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Q & A
Posted on 07/08/2013 in Full Circle.

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The responsibility of heading up UKC’s Beagle Programs comes with the need and continued desire to further educate and brush up on running rules. I find that it helps tremendously when you know and understand the intent of any written rule. Finding the “intent”, however, is sometimes easier said than done.

It’s easy to call up a few old-timers and discuss, which is always interesting and educational, but sometimes you still get a few mixed signals, if you will. For me, going to the source (meaning those that were directly involved) of certain rules results in the best understanding of its intent. Better yet is finding historic articles on rules changes and why they may have been implemented. For the most part, however, the Hunting Beagle Rules are fairly easy to interpret. Misinterpretations are usually simply a result of our own doings in that we tend to put too much thought into a rule and come up with something that is way off base.

Another good source I like to go back to are past articles, if you can find them. A long-time UKC Beagler recently sent me some old rules articles that he saved throughout the years. I’ve made copies of all of them and find them very interesting and informative. A few of those articles are no longer current due to rules changes here and there, but it sure is interesting to go back and read many of those.

This month I’ve dedicated this article to one of those oldies written by Todd Morgan. It was published in the 2002 October Issue of The Rabbit Hunter. It addresses Speed and Drive scoring on several aspects. Of course, the answers remain right on target today still. Hopefully, this read will help clarify those questions, theories and discussions that surface still in today’s trials when it comes to Speed and Drive.

Question: Recently, I was on a cast and all of the cast members got into a discussion on how close a dog has to be to a line to be scored Speed and Drive points. Everyone’s opinion differed on this subject. Some people said they want to see the dog’s right on the track, and others said three or four feet was close enough. How close do the dogs have to be to the line to be scored on Speed and Drive?

Answer: You will never get me to give a measurement of feet or inches when scoring a line. There is no rule that says how far off a line a dog can be, or how close it has to be and still get scored on Speed and Drive. I sincerely hope there is never an exact distance placed on Speed and Drive in the rulebook. Why, you ask? We already have to carry a stopwatch and, for some of us, that is hard enough to run. Do you want to carry a tape measure too? I certainly don’t. Rule 15(b) states the following: “Speed and Drive”: Dogs to pursue rabbit as fast as scenting conditions allow, but must exhibit good line control. Dog(s) observed to be “running rough,” “cutting,” or “slashing” on track will be scratched on second offense. Rough Running is defined as attempting to run the front of the pack faster than scenting conditions allow or without regard for the actual line. Routinely overshooting turns leading pack mates astray. Cutting is defined as attempting to run the front by leaving the trail to head off pack mates or avoiding heavy cover and other obstacles. Slashing is defined as running in a hit or miss fashion as a result of gambling and without regard for the actual line. Judge to score dogs on speed and drive as rabbit is circled and seen by a cast member. Dogs to be scored as they trail through the line at the approximate location that rabbit is seen. It must be obvious that a dog is NOT trailing in order to deny the dog on Speed and Drive.”

The key quotes in this rule you need when answering this question are “approximate location,” and “It must be obvious that a dog is NOT trailing in order to deny the dog Speed and Drive.” If you read this like I do, you will see that there is no measurement to score dogs on Speed and Drive. They have to be in the “approximate location” and it has to be obvious that the dog is not trailing (If they are not close enough to the line, they cannot be trailing) before you don’t score them. Basically, what it comes down to is; is the dog trailing or not? It is the Judge’s decision on every line, and every line is different. Weather conditions, tracking conditions, etc., have to factor into the decision. You also have to look at what the rest of the cast is doing. If all four dogs come through a line five feet off and don’t miss a beat, how can you not score them? If three dogs come through five feet off and another ten feet then I would say the one ten feet off shouldn’t score.

Each and every line is different. A Judge has to have common sense and know what a rabbit dog is supposed to do. I sometimes say (and I mean it nicely), “If you cannot tell if a dog is trailing when they come through a line, maybe you should let someone else judge.”

Question: When you run a rabbit in a cast, do you have to circle it three times? Can the cast choose to run a rabbit only one circle?

Answer: I can remember back in the old days of the UKC Hunting Beagle Program where the norm was not to run the rabbit three times every time. This is because there was no limit on the amount of times you could circle a rabbit. You could theoretically jump a rabbit and run that same rabbit for the entire 120 minutes and circle it as many times as you wanted to.

Soon, the UKC Beaglers realized that most of the time we were only rewarding a Beagle that ran the front. Things got fast and rough back then. The rules committees in the past have since worked hard to get a balance between a “Strike” dog, a “Speed and Drive” dog, and, of course, a “check” dog. The first thing the committee did was to limit the number of times you could circle a rabbit, thus getting a little more balance in the hounds.

The next thing the rules committee did was to start playing around with Speed and Drive points. In the old days, Speed and Drive points were scored 100 for first, 75 for second, 50 for third, and 25 for fourth. As you can see, the difference between first and last was 75 points. This meant that the “need for speed” was great! With speed came roughness. Therefore, in another attempt to get a balanced rabbit dog, the Speed and Drive points were changed to 100, 90, 80 and 70. In my opinion, this was a too conservative approach to the balanced hound theory. Speed and Drive went too extreme in the opposite direction. Speed essentially didn’t mean much. This only lasted through one rules committee and the most recent format of 100, 85, 70 and 55 for Speed and Drive has been the longest lasting scoring system used. This is because a better balance was found.

I guess I got off on a target here. To get back to the original question I will give you the rule that covers this. It is the same rule as listed above, 15(b). You just have to read a little further. It states: “At time rabbit is seen, judge or majority of cast if hunting Judge is used, must decide whether to allow dog(s) to continue on trail or pick up dog(s) in order to find new ground or another rabbit.” I realize this is a rule that is not used much anymore, but you can decide after one circle or two circles to pick the dogs up off the track. The key thing here is that YOU MUST DECIDE THIS BEFORE THE SPEED AND DRIVE IS SCORED. If from the time you mark the line and the time you score Speed and Drive, the cast decides to pick the dogs up, you can after scoring. If they score Speed and Drive and you have not yet decided, you have to let them keep running.

Question: What happens if the cast votes to pick the dogs up after one Speed and Drive score and one of the dogs misses the line? What do you do with that dogs Strike points?

Answer: Their strike points are minused. There are no provisions in the rules to plus a dog in this situation and there are no provisions in the rules to circle a dog in this situation. Therefore you must read even further in rule 15(b) to where it says, “No dog(s) to be called off a trail without those points being minused.” Therefore, the three dogs that scored Speed and Drive get their Strike and Speed and Drive points plussed and the dog that missed the line gets his Strike points minused.