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To Minus or Circle, Authority of a Hunting Judge, Recasting
Posted on 06/12/2005 in The Coonhound Advisor.

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June Advisor
Allen Gingerich

To Minus or Circle
Dogs A, B, C and D are struck and treed in that order. The hunting Judge is the handler of dog A. The cast votes on how the tree should be scored. The hunting Judge and the handler of dog D vote to minus the tree. The other two cast members vote to circle the tree. How should the tree be scored?

This question came up recently at one of the Breed Events after someone failed the question on the Master of Hounds test. It was discussed amongst some well respected officials and a few of them did not agree on the correct answer; not until they took another look in the rulebook. This question has been covered in the advisor column several times throughout the years but it might help to cover it again. It seems that most would tend to go with the hunting Judge since there was a two to two vote. However, that would be incorrect. The correct answer would be to circle the tree. Rule four plainly states; points will be minus when dogs tree and majority of the cast, when hunting Judge is used, can plainly see no coon is there. In the situation above, the cast did not reach a majority decision so the tree must be circled. Remember, you must have majority of cast vote in order to plus a tree; you must have majority of cast to minus a tree. If you don’t have majority one way or the other, then you must circle the tree. The hunting Judge does not break a two to two vote when it comes to scoring a tree.

Authority of a Hunting Judge
Some tend to think, the answer to the question described above can be found in the Hunting and Non-Hunting Judge Rule Clarification section in the rulebook, where it states; majority of cast rules and if majority is not reached then leave the call as it was scored by the hunting Judge, place a question on the card and check with the Master of Hounds. The hunting Judge does in fact have the same authority as a non-hunting Judge in all but four rules situations. Those four situations are: plussing a tree; minusing a tree; calling time out, and returning to a previously scored tree without declaring dogs treed. In order to plus a tree; the coon has to be seen by a majority of the cast. Majority of the cast must agree in order to call time out. Points will be deleted when dogs return to tree that had previously been scored. The cast may go to tree without dogs being declared treed, if majority of cast agrees, when hunting Judges are used. If you check your rulebook, you will find these answers plainly written.

There is one other situation in which UKC has enacted a policy that is not directly covered in the rules. We have supported the right of a non-hunting Judge to go into a tree alone with his or her light off in an attempt to determine if a dog is interfering with other dogs by aggressive behavior. Other than those situations described, a hunting Judge has the same authority as a non-hunting Judge. As an example, when it comes to scratching a dog for any reason, including fighting, it is the decision of the hunting Judge.

When it comes to strong versus weak hunting Judges, remember this; a strong hunting Judge makes the difficult calls; a weak Judge takes each decision directly to the majority of the cast. Sure, you may be at somewhat of a disadvantage when handling a dog and you are assigned to judge the cast. Consider it an honor and do what is expected of you as the Judge. Step up to the plate and stay on top of all situations. Call everything fair and square and get the job done!

Dogs A, B and C have been scored and led away from the tree, to be recast to a dog D who is struck in on trail. The eight minutes is applied to dog D before we release the dogs. My question is; may I release dog C as soon as I hear dog D open or do I have to wait for the Judge to tell me when to release my dog?

“ The rules say dogs must be turned loose to other dogs on trail, so I’m turning mine loose as soon as I hear a dog open and I don’t care what the Judge says.” “If I am the Judge and you turn loose before I tell you, then I will scratch you.” Those were just a few of the different opinions hashed out on the message recently with some pretty serious controversy on this topic.

Rule 17 states that dogs must be turned loose to other dogs that are opening on trail. The question is, can you turn loose without being instructed by the Judge. The answer is no. First of all when a dog opens if there is any doubt, the Judge needs to determine whether it is dog D, or some other dog on the other side of the woods tied out behind Farmer Joe’s barn. Unless the Judge gets an immediate tree call when dog D opens, he should instruct the handlers to release their dogs. One point of concern on this topic was, what if after dog D opens and the Judge takes the extra time to have the handlers all line up and collar their dogs before they can release them and dog D might open again and be declared treed before the dogs on leash get turned loose? I can assure you a strong Judge will have control of the cast and when dog D opens those dogs will be instructed to turn loose, unless the dog was declared treed immediately on that first bark. Another point of concern, what if the Judge, for whatever reason, is trying to delay the handlers with dogs on leash, hoping the dog will get treed so the handlers can’t turn their dogs loose? This type of Judge would more than likely not fall in the strong, fair and honest category.

Refer back to what we stated earlier in this article about the difference between strong and weak Judges. Bottom line, when you have a strong Judge, these type of situations more than likely will never be an issue.