Hunting Performance Test for Scenthounds

Hunt Test

***First Ever BHCA Hunt Test a Success****

HUNTING PERFORMANCE

By Thad Makowski

Early the morning of November 4, Basset Hounds and their owners began arriving at the Hogan Ranch in Ft. Collins, Colorado to participate in a BHCA Certified Hunting Test.  The weather was clear, sunny and crisp – an ideal fall morning for carrying out the testing.  The Timberline Basset Hound Club of Colorado brought in AKC certified field trial judge Roy Fair.  Roy also offered instruction during the test.  Roy is an experienced field judge and his presence on the judging panel lent more credibility to the hunt test.   Other judges were Kelly Yarish, a Beagle breeder who has judged some of our earlier tests, Gabriella Hucal, a Dachshund field person who also has an interest in hunt judging, and club member Betty Pearce who judged some of our previous tests.

Premium lists had been mailed well in advance. The entry fee was $20 and engraved Armetale plates were offered to any qualifier.  Rosettes and a framed certificate were also offered to qualifiers achieving the Hunting Hound title that day.  Mailed and faxed entries were accepted in advance and entries were permitted the morning of the hunt as well.  This was more than a fun hunt, so we did not attract as many entries as we had for earlier matches; a total of nine Bassets were entered.  What we did attract for this test, however, were Bassets who had hunting potential, most of which had some field experience and training

After the test secretary announced that entries had closed, a draw for order of running took place.  Traditionally, we have been running solos first, then braces, followed by packs.  By running the packs first you may create a difficult rabbit find for the solos and braces running afterwards.  It was agreed that running solos followed by braces and closing the day with packs provided the better opportunity for rabbit finds.  Each handler drew for the order of running, very much as at a tracking test.  The running order was posted publicly.  The Hunting test consisted  of  one solo, two braces and one pack.  The test began officially at 9:00 a.m. The game declared was cottontail rabbit.  Video taping was done whenever practical and some good footage of hounds in action was obtained – still more is needed.

Gabriella was generous and brought short range walkie talkies that were very helpful and are a good investment for use at future tests.  Those working the field had been having difficulty communicating, especially when the next stake was called to run and needed to get collared up.  We had tried signal whistles, shouting, waving, etc. but had finally resorted to simply sending back the finished stake, and asking that stake to send out the next.  Obviously there was no way to predict how long a stake would run. This of course was wasting valuable time and momentum, so the radios served our purposes well.  When a stake was finishing, the head marshal radioed back to the test secretary to send out the next stake.  We were pleased with how much more efficiently the test ran and how helpful the radios were.

The solo, Willey, ran first and found his own rabbit almost immediately.  Judges were very close behind and a gallery was not needed to raise rabbits.  Willey performed admirably and aggressively pursued his rabbit, making several good checks and sounding appropriately.  He always came back to his point of loss and began in earnest until called  in.  There was no question that he was an excellent candidate for Hunting Hound certification, and when the scores were tallied, Willey was given a qualifying score. Willey became the first Basset to earn a Hunting Hound (HH) title.  To quote Roy Fair: “The first run was approximately 25 min long.  Time started when search began.  Actual run time was approximately 15 min.  The dog worked hard and did not quit until called in.”

Next up were the braces.  The first brace was not as excited about being out in the field.  Each lagged at moments and had spurts of searching.  Neither dog was aggressively in pursuit and they tired.  They had some good moments when catching the scent, but not quite enough to qualify.  The second brace was more aggressive, especially Bertha who succeeded in impressing the judges sufficiently enough to earn herself the second Hunting Hound title.   Bertha used her voice well, followed the line and worked the rabbit for over 30 minutes before it went to ground.  Quoting Roy again: “The full run was 30 minutes long with a 15 minute steady run.  She worked closer to the line then the first qualifier.  When dog came to a loss, she worked very hard and kept coming back to the point of loss.  Again she did not quit hunting till called in.”

The judges felt that the pack was most difficult to judge.  Dogs at times would go in different directions and a judge might easily miss a performing Basset on the other side of the filed.  To correct this judges may need to be assigned specific Bassets to watch, increase the judges in the field for packs, or increase the running time for packs to ensure each Basset gets a good look.   Although the pack did stay together they just were not lucky enough to get anything going.  Rabbits were surfaced, but none of the pack mates picked up the line.  Of the two more experienced hounds, one was aggressive and the other was in the throws of false pregnancy, coming back to the handlers repeatedly and just wanting to go home and curl up somewhere.  We were counting on the more mature bitches to carry the other two, but that was not to happen this day. The two younger bitches were, however, exciting to watch and certainly have field potential.  Roy commented that the younger pair learned a lot this day, and gained much in field maturity even in the short time they performed that morning – more work needed.

We asked Judge Roy Fair to comment for this article –

“ We might consider adding a junior level for younger dogs who do not have to open when on line.  The other two levels should sound and sound properly.  The junior would get an automatic 5 for that category but could get higher if they do open.  This is not a field trial.  This is a test for HUNTING ability, and searching/finding the game is as important as actually running it.  A dog who will run a rabbit and open is no good (for hunting) if the people have to find the game for him and he refuses to leave his handlers feet until rabbit is up.  If judges can determine that the dog is actually working the game when discovered, checking, and showing line adaptability than using voice at junior level is not that important. –  This keeps in line with the lesser skills required in hunting tests given for other breeds where at the junior level they don't have it all together but show promise.  We know from experience that young dogs are not as quick to open but do definitely show all the skills of running a rabbit. The whole idea of this test is to get folks to work their dogs in the field and give them a chance to demonstrate the nose quality (and instincts) they possess.  If too many dogs pass at this level on the “one time” requirement, we may have to up the requirement to three passes to compensate.  But until this test catches on, once is enough.”

The test was finished early afternoon, and we gathered for a great meal and discussed the performance of the hounds.  Scores were tallied and averaged, with Bertha and Willey achieving qualifying scores.  The AKC has requested that we keep them informed of hunting test activity and documentation is available to them.  I will continue to keep the AKC updated as we move forward with our efforts.  In addition, another BHCA certified hunt test is scheduled in Colorado, May 5, 2001.  Other BHCA certified hunting tests are scheduled for Memorial Day weekend in the Portland area (contact Melody Fair – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ), and in Pennsylvania (contact Elsie Tagg – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ).  Please advise if your club is interested in hosting a hunting test in your area.  I do have the score sheets, rules, an electronic premium list template and all the material you’ll need to make it easy.

Many inquiries are received about the hunting performance test.  I would encourage you to view the BHCA web site for the updated rules, regulations and photographs.  This is an excellent field activity for both the owner/handler and the basset hound.  You may not always end up with a ribbon or title, but watching your hound come alive using the natural abilities for which it was bred is a very rewarding thing.

Bassets earning the first Certified Hunting Titles.

Ch Savannah’s Sweet William HH -  “Willey”

Savannah Smiles V’ Briarpatch HH -  “Bertha”

both owned by Roger and Jennifer Hogan