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Iowa Legalizes Use of Dogs For Deer Recovery

The Hawkeye State becomes the 39th to allow the use of tracking dogs.

Iowa Legalizes Use of Dogs For Deer Recovery
Under Iowa’s newly passed law, dogs used for deer recovery must at all times remain on a leash of not over 50 feet. (Photo courtesy of Jeremy Moore, Dog Bone Hunter)

Following the lead of 38 other states, Iowa now will allow the use of dogs in recovering deer.

Signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds on June 25, the bill has handed advocates of recovery dogs a hard-won victory in a major whitetail state. Its passage concludes years of effort by many individuals who had pressed for such a law in past legislative sessions.

An earlier version of this bill had stalled in the legislature, due to a requirement that dogs be certified for use in trailing. To overcome concerns about cost and logistics of certification, the bill was reworked to contain no such language.

The law allows for a hunter with a valid license and deer permit to use a dog to trail and retrieve a wounded/dead deer. The dog must stay physically linked to the person with a lead of not over 50 feet long attached to its collar or harness.


Permission from the landowner is required before trailing a deer onto private property. Should the deer still be alive when found, the trailer is allowed to dispatch it with whichever weapon the permit is valid for. A violation of the law is punishable by a fine of up to $250.


Iowa Blood Trackers, a 600-member group on Facebook, has been among the state’s most ardent proponents of dog use. Outreach Coordinator Cody Friedrichsen says numerous people were involved in finally making dog use a reality.

“All of us at Iowa Blood Trackers are absolutely thrilled about blood tracking getting passed in the state,” he says. “We thank Rep. Steve Holt, Rep. Matt Windschitl and Sen. Jason Schultz for all their hard work in getting this passed. We have been working on this for years, and we can now use all means necessary to find our deer.”

Allowing the use of recovery dogs has always been legal in some whitetail states but has found support in more recently. Proponents cite the advantage of not only recovering more deer, but also finding more of them quickly, resulting in less loss of venison. For hunters interested in taxidermy, prompt recovery also reduces the chance of cape spoilage.

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