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Spectators on casts – Hunting Beagle format
Posted on 04/09/2010 in Full Circle.

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Jed Nichols

Over the last couple of months, the topic of spectators being involved in casts, in one form or another, has come up on at least five different accounts that I can think of off the top of my head. Every time one of these instances has come up, I have just shaken my head in disbelief at what I was hearing.

I will start out with an example of one such situation that just floored me when I heard about it. It’s winter time, and as most of us have experienced this year, there has been “enough snow” to make the running and everything else that we might need to do outside less than desirable, to say the least. On one such frustrating “snowy” Saturday at a club hunt, there were five Registered casts braving the weather. One of the four-dog casts was just hoping to get through the two hours with a cast winner with plus points and advance a dog to the winners pack. With the tough conditions, and the dogs not being seasoned veterans, the cast had just about used up their hunt time when one of the dogs jumped a rabbit and started to push it around a big thicket. Soon all four dogs were struck in and the cast members had spread out a little bit to try and get a glimpse of the rabbit before time expired in the hunt. About ten seconds before time was to run out in the hunt, the rabbit popped out in front of two of the handlers and a spectator who had been standing on one side of the thicket. The dogs came through and the hunt time ran out before either one of the other two handlers could get there to score a line “because he circled in the thicket” or see the rabbit.

No big deal, right? The cast did their best to give the dogs ample opportunity to get their points plussed and they were unable to within the allotted hunt time. What they should have done was circle the strike points in accordance with Rule 5(b) because they were utilizing a hunting judge and the majority had not seen the rabbit when hunt time ran out. Well, that is not what they did. Instead, sadly, they plussed them and their reasoning was that two handlers and a spectator saw the rabbit before hunt time ran out (in their eyes making it a majority).

As I was listening to this scenario, I was thinking that I could totally see someone pulling that off with a cast of inexperienced handlers who were not up on their rules to step up and say “Hey, wait a minute! What about Rule 3(f)?”

This example is just one of many that we, as handlers and judges especially, need to step back and think about. We need to ask ourselves, “If I was in that position and my dog did have first strike, would I want to get a cast win and advance my dog like that?”

At no point in a cast should a spectator have anything to do with how a call is made or decided upon. Can a spectator call a line? Absolutely not. Can they yell that they saw a rabbit? Technically, yes. But in reality there is no reason for them to let anyone know if they saw a rabbit. It definitely does not go towards the majority of the cast seeing the rabbit and just adds noise and distraction to a cast.

If you Judge a lot of casts throughout the year, sooner or later you will get asked by one of the handlers if you mind whether the spectators tell us if they see a rabbit. The best possible answer to this question is that you would rather they didn’t because it does not help the cast in anyway. Rule 3(a) says points will be plus 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 Judge or cast member (after completion of circle). The key there is at point rabbit was seen by Judge or cast member. Nowhere does it say at point rabbit was seen by a spectator. The bottom line is they don’t need to and should not be involved in the cast in any way. They are supposed to be just that - a spectator - defined by Webster’s as one who looks on or watches, a close observer. Spectators are there, or rather should be there, to applaud the performance of the hound work, not influence it. Try to keep these thoughts in the back of your mind next time you go to a trial and handle a dog or Judge a cast. The program will benefit greatly from it.