Morgan Gold says current law doesn’t protect rights of property owners
A viral TikTok video is sparking debate over hound hunting in Vermont. The video, posted last week, has gotten over 12 million views and is drawing attention to the decades-old sport.
“I did not expect it to get the response that it has in the last week or so,” said Morgan Gold, owner of Gold Shaw Farm.
Gold gave millions of people a glimpse into hound hunting after he posted a video documenting a run-in at his farm.
“On one hand, a lot of folks were shocked to see that that sort of thing even still goes on in Vermont and is legal in Vermont. I think the other reaction is people calling me a flatlander and saying, ‘Hey know your place bud,'” Gold said.
When the president of the Vermont Bear Hound Association, Butch Spear, showed up at Gold Shaw Farm, Gold wasn’t happy.
“I feel like I’m completely powerless based on the way the laws are to say that I don’t want those folks on the property,” Gold said.
Spear’s hounds had cornered a bear on the property and he was there to retrieve them, but Gold initially insisted he get off the property. Gold later agreed and followed Spear to the hounds.
“These dogs are in an absolute frenzy, there’s no calling them off. The owners have to physically pull them with a leash to get them away from the tree. That to me isn’t control, that to me isn’t recall,” Gold said.
Gold isn’t against hunting, in fact, he hunts himself, he just doesn’t want to be involved in hound hunting. Gold has private property signs up, but that doesn’t help.
“I’ve never met a dog that is able to read so what’s the point of having that posting process if they can’t read a sign,” Gold said.
In one conversation caught on video, Gold says Spear doesn’t have control of his dogs. Spear disagrees because all of his hounds wear GPS trackers.
The conversation went like this:
“Your point is you can’t control where your dogs go if they’re tracking something,” Gold said.
“I can’t control the bear. The dogs are taught to follow the bear,” Spear said.
“Right, but if you can’t control the bear then you can’t control your dogs if the dogs are controlled by the bear,” Gold said.
“By state law, I am 100% in control of my dogs right now,” Spear said.
And that’s true, says Jason Batchelder of Vermont’s Fish and Wildlife Department.
“If you know where your dogs are, and you are properly permitted and licensed, then you are meeting the letter of the law for control of dogs,” Batchelder said.
Vermont Fish and Wildlife regulates hound hunting in the state.
“We support it because it is a traditional use of a sustainable population,” Batchelder said.
Batchelder, who hunts with hounds himself, recognizes not everyone likes the sport.
“There’s no doubt about it. When dogs go running across someone’s property and they’re howling and barking and banging, then it causes a ruckus,” Batchelder said.
“There must be some sort of middle ground that can both respect the property rights and adjust how hound hunting works in Vermont,” Gold said.