Christmas just came early for the Show-Me State's laziest faction of hunters. A judge in Poplar Bluff recently overturned a state law that prohibits using packs of dogs to drive deer toward hunting stands, a practice known in Ozark-speak as "deer-dogging."
On August 5, Circuit Judge Robert Smith
struck down three Missouri Department of Conservation regulations on the grounds that they are too vague to enforce.
One of the laws in question stated that "deer may not be hunted, pursued, taken or killed with the aid of dogs, in use or possession."
Yup, totally vague. How could anyone be expected to understand or obey a law like that?
Turns out the ruling came after some clever lawyering by attorneys for Neil Turner
and Bobby "Shannon" Jones
, both of Ripley County, Missouri. The duo were busted in an undercover sting by the Missouri Department of Conservation
in 2008 and faced charges for "deer-dogging" and using motor vehicles to stalk their prey.
In deer-dogging, the hunters use packs of dogs to herd deer toward their friends who are hidden in a tree stand, waiting to shoot the fleeing animals. It's illegal in 39 states, primarily because dogs often intrude on private property and it's unfair toward the regular hunters hoofing it around the wilderness.
The Southeast Missourian explains
that the attorneys exploited a loophole by posing hypothetical questions to four different Missouri Department of Conservation agents involved in the bust of Turner and Jones.
The defense argued the regulations concerning vehicles, by their literal terms, make any use of motor vehicle by a hunter during deer season unlawful, whether the vehicle was simply transporting the hunter from his home or if it was being used to actively pursue deer.
The regulation about dogs, by its literal term, makes the presence of a hunter who is "'pursuing" a deer in an undefined geographic area unlawful if dogs (also in an undefined general geographical location) may be "in use" or have been "in use".
The regulation also uses "dogs" in a plural sense, thus there is question as to whether a hunter can use one dog or if a hunting group could use one dog.
If the Department of Conservation appeals the ruling, the case will be decided by the Missouri Supreme Court. If not, Jones and Turner get off scot-free. Which begs the question: are dogs or lawyers man's best friend in this case?
(Hat tip to The Pitch