The Senate Agriculture and Forestry Committee on Wednesday gave a favorable report to a controversial bill that seeks to expand the number of counties where hunters are allowed to use dogs to hunt for deer. Senate Bill 381 is sponsored by Agriculture and Forestry Chairman Larry Stutts, R-Sheffield.
Stutts said that the legislation would also reform dog hunting.
“It is mandatory that they have tracking collars,” Stutts said.
Stutts introduced a substitute for the bill that he originally introduced.
“There is just a couple of differences. I am excluding blood trackers from the legislation so they don’t have to be included in the bill,” he said. “I got approached a couple of years ago by the Alabama Dog Hunters Association to bring this legislation.”
Stutts explained that using dogs to hunt deer is allowed in some counties in the state. In other counties, the people in the county have had popular referendums to ban the practice and in others the practice has been banned by the Alabama Conservation Advisory Board.
This legislation would not affect those counties where the voters have banned hunting for deer with dogs by referendum but would nullify the Alabama Conservation Advisory Board bans over the next three years.
“Dog hunting has changed over the years,” Stutts said. This bill would allow “Responsible dog owners” to hunt over more of the state.
“They feed them all year to use them three times a year,” Stutts explained.
“Using a dog to track a wounded deer down” would be established by this bill but those dogs are excluded from the tracking collar requirement.
“It opens up those counties that are closed by the Conservation Advisory Board,” Stutts said. “The bill requires penalties for anybody that turns dogs out on other people’s lands.”
“This is also a property rights bill, if you own a 5000-acre tract of land, why can someone tell you what you can or can’t do on your own land?” Stutts added.
State Sen. Jack Williams, R-Wilmer, said: “This bill is a good bill.”
“You got two different groups of dog hunters,” Williams said. One group that does everything right and another group who turns their dogs out on other people’s property and hunts from the roadside. “Every person who has contacted me up to this point has been for it.”
“I appreciate the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources working with me on this bill despite some misgivings they have,” Stutts said. “Over time this makes it uniform across the state and gives them the ability to enforce the penalties.”
Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, asked, “If someone has 5,000 acres, why are we charging them to hunt their own land. I would exempt them from paying the fees.”
“I would like to exempt my own district and my own county,” Melson said.
“The counties (exempted) are the ones that already have done a referendum,” Stutts said. “We did not override what the local community has decided on in this bill.”
Sen. Davod Sessions, R-Mobile, said: “Dog hunting is really going down, I used to dog hunt; but don’t really any more.”
“Is there some way that we can let these hunters know that we are changing the rules,” Sessions asked.
Ed Poolos is the deputy commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
“In our digest,” Poolos said. “It is considered the Bible for hunting in that year.”
The committee voted to give SB381 a favorable report in a 7 to 2 vote.
The state Senate can consider the legislation when it next meets on Tuesday, April 13. Tuesday will be the 22nd legislative day of the 2021 Legislative Session. The Legislature is limited by the state Constitution to no more than 30 days in a 105 calendar day period that starts on the first day of the session.