Hunting with hounds

Recreational deer hunting in Victoria continues to grow and one of the more traditional methods of hunting Sambar Deer is with the aid of scent-trailing hounds (also known as hound hunting).

Hounds have been used to hunt Sambar Deer for over 100 years in Victoria. Hunting Sambar Deer with hounds can be an effective way to hunt Sambar Deer in environments that are difficult for stalking. Hunting with hounds is a very active and social recreation. However, given its highly visible nature and the fact that unrestrained hounds are used, there are a number of laws to ensure that hound hunting is conducted in a safe and humane manner and one that minimises impacts on other public land users.

There are laws that restrict where and when hunting with hounds can occur, the number of hunters and hounds that can be used at any one time, as well as restricting the breeds of hounds that can be used.

The hound hunting guide provides hunters with an understanding of their legal, safety and ethical requirements when hunting Sambar Deer with the aid of scent-trailing hounds. It includes information on licensing requirements, where you can hunt, legal hunting methods, safe firearm handling practices, ethical considerations and other information relevant to this form of hunting.

Hound hunting guide
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The regulations governing hound hunting are made by the State of Victoria and overseen by authorised officers from the GMA, DELWP, Parks Victoria and Victoria Police officers.

It is your responsibility to carefully study the current hunting regulations and to know what is permitted. Never rely on another person to tell you what you need to know – they might not have the correct information.

Any hunter wishing to hunt Sambar Deer with the aid of scent-trailing hounds must have a Game Licence which authorises the use of hounds.

Prior to applying for a Game Licence to hunt with hounds, you need to pass the hound-hunting-test. The test only needs to be successfully completed once and people who pass the test will receive a Certificate of Proficiency.

Hunters will be tested on their understanding of the legal, safety and ethical requirements when hunting.

For information on where and when you can sit the test please call the GMA information centre on 136 186.

All applicants must be at least 12 years of age.

If you have a disability or illness that may affect your ability to complete the test, please inform the test centre coordinator when booking your test so that suitable arrangements can be made.

International Visitors:

An international visitor may purchase a 14 day game licence to hunt or take Sambar deer with hounds without sitting and passing the hound hunting test. When hunting they must be under the direct supervision of an adult hunter who is the holder of a game licence endorsed to take or hunt Sambar deer with the use of hounds.

Sambar Deer generally occur in the forests of the Victorian Eastern Highlands and can be hunted with scent-trailing hounds in the area bounded on the south by the Princes Highway and on the west broadly by the Hume Highway.

Hunting of Sambar Deer with scent-trailing hounds is not permitted in National or State Parks or in water catchment areas, nor is it permitted on private property without the permission of the landowner or manager.

Hound hunting is also prohibited on all lands around the areas of Warburton township, Warburton and surrounds, Rubicon and surrounds, Marysville and surrounds, Jamison and surrounds, Buttercup and surrounds and the Timbertop area (see DELWP website for specific maps of the areas listed).

If you are not sure if hunting is legal in a particular area, don't hunt there until you are sure. Hunting in a closed area could mean that you lose your Game and Firearms Licences. Also, your firearm, vehicle or other belongings involved in the commission of an offence could be confiscated.

For more details on legal hunting areas, contact the GMA Customer Service Centre on 136 186, the local DELWP office in the area where you intend to hunt or find out more at  Where Can I Hunt?

When hunting, it is very important that you or your hounds do not enter areas where hound hunting is prohibited. It is a serious offence for your hounds to be in a prohibited area. Hounds must never enter or be used to hunt Sambar Deer in National or State Parks, on private property without the permission of the landowner or manager or on any other area closed to hound hunting. It is also illegal for hunters and their vehicles to be on private property without permission.

Hounds can travel large distances when hunting, so plan your hunt and do not give hounds a chance to enter prohibited areas. Make sure that you do not hunt close to boundaries. Keep a buffer zone between where you intend to hunt and any prohibited area and ensure your hounds are started well clear of these places.

It is your responsibility to ensure that hounds do not enter prohibited areas.

We encourage all hound hunters to fix GPS tracking collars to their hounds when hunting as this helps hunters to monitor and recover their hounds. Make sure you fit tracking collars securely, keep the batteries charged, and keep your hounds out of prohibited areas such as national and state parks or private property if you don’t have permission from the landowner.

"It is illegal for hounds to attack, bite or maim Sambar Deer or any other wildlife."

It is highly unethical and raises serious animal welfare concerns. All hounds used for hunting Sambar Deer should only ever trail and flush deer and should never hold, drag down or bite any wildlife, including deer.

All your hounds should have a non-aggressive temperament towards people, deer and other animals. You must never use a hound for hunting that displays any signs of aggression. The future of hound hunting depends on it. Don't ruin hound hunting for yourself or others by using hounds that attack deer or any other wildlife.

Sambar Deer may be hunted with the aid of scent-trailing hounds from the 1st April every year, but close the season shortly prior to and shortly after Easter (i.e. the Thursday before Easter Sunday until the Thursday after Easter Sunday, when Easter falls in April).

The use of scent-trailing hounds to hunt Sambar Deer is not permitted outside this period.

Hunters can still train hounds during the close season, provided they are restrained (for example, on a leash) and the person training the dogs is not in possession of a firearm.

The last day of the season is 30 November.

Scent-trailing hounds must not be used to hunt Hog Deer, Red Deer, Rusa Deer, Chital Deer or Fallow Deer.

Only pure Beagles, pure Bloodhounds and pure Harriers may be used to scent-trail Sambar Deer.

The use Pure Beagles, Bloodhounds and Harriers minimises the likelihood of hounds attacking deer or other wildlife. Hounds that conform to the breed standards specified by the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) for Beagles, Bloodhounds and Harriers will be considered to be 'pure' for the purposes of registration and official pedigree papers will not be required, although they may be beneficial. Any Beagle Bloodhound or Harrier that displays a characteristic outside these standards will not be deemed to be 'pure' and will not be accepted for registration. Kerry Beagles do not conform to the ANKC standards and are not permitted to scent-trail Sambar Deer.

All scent-trailing hounds must be registered before being used to hunt Sambar Deer in Victoria. At the time of writing, three organisations are authorised to register hounds. To organise for your hounds to be registered, contact one of the following:

  • the Australian Deer Association on (03) 5762 1911
  • the Victorian Deer Association on (03) 5985 5333
  • Victorian Hound Hunters Incorporated. (03) 5664 1345

Hounds will be registered for the life of the hound after final assessment.

As hounds under 12 months of age cannot be effectively assessed against the ANKC Breed Standards and legal requirements specified in the Wildlife (Game) Regulations 2012, they cannot be recommended to the GMA for life time registration.  Hounds under 12 months of age may still be used to hunt Sambar Deer, however there is no requirement for them to be assessed against the ANKC Breed Standards and height requirements.  In order to use hounds under 12 months of age to hunt Sambar Deer, hunters will need to obtain a written authorisation from the GMA.

The Authorisation of hound pups application form has been developed to enable owners of hounds under 12 months of age to seek written authorisation from the GMA to use such hounds for hunting Sambar Deer. Upon completion of this form, an automated authorisation can be printed or emailed to you.  Alternatively,  hard copies of the application forms will be available through the approved hunting organisations.

Hound owners must carry the authorisation on their person at all times while hunting.

For more information on the registration of hounds, contact one of the hunting organisations listed.

In Victoria the hunting of deer is only permitted between half an hour before sunrise through to half an hour after sunset.

To ensure that authorised officers, Parks Victoria Rangers or members of Victoria Police can readily identify hounds and their owners, all scent-trailing hounds used to hunt Sambar Deer must wear a collar to which is securely attached a permanent tag or label on which is legibly printed –

  • A permanent tag that has the owner's full name and the hound registration number.

All hounds over the age of 12 months used for hunting must be microchipped with either a Destron or Trovan compatible microchip Hounds that do not comply with these requirements cannot be registered and must not be used to scent-trail Sambar Deer.

For more information on the identification of hounds, contact one of the hunting organisations

The new laws maintain a maximum pack size of five hounds but allow the use of up to three additional pups (hounds under the age of 12 months) in training.This recognises that allowing an additional three pups with the five hound pack allows effective training of pups without compromising how a pack functions and impacting on the success of a hunt.

The regulations maintain the restriction on the use of hounds for hunting Sambar Deer to Crown land (where dogs are permitted, e.g. State Forest) and private land (with the permission of the land owner or manager) within the area bounded generally on the south by the Princes Highway, on the west by the Hume Highway and the north by the New South Wales border.The regulations also maintain the areas closed to all deer hunting around Warburton and surrounds and Rubicon and surrounds, as well as the closure of deer hunting with the use of hounds around Jamieson and Marysville.The new regulations have closed some additional areas to deer hunting. One of these relate specifically to hound hunting and two applies to all forms of deer hunting.These closures apply in the following areas (see accompanying maps):the area immediately around the township of Warburton (closed to all forms of deer hunting).the area immediately around Mt Timbertop and the Timbertop Campus of Geelong Grammar, near the township of Merrijig (closed to all forms of deer hunting).the Buttercup Lane area adjacent to the township of Merrijig (closed to hound hunting only).These changes permanently close areas that have already been subject to temporary closures under the Wildlife Act 1975, following requests from Victoria Police. Despite this, deer may continue to be hunted on private property within these areas with the permission of the owner or occupier of those lands.Warburton Township – closed to all forms of deer huntingMount Timbertop Area – closed to all forms of deer huntingMerrijig and surrounds – closed area for hunting with hounds

Companionship is often one of the main reasons why people go hunting. However, hound hunters must remember that there is a limit on the number of hunters who can participate in a hound team. Each hound team can consist of no more than 10 hunters when actively hunting in the field (you are considered to be hunting if you are pursuing, trailing, stalking, searching for or driving out a deer).

To enable your team to develop the skills of younger hunters it can consist of 12 hunters provided that two hunters are under the age of 18, they must have a Game licence endorsed to take or hunt Sambar deer with the use of hounds, when hunting they must be under the direct supervision of an adult hunter who is the holder of a game licence endorsed to take or hunt Sambar deer with the use of hounds.

There are also limits on the number of hounds that may be used on a hunt to ensure that teams do not become unwieldy.

You are allowed a maximum of five scent-trailing hounds per hunting team. To enable younger dogs to be trained eight hounds may be used provided that three of the eight are less than 12 months of age.

Remember, the smaller number of hounds you use, the greater chance you have of controlling their movements. Greater control over your hounds will assist you to ensure that hounds do not enter prohibited areas.

Quick find reference table

Hunting is not permitted between half hour after sunset and half an hour before sunrise.

Open season for hound hunting1st of April every year, but close the season shortly prior to and shortly after Easter (i.e. the Thursday before Easter Sunday until the Wednesday after Easter Sunday, when Easter falls in April) until 30 November
Bag limitNo limit
Maximum numberof hunters10(or 12 provided that two hunters are under 18 years of age)
Maximum number of hounds5 (or 8 provided that three are under 12 months of age and in training)
Permitted hound breeds
  • Beagles
  • Bloodhounds
  • Harriers
Hound registration period
  • For life of the hound after final assessment
Hound identification requirements
  • A permanent tag that has the owner's full name and the hound registration number.
  • Hounds over 12 months microchipped

Page last updated: 20 Jul 2020