's bad, you know.  The dogs don't catch the deer. Even the babies, they just don't catch 'em. And we're lucky to get ahead of the dogs to even shoot a deer," Seymour said.

"Just let us have our hunting," adds John Palmer, "We've got those tracking collars and try to catch our dogs. We ain't hunting around their house."

The hunters say people who enjoy other forms of recreation in the woods should keep in mind the limited season for hunting with dogs.

"We're all safe, the hunters I hunt with. Safe. We make sure they're out of gun distance. We don't shoot down main roads. Don't shoot around houses. If we are around houses, our guns are unloaded and we're catching dogs," Troy Seymour said.

"We try to be as respectful as possible to all those other user groups. We get 39 days out of the year to run dogs. And when you look at a 365 day calendar, that's not very many days," added Scott.

The hunters say the shooting on the horse trail was a tragedy, but one that can't be blamed on all hunters.

"A case where he violated rules and regulations that were already in effect to protect the horse trail and the riders who ride those trails," Scott said.

According to Scott, the Mississippi Hunting Dog Association has a written code of ethics that includes hunting safety, following all rules and regulations and respecting the rights of private land owners and non-hunters. He's the head of the Jackson County chapter, which includes more than 300 hunters.

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