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Are You Taking Your Kids To The Hunt Tests?
Posted on 05/15/2012 in HTX = Coondog.

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There seems to be a lot of interest in the Youth Events these days, and rightly so. It’s much easier to introduce young hunters to the Nite Hunts when they are able to participate against others that are their own age and experience level. That being the case, what a about a situation that has even fewer restrictions than a UKC licensed Nite Hunt, where young hunters can participate without any pressure and still earn a performance title on the family’s favorite coonhound? When first thinking about which type of hunters the Hunt Tests would appeal to, it was thought that this was, amongst other things, a perfect opportunity for kids, but we’ve never really discussed it in this column.
The Nite Hunts have restrictions that, although not specifically aimed at young hunters, do unfortunately affect them. Those restrictions are necessary for the event to progress smoothly and fairly. The Hunt Tests, being non-competitive, are not subject to those same restrictions. The Hunt Tests are the perfect opportunity to introduce young hunters to the sport for many reasons.

First of all, there are no restrictions as to how many spectators may accompany a cast. If mom and dad and the two kids all enjoy hunting, they are all welcome to put on a light and cheer on the family coon dog. Or maybe it’s granddad, dad and the two boys. Does your son or daughter have two young friends you are introducing to the sport? The point is, whoever wants to walk along is welcome to. I know from taking calls for the last 20 years that many of you have been faced with a two-spectator dilemma where the Nite Hunts are concerned. It’s something to think about if you’re in that position.

The Hunt Tests do not have restrictions on who may or may not shine trees in an attempt to locate the coon. Having more spectators shining a tree for one handler than another on a Nite Hunt cast could put someone at a disadvantage. That’s not the case at a Hunt Test. I can’t imagine there are too many things more difficult to explain to your young son or daughter than why they cannot shine their new light up into the tree and try to find a raccoon. Let them shine at the Hunt Test. Now they are part of the hunt.

Let them handle the dog, too, while you’re at it. There really is no strategy in handling a dog during a hunt test. Determining when to start the five minutes on a dog that is obviously treed is more of an agreement between the inspector and the handler than it is a “called position”. Help the young handler when they need help. Answer any questions they have along the way. Take an opportunity to explain what the dog is doing in a given situation and teach them. There is only one dog out there opening in the dark so it’s much easier for them to follow the action.

A Hunt Test has the flavor of an event because the dog and the handler are actually working towards a title. My guess is you will have a young hunter’s concentration a little more than you might when you simply have them out on a pleasure hunt. This, to me, just seems like a great opportunity.
Above all else, make sure the young handler understands the concept that failing a hunt test is not the end of the world. More dogs fail a hunt test than pass. Some adults could learn from that lesson, as well. It shouldn’t be a reflection on the ability of the dog, in most cases. It typically is more of a reflection on the conditions and the simple fact that we all have bad nights in the woods. If a young hunter can understand that as a dog is being evaluated solo, then the transition to understanding that when it comes to competing on a Nite Hunt cast should be that much easier. We need better sportsmanship in the sport. Are the Hunt Tests the first step? Think about it.