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Scoring Lines (Hunting Beagle)
Posted on 03/09/2012 in Full Circle.

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I’m not 100% sure why it is so fun to score lines (speed and drive), but for me it has always had a way of getting the adrenaline pumping. I would be willing to wager that this would also hold true for a lot of other competition hunters that are competing today, as well as those in years gone by. One thing is for sure, there is something truly exciting about watching and listening to a pack of Beagles trail through a marked line just as fast as they can go. I admit that I cannot pinpoint any one reason why it brings me thrills, but it does, and it never fails.
This month we are going to cover some of the basics of scoring lines, otherwise known as speed and drive. Just like with any other rule in the format, common sense must be applied when scoring speed and drive. That falls back on clubs that host events throughout the year because it is their responsibility to assign judges who are honest and capable of keeping score according to the Hunting Beagle Honor Rules.

For starters, speed and drive points cannot be scored until the rabbit is seen by the judge or a cast member “after completion of circle”. Any one of the handlers, including the judge, can call a line after the rabbit has been circled. Once a line has been called, it is extremely important that the individual that called the line clearly establishes to the judge and other cast members where the line is. This should be done before the dogs even get close to the actual line and is possible in most cases. This alone will simplify the process of scoring lines immensely.

When judging a cast, if another cast member calls a line, make it a point to ask for specifics as to where the rabbit came through. A good rule of thumb is to pick an object that the rabbit ran past and use that as the marker for the line. In order to do that you need to get to a point that is parallel to the line. For example, if a line is called with the rabbit coming directly at you, that is fine, but don’t stay there and try to score the dogs as they drive through it coming straight at you. Get off to one side of the line and ask the person that called the line for clarification as to where the rabbit came through, and then pick a reference point and score the dogs as they trail through it. It is almost impossible to score them accurately when they are trailing directly toward you because you usually cannot deter- mine their positions (first - fourth). It is always easier to score a line if you are parallel to it and have a reference point to go by.

Under Rule 3 (a) and also Rule 15 (b), you will find in black and white the requirements for awarding dogs plus points in speed and drive situations. Rule 3(a) states, “When non-hunting Judge, or majority of cast if hunting Judge is used, are present as Judge scores dogs on speed and drive at point rabbit was seen by a judge or cast member (after completion of circle)”. In my opinion, this rule leaves very little room for interpretation as for the actual scoring procedure but is also reiterated in 15(b) as follows. “Judge to score dogs on speed and drive as rabbit is circled and seen by a cast member”.

If a non-hunting judge is not being utilized, you must have the majority of the cast present to score a line - period. This is one reason why all cast members should stay close enough together so that when a line is called the majority will be able to get there. If everyone is strung out all over the place, the cast members will essentially just be hurting themselves due to loss of potential scoring opportunities. The other reason is because it’s a rule! A little over halfway down in the paragraph, under Rule 8, you will find a sentence that reads, “ … all handlers must stay with the judge at all times unless given permission by the judge to leave.” Staying together will not lower your score; in most cases it’s actually going to help!

As written in the Rulebook, the dogs are to be scored as they trail through the line at the approximate location where the rabbit is seen. The word “approximate” is used because it best describes the manner in which the dogs should come through the line. And let’s face it, a tape measure would not resolve a thing. It would not be fair to the dogs to use the word “exact” in its stead, for obvious reasons. Webster’s dictionary defines approximate as “located close together, nearly correct or exact”. After all, that is what we want, right? A dog that’s fast and close all rolled into one. When running in a heavy wind, we can expect them to be little off to one side or the other, depending on the wind direction. It’s inevitable.

It must be obvious that a dog is not trailing in order to deny the dog on speed and drive. This is not a get-out-of-jail-free card that you can try to use when your dog comes through obvious- ly high or low of the line when the other dogs came through on the actual line. It can be found under Rule 15(b) and it’s there to protect dogs from being denied speed and drive points just because they may have been slightly out of position at the point of the marked line (not out of the ZIP code). The rule is meant to make sure that does not happen. When scoring positions on the line cannot be determined, split them between the dogs involved and move on. The breakdown for doing so is printed at the bottom of every scorecard. It makes it simple and fair.

I end with a few key points to remember when scoring lines.

• You must have the majority present to score speed and drive points.
• You can score speed and drive one time after the completion of every circle (up to three times on each rabbit).
• Make sure the line is clearly established before the dogs go through.
• Stay together so the majority can be there when you do get a line.
• After the first dog has been scored on speed and drive, there is a one-minute time limit to score remaining dogs on that line.
• When scoring positions cannot be determined, split them between the dogs involved.