Last winter I came across one of the most gruesome sights I've witnessed in a half-century of roaming the outdoors.
I was hunting on a ridge in Giles County when I heard an uproar coming from an adjacent hollow. It was an spine-shivering combination of bleating, bellowing, howling and snarling.
I eased down to investigate. Stepping out into a clearing, I was confronted by a frenzied pack of snarling dogs tearing a thrashing doe to shreds.
The pack consisted of a giant gray mastiff, a basset hound and another small-sized breed, and two Lab-sized dogs.
The bleating doe was pulling herself along on her forelegs but couldn't escape the pack of dogs clinging to her back and sides and tearing at what was left of her hindquarters.
I fired my muzzleloader and they went loping off. I re-loaded and dispatched the crippled deer.
All the dogs were wearing collars, and appeared well-fed. I suspect they came from some houses adjacent to my hunting property. I was tempted to see that none of the trespassing killers made it home.
Understand, they weren't a pack of desperate, starving strays that were killing a deer for food. They were domestic "pets" that killed deer simply because it's in their wolf-strain DNA.
After I got home I called the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, told an officer in the Enforcement Division what I'd witnessed, and asked what can be done to animals that go onto someone's property and kill deer.
The TWRA officer said a farmer "probably" has a right to shoot a dog if it is harming livestock, but added that he could be exposed to legal action, depending on the circumstances.
As for shooting a dog that is harming wildlife? Don't do it, was his advice. The shooter could face legal consequences.
According to the TWRA officer, the law requires a deer-killing dog to be "captured and confined," and its owner notified. Either that, or hold it until it can be picked up by animal-control authorities.
That's virtually impossible, of course. A pack of dogs, excited and vicious enough to rip a deer to pieces, could quickly turn on someone who tried to catch them.
The only recourse is to prosecute the dog's owner, but it's virtually impossible to obtain evidence. Most owners will deny that their pet could have possibly been involved in killing a deer, even with blood dripping from its muzzle.
I know some hunters and landowners who advocate solving the problem by "S&S" -- shovel and silence. Any dog they catch chasing deer or livestock on their property simply disappears.
In fairness to the dogs, it's not their fault. They don't understand the concept of trespassing, and chasing deer is ingrained in their genetics. The blame lies with irresponsible owners.
If they refuse to control their deer-killing dogs, someone may do it for them.