Hunting deer with dogs is older than the US itself – starting back on the old continent, where kings and nobles kept packs of hounds to chase deer into the open for the hunter to kill.
Although now deer hunting with dogs is illegal in most states, in the few that still allow the practice, hunters continue this ages-old tradition with success and with the help of many fantastic deer hunting dog breeds.
Deer Hunting Breeds
These are top deer hunting breeds:
- Black and Tan Coonhound
- Scottish Deerhound
- Treeing Walker Coonhound
- Plott Hound
Beagles are said to come from Great Britain, but their real origin is mostly unknown. They come in two distinctive sizes – below 13 inches and 13-15 inches.
Both types are as good as each other in tracking game, and thanks to being crossed with Greyhounds down the line, they retain good speed and stamina to chase.
Beagles were designed for hunting in packs, so it is always best to take more than one Beagle on a deer hunt, especially due to their small size.
A well-trained Beagle would be able to drive the deer out of the woods and then, thanks to their more than capable noses, follow the blood trail to find the wounded animal.
The only disadvantage of Beagle’s small size is that they won’t drive deer as fast and as far as some of the bigger breeds, but even this can turn into a positive, as they don’t chase the deer too far, and there are fewer chances of them running too far away from the hunter.
On top of their exceptional hunting abilities, Beagles are really good house companions. They make perfect pets for families with kids, and when introduced from an early age, they can learn to tolerate other house pets.
Their small size plays an essential role if you plan on keeping Beagles in your house – they take up much less space and eat much less food than bigger dogs.
2. Black and Tan Coonhound
Born in the USA, the Black and Tan Coonhound is a Bloodhound relative with a striking resemblance in body size and shape and an amazing sense of smell.
Although, as the name suggests, this breed is primarily used for hunting raccoons, Black and Tan Coonhounds can be very easily trained to hunt other game, like deer.
In fact, Black and Tans have been used by Southern hunters for deer hunting for a long time now.
Black and Tan Coonhounds are built for power and agility, with a booming voice that can be heard from far away, alerting hunters of upcoming deer, while maintaining a steady speed.
The latter is the most praised trait by many deer hunters.
When tracking deer, B&T’s don’t rush. Due to their size, they are naturally slower in the thick bush, but it works as an advantage for hunters that expect deer to come out at any time.
While maintaining a slow but steady pace, deer don’t jump out of the thicket at full speed and are easier to hit.
Although they are not fast runners, their endurance is off the charts. Once on the track, B&T’s will not give up for miles on end. It often leads them to stray for a while, but they always find their way home.
In the house, they are easygoing and love the company of others, especially people and dogs. After the hunt, they love to turn into couch potatoes and sleep for hours.
A little bit unconventional for a big game hunting breed, the Hungarian Vizsla, whether in the smooth or wirehaired version, is an avid deer hunter. Their versatility is almost as famous as the one of the German Shorthaired Pointer.
Bred in Hungary by noblemen, their origin is largely unknown. However, depending on the hunting setting and the game they are after, they can adapt their style of hunting with ease, turning from pointing dog to baying hound in a matter of seconds after getting the deer scent.
Not one to waste time, Vizslas are known to drive deer fast, often making deer jump out of the forest with the speed of light, making it difficult for hunters to shoot.
However, Vizsla’s placid character and need to please its owner makes it easy to train them to take it slower and tone down their enthusiasm.
Vizslas are one of the most popular breeds of dogs used to hunt deer in New Zealand, where the forest is so thick that hunters rarely see deer between leaves and branches.
Many US hunters love hunting over Vizslas for the same reason – dogs go bravely in the thickest part to “flush” the deer out into the open, and thanks to their unlimited stores of energy, they can do it all day long.
Another good trait going for Vizslas is their tracking ability. They are amazing at tracking down wounded animals even many hours after shooting.
Depending on your character, Vizsla can be an adorable or annoying companion at home. That is because of their “velcro” quality.
They refuse to be too far away from you, often insisting on lying on top of you or shadowing you everywhere you move and whining when they don’t get enough attention.
They also don’t make good kennel dogs for the same reason.
4. Scottish Deerhound
As the name suggests, Scottish Deerhound was bred to hunt deer. They look like a cross between Irish Wolfhound and a Greyhound, and many believe both breeds were used to create Deerhounds.
Developed for red deer hunting in Scottish Highlands, Deerhound is a sighthound. It means it hunts deer using its eyesight rather than its nose, although it can still use its keen sense of smell to locate the animal.
Its tall and lanky build is maybe not the best for hunting in thick forest, but any open space is fair game.
Although not among the most popular deer hunting dogs in the US in present times, Deerhounds are mentioned in Theodore Roosevelt’s book as being used by hunters to hunt stags on great Western plains.
Deerhounds’ powerful strides can often match the deer’s speed and, if not appropriately trained, catch the deer and kill it.
At home, those giant dogs are surprisingly soft and mellow, but due to their size should be supervised when in the presence of small children.
5. Treeing Walker Coonhound
A relative of English and American Foxhounds, the Treeing Walker Coonhound is another American breed on our deer dogs list.
Although mostly used for hunting raccoons, bears, and bobcats, Walkers are also a popular choice of deer hunters in Southern states, where deer hunting with dogs is still legal. They are fast enough to keep up with the deer and run it into the open.
Their baying is very loud, heard from a long distance, and hunters swear they can recognize what animal their dogs are after just by the pitch.
The one downfall of hunting with Walkers is that some of them would pick up a coon scent on a deer hunt and try and tree the coon, ultimately separating from the pack.
Walkers are known to have the best cold noses among coonhounds, and they can pick up a cold trail and follow it until it turns hot.
It’s another good thing that helps them locate your quarry if it ever runs away after being shot.
Treeing Walker Coonhounds are rather docile at home and love the company of others. They are especially good with children and very patient and protective, but they don’t do well with other house pets, like cats, rabbits, etc.
7. Plott Hound
Last but not least on our list is Plott Hound, another American breed, North Carolina’s state dog.
The only Coonhound not related to Foxhounds, Plott hounds were bred in the mountains of North Carolina to hunt bears and wild boars but, after a while, became more popular with deer hunters.
One of the grittiest and toughest from the list of deer dogs, Plott Hounds are unfortunately not as well known outside of Carolinas as some other Coonhounds.
Stamina and bravery are the main traits of this breed right after its amazing nose, which can find a cold track with ease and, coupled with persistence, chase it until it turns hot.
Plotts are so determined on the trail that if they don’t manage to bring the deer in front of the hunter in a timely fashion, they could stay on its trail for a few days straight.
They also tend to be a little bit aggressive towards other dogs.