UKC Beagle Field Trials A Different World
Posted on 03/13/2013 in Beagles.
The UKC has several designated individuals to write articles for their monthly publications. One of those writers is a gentleman from Lincolnton, North Carolina - Sam Buff. His monthly articles are typically coonhound related and recap his latest travel to some major event, local club event or even just a pleasure hunt with some avid hunter.
Recently Sam had planned an annual trip to the UKC Licensed Southeastern Treeing Walker Days in Salisbury, North Carolina. After plans of a couple buddies traveling with him to this hunt got canceled, the chain of events took Sam completely elsewhere, as he explains in his most recent article submission to UKC.
Setting out on the hunt.
The beaver dam.
The kids bench show.
UKC Beagle Field Trials
A Different World
This article appears in the April 2013 issue of COONHOUND BLOODLINES as part of the regular “Pleasure Hunting With Sam Buff” column.
Sometimes I try to remember my first memories. I often find that they are attached to an event that was highly emotional. I remember my first trip to the emergency room. I was just a little feller. The doctor used a pair of pliers to pull the rusty nail from the bottom of my foot. I remember that I never wore shoes when I was a kid. Really, I never wore shoes. I cannot tell you how many bee stingers I removed back then. I also remember that my Dad really enjoyed rabbit hunting. He had a pack of Beagles on the far side of the yard. I believe they were tri-colored, but I’m not positive. I don’t remember much about them other than they were there.
Every February I attend Southeastern Treeing Walker Days (SETWA Days) in Salisbury, North Carolina. It is a tradition for me. I am a creature of habit. A friend or two will join me for the trek, which starts early and has a built-in break for a quick stop at Bojangles.
We typically arrive at the fairgrounds mid-morning, which is a great time to start making the rounds. I always enjoy going through the stud barns to see the hounds, even though they are almost entirely those dang old spotted devils. A bigger event like SETWA Days is a great place to buy any and all things hound related. It is usually priced lower than it can be ordered and many of the vendors will haggle with you should you feel so inclined.
It’s a good event and one of the things I enjoy most is catching up with old friends. It’s comfortable. Something changed this year. My hunting buddies canceled on me and I found myself in a bit of a funk. I decided that I had been presented an opportunity to try something different. So I did.
I went to the United Kennel Club website (ukcdogs.com) to see what events were being held the same weekend and wrote down a name and number to contact for the Broad River Beagle Club in Blacksburg, South Carolina. Bobby Collins answered my call and we spent the better part of an hour talking about field trials. I really appreciated him taking the time to educate me and share his thoughts on rabbit hunting with Beagles. Bobby invited me to the club for their field trial and told me that he would be happy to take me out on a cast so I could see what happens at a UKC field trial. I could not turn down a chance to rabbit hunt and was looking forward to taking to the field. I felt good about it. It wasn’t SETWA Days, but at least I would be hunting with tri-colored hounds.
I have to tell you that it seemed weird to me to go to bed early on Friday night. Friday nights are typically my pleasure hunting night that begins at dark and ends sometime the next morning when I quietly slip into bed trying not to disturb my lovely wife. At my local club the hunt deadline is usually 7 p.m. At Broad River Beagle Club, the hunt deadline was 7 a.m. I knew what needed to be done, so I set my alarm for 5 a.m. and closed my eyes.
I rose early, wiped the sleep from my eyes and prepared myself for the day’s adventures. It was pouring rain. I mean it was a cold, hard rain. I didn’t hesitate because I knew the Beaglers would be there, and so would I. I was really close to the club when my trusty GPS suggested that I make a right turn when it should have been a left turn. Once I figured out what happened, I pulled into a random driveway to turnaround. I didn’t worry about disturbing anyone because who in their right mind would be out in this mess at this hour of the morning! I took it as a good sign when a rabbit hopped across the driveway in front me. I knew everything was going to be alright.
I pulled into the parking lot of the club and saw several trucks. They reminded me of coon hunters’ rigs. Most had dog boxes in the beds of their trucks, but not all of them. There were dog boxes built on trailer frames. These pull behind rigs hooked up to their trucks just like a utility trailer. I thought to myself that a rig like that must hold a pile of Beagles, and they did. I didn’t know what to expect and was a little nervous about going to an event where I didn’t know a soul.
I opened the door and was immediately greeted by two familiar smells. The first was wet dog, and the second was gravy! I knew I was in the right place. I barely had time to shut the door when Bobby greeted me. I don’t know how he knew it was me. He just did. I was ushered over to the kitchen, where I received a cup of coffee and a plate piled high with biscuits and gravy. It was getting better by the minute.
I don’t know that I’ve ever been treated better than I was by the folks gathered around the fireplace. I felt like I had just walked into a family reunion. Everyone was catching up with each other and telling tales. I couldn’t have felt any more at home. Every single person introduced themselves and welcomed me to their club. I have to admit, I don’t feel that way when I go to most coon clubs. The majority of the time when I walk into a club where I don’t know anyone, folks stare at me and don’t make an attempt to welcome me at all.
I have given this a lot of thought and tried to figure out why. What is the difference? Coon hunters are good people, too. I went into my memory bank to try breaking it down. I have noticed over the years that most coon hunting events are dominated by men and lots of testosterone. As I’ve watched the cast walk out of the club together, they are almost always men with their “game faces” on, ready to win it all.
One thing that struck me at the Beagle club was the diversity. Maybe the reason it felt like a family inside was because it was made up of families. There were moms, dads, kids, teens, grandmoms, granddads, grandkids, etc. That gave me something to think about. Maybe it’ll give you something to think about too.
As an added bonus to my experience, UKC Field Representative Jeff Stacy attended the hunt. Like so many others had done, he took me right into the fold and spent a lot of time with me. Jeff gave me an overview of the rules and described the differences in the types of Beagles I may see at a UKC field trial versus one of the other kennel club field trials. Jeff explained that a lot of the hounds entered in the UKC field trials were the same hounds that were gunned over during the hunting season. The UKC field trial is set up to have the same look and feel as if you were gun-dogging. My personal translation of this was that the UKC Beagle would be faster, with a little looser line control. I couldn’t wait for the casts to be called.
I would be going out with Bobby, Austin, Kristin, Mark, Mr. Bundy and Sunshine. Again, what a drastic contrast from what I would have seen on a competition coon hunt. We had youngsters in Austin and Kristin. We had a veteran and grandfather in Mr. Bundy, a mom in Sunshine, and a couple of middle-agers in Bobby, Mark and me.
I was so excited to see them go - and they did. Beagles are not afraid of the briars and thick stuff. They seemed to love it. A rabbit was struck before we really had a chance to settle. It always amazes me to watch a rabbit race. The rabbit was jumped beside of a brush pile in front of us. It took off to the right, over and around the hill, by the beaver ponds and completed the circle where it had begun. I wish I could train those coons to do that.
The steady rain did not dampen our mood or the performance of these little tracking machines. The Beagles ran several other rabbits, and at the end of our two hours in the field, Mr. Bundy was awarded the “cast” win. There was no hooting and hollering. There was no rubbing it in to the other cast members. There was no relishing the act of crushing your opponent. As a matter of fact, if you hadn’t seen the scorecard, you probably would not have been able to tell who had won and who had not. Mr. Bundy conducted himself in a professional manner. He acted like he had been there before. I bet he had. The other folks on the cast congratulated Mr. Bundy and genuinely seemed to be happy about being out in the field regardless of the point totals on the scorecard. It was truly a breath of fresh air.
Our cold, wet cast made its way back to the clubhouse. This brings up another interesting topic. The hunt wasn’t over. The field trial was held in an elimination format. I really liked the idea. I can predict with a fairly high degree of accuracy which cast will bring back the high score at our local coon club. It’s not rocket science. There are some folks who work really hard baiting up their coons. They have a lot of feeders out and will almost always bring back a big score. At the end of the night, I don’t care if your hound had to work twice as hard for his lower score because your cast didn’t hunt off of feeders, the high score feeder cast wins - period. The elimination style format takes away the advantage of receiving the “luck of the draw.” The hunt isn’t influenced nearly as much by the guide you draw because the cast winners have to go back out and hunt against each other. This is a tough competition and the winner really has to be on top of its game.
Hunters like to eat, so we ate again. It was nice to be able to gather around the fire, dry out our coats and enjoy the accounts of the first round of hunts. Around noon, I watched the bench show. It was at that point I realized how many color combinations Beagles come in, from Black and Tan, Bluetick, Red, Lemon to old faithful, the Tri-Color. The youngsters had their own bench show and I believe they all walked away winners. It was a very lively show.
At the completion of the show, it was time to go out for the afternoon casts which were made up of Champion Beagles. I’m going to compare it to going out on Nite Champion casts. I expected to see good work out of these hounds. They had all won a hunt and earned enough points to be Champions. Again, this would be elimination style. These little hounds were going to have to earn their titles.
I had a ball. The weather finally broke and rain stopped, which gave us great hunting for the afternoon. The Champion Beagles looked good. They were very competitive with each other and I didn’t know which hound won the cast until the score was totaled on the hood of the truck. Our cast brought back a very high score and it was well deserved. The gentlemen on this cast were constantly going back and forth jousting with each other. It was always in good fun and I was thoroughly entertained. The cast was won and just like the morning winner, all class in victory and defeat.
What started off as disappointment because my streak of attending SETWA Days had ended, finished, with me having a great time hunting in a format I had never seen with people I had never met. I expected to go on this hunt, meet a person or two and tell their story. What happened was totally different. I saw a different world. I had no idea that field trials could be so much fun.
As I was about to leave the event, I was asked what I thought about the whole experience. I really boiled it down to two very strong impressions. The first was that UKC Beagles are fast and, if they are awarded a title in the elimination style format, they earned it. The second was how incredible the hospitality and sportsmanship was at the Broad River Beagle Club. I love my Redbones and plan to keep one around for years to come but don’t be shocked if a little tri-colored hound slips into my kennel. I can’t say for sure but I wouldn’t be surprised if I find myself at some future date thinking back to events that changed my life and relive the memory of my first field trial.
May all your hunts be pleasurable.
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Follow Sam’s adventures on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-d3u697w39A