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A First Look At Squirrel Dog Hunt Tests
Posted on 06/09/2011 in Out On A Limb.

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Todd Kellam

The recent UKC Squirrel Dog World Championship kind of pre-empted my ability to promote the new Hunt Test Program for squirrel dogs the way I needed to. In checking the upcoming Hunt Test schedule recently, I saw that only the Johnson County Houndsmen in Edinburgh, Indiana, have Hunt Tests scheduled. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the Johnson County club jumped right in and scheduled some events. They are very familiar by now with the Hunt Test format as they have been hosting some of the most successful Hunt Tests for Coonhounds since day one. I am surprised that none of the other squirrel dog clubs have a hunt test on their schedule. We need to do something about that!

Since we first started kicking around the idea of a hunt test format, it has been my belief that such a format would be ideally suited to the Cur and Feist enthusiasts. It just seems to me that the Cur and Feist community is less competition driven than the nite hunt community and, in that regard, the Hunt Tests should be right on target.

These events are an excellent opportunity to get everyone together on a Saturday morning to run dogs without the pressure of heads-up competition and needing to be familiar with a fairly intricate set of competition hunting rules. The Hunt Test rules are very, very, simple and to the point. They basically test a dog against a basic standard of what a successful squirrel dog should be able to go out and do. That’s not to say that it’s easy and nobody fails, because that is not the case.

In a Hunt Test, dogs are hunted alone for one hour. They are inspected by someone who is not a personal friend or has any ties to the dog being tested. They must complete a short list of requirements on at least one tree where a squirrel is seen. But even if they do that in the first ten minutes, they must still complete their hunting time without committing two faults from a basic list of things a squirrel dog should not do. If they do that, they earn a pass towards the HTX certificate, which is a title awarded by UKC that becomes a permanent part of the dog’s record and is indicated after the dog’s registered name. It takes three Hunt Test passes to earn the HTX certificate.

When we were developing this new program, we asked people that considered themselves pleasure hunters why they did not competition hunt. Then we set out to build a program that addressed their concerns. Ask yourself if any of these comments made by other hunters apply to you? If so, then you need to talk to your local club about scheduling a Hunt Test:

    “Competition hunting is too expensive.”
    “I get so nervous that it takes the fun out of it.”
    “I have been too old for competition hunting for a long time.”
    “My health will just not allow me to keep up with a cast.”
    “My dog is a pleasure dog and I don’t want the type of ‘go yonder’ dog that excels in competition.”
    “I have some hearing problems that make it hard to compete on cast.”
    “I’m reluctant to turn my dog loose with strange dogs that may be mean or trashy.”
    “It makes me uncomfortable seeing people get heated.”
    “I cannot deal with people cheating, whining or trying to stretch rules.”
    “There are just too many rules to keep up with.”

In the coming months, we’ll spend more time talking about Hunt Test rules and procedures. In the meantime, talk to your club about the possibility of scheduling a Hunt Test. You can find more information on the UKC website. Go to the Cur Feist page and look in the right hand margin for a link to the Hunt Test information.