No if after shot. No if no firearm. Definitely not if dogs are not allowed before
In terms of rationale, the Ministry has no argument.
Kerry and Scott have both quoted this rationale from the Ministry: If the dog on a leash is demed to be hunting (i.e. requires a dog license), then the human on the other end of the leash also must be hunting.
The Ministry cannot have its cake and eat it too. To define hunting according to what a dog may or may not think it is doing is ridiculous. Where else does the Ministry define anything according to the preconceptions of dogs? To say that trackers must be hunting because their dogs think they are hunting is a false argument, because what motivates the dog does not have to control the tracker.
In fact, the Ministry’s own regulations demand that the dog be under control of the handler at all times; therefore it follows that it is what the handler does under the regulations that determines the outcome of the dog’s efforts, unless the Ministry is prepared to argue that the handler is somehow both in control of the dog but helpless at the same time.
If trackers do not have to think like their dogs, they do not even have to think like other trackers–but that does not make the results of their tracking activities different if they are all operating according to the same regulations, because it is the regulations that define the activity, and not what people are thinking while they engage in that activity. Therefore, it is the Ministry’s regulations that determine whether someone with a leashed dog is tracking and not hunting.
If it is the necessity of having a license that defines the activity (see above: i.e., requires a dog license), then the Ministry’s argument is completely circular: the Ministry could as easily charge the same amount of money, issue the dog a “tracking license,” and then the dog’s activity (whatever the dog thinks it is doing) would cease to be defined as hunting, since it is the Ministry, not the dog or the tracker, who decides what type of license it shall issue.
In conclusion, the Ministry has no rationale for insisting that tracking is hunting.
As an activity, blood tracking should not be defined as hunting because it is a secondary activity, and an activity of last resort, undertaken to recover something that is otherwise gone. The blood tracking dog and its handler are only called out after the game has been wounded and lost. If a hunter wounds a game animal and is is able to locate it by him/herself, a blood tracking dog is never called out at all.
Moreover, a trained, leashed blood tracking dog is never used in the beginning of the hunt to find game and bay it or bring it to the hunter for him/her to shoot. Dogs engaged in these activities may be defined as hunting, but they are also off leash, and out of the direct control of the handler. This is why the Ministry forbids tracking dogs to be off leash. Dogs used for hunting in the ways described above are not likely to be willing or able to follow an old, cold scent to find wounded or dead game, as trained blood tracking dogs are.
The Ministry states that a hunter is responsible for recovering his/her wounded game–at least morally. A blood tracking team is under no such obligation to anyone because the tracker did not wound the animal in the first place, and there is a tacit recognition that blood tracking is an activity where the odds are in fact against the tracker.
In the event that a tracking team is called out, and it is the tracker and not the hunter who puts down the wounded game animal, that killing shot is regarded as euthanasia, or possibly self defence. It is different from the hunter’s first shot at the same animal, which is the shot that allows the hunter to lay claim to that animal. In a real hunt, it is the hunter who selects the animal to be killed, and who determines the timing and angle of the killing shot, not the blood tracker, who comes later, and who might well wish the hunter had done things differently.
Furthermore, a blood tracker may use his/her dog to help an unlimited number of hunters find their game, and yet has no claim to any of the game recovered in this way. This is not true for any other kind of hunting activity, where the chase is restricted to one animal and one tag per hunter, and where the hunter has a legal claim to the animal he/she has killed.
In conclusion, blood tracking is an activity secondary to hunting and distinct from it terms of the training of the dogs used, in terms of the obligations of the tracker, and in terms of the ability of one tracker and his/her dog to help many different hunters. The law is capable of much subtler shades of distinction than this, so there is no reason the MNR cannot recognize a difference between hunting and blood tracking.
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