Landowners plagued by people running deer dogs across their property without permission had originally opposed a bill introduced by Rep. Bill Hixon (R-Aiken) that would have provided penalties for removing a tracking collar from a dog.
However, an amendment to that bill in a Senate subcommittee may have eased some of that opposition. The amendment would require dog owners to list their name, address and phone number on collars to make it easier to contact them when the dogs get on land where the landowner has not given the dog owner permission to hunt.
Hixon's bill, which has already passed the House, makes removing the tracking collar from a hunting dog a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 and 10 days in jail. Hixon said the proposal was necessary because angry landowners remove expensive tracking collars and destroy them or dispose of them.
Cary Chamblee, lobbyist for the South Carolina Wildlife Federation, said the federation is supporting both the original bill and the amendment.
"From a sportsman's perspective, I think this is a good measure and will benefit in resolving the conflicts that have erupted between landowners and hunting dogs in the past," Chamblee said.
Scott Major, who hunts on property he owns in Orangeburg County, said he was pleased that apparently everyone on both side of the issue at the hearing agreed that hunting dogs should be required to have the owner's current information, including name address and phone number on any collar the dog is wearing.
A similar requirement was deleted from the contentious Renegade Hunter Act, which passed two years ago.
"I also was surprised and feel very positive after some comments by members of the committee and from the (S.C. Department of Natural Resources) regarding the need to revisit the Renegade Hunter Act passed in 2010 in order to address issues landowners continue to have with trespassing hunting dogs," said Major, who said he appreciated that there was even talk by a committee member of requiring a dog license for hunters.
"This is what was promised to those of us who had been working on this issue for years, and I hope that promise is kept and the Renegade Hunter Act is strengthened to give landowners more protection," Major said. "In a nutshell, things seem to be headed in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go to protect our very basic rights as landowners."
However, Major said the proposed new law is unnecessary, that existing larceny statutes would cover the theft of collars.
"In my opinion, if passed, this law is intended to protect and make those who hunt with dogs feel safer when their dogs trespass," Major said. "The simple truth is that to date, someone can run 100 trespassing dogs on my property, and as long as they are not standing on my property line, actually facing my property, there is nothing I can do about it."
In other outdoors-related action, the Senate Fish, Game and Forestry Committee approved tweaks in Wildlife Management Area hunting regulations and a trapping bill that would remove barriers to hunting and trapping coyotes. The increase in the number of coyotes in the state concerns wildlife officials, and some think hunters can help keep the coyote population in check.
"We're not going to have any wild turkey or quail if we don't do something about coyotes," said state Sen. Dick Elliott (D-Horry).
Earlier, the House passed a resolution honoring retiring SCDNR director John Frampton for his 37 years of service to the State of South Carolina. The DNR Board has named DNR Law Enforcement Col. Alvin Taylor as permanent director of the agency effective March 17, replacing Frampton.