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UKC Licensed Hunt Tests: How We Got There

This is Sis, who drew the third hour on our test hunt. We turned Sis loose at 12:40 the same night. She hunted out good and was gone for quite a while before opening and working a good track, which she treed in an adjacent woodlot. We let her five run and went in to check her. Nice tree dog. Started looking for the coon, and it was a tough tree to check with all the leaves on and in thick woods. We were pretty confident the coon was there and looked a good long time, but it could not be found. We cast her again in the same area, and she hunted out the rest of her time without getting another track. A bad break for Sis as coon just didn’t seem to be moving, and she only satisfied three out of four requirements on her first track so she did not pass. Not all good dogs will each time out. Get ‘em next time, Sis.

Meet Rowdy, who drew the first up position of our first test hunt. We cast Rowdy at 10:10 p.m. on a dry but otherwise nice night to hunt. He hunted out well and opened in short order. He worked a bad, bad track for some time before getting treed. We had the eight running on his strike a couple times and it was getting tense! After settling on a tree, we let the five run out and headed in to check him. He was treed nice and tight and coon was seen. With 35 minutes used, we moved to a new spot, turned him loose again and he went in, worked a pretty good track and got treed again. The hour ran out as we were searching for his second coon. We did not spend any more time looking for the coon as he had already passed all his requirements on one coon without committing two faults. Rowdy passed with flying colors!

Five years or so ago, we started kicking this idea around, specifically to put in place with our Cur/Feist Program. When you think about how many Cur and Feist dogs there are around the country and then look at the number of entries at even the largest events, it just seemed like a very big part of that sport was not participating in events. That situation begged the question, why is that? It is just a more laidback world? Is it dominated by pleasure hunters who just enjoy running their dog for their own personal satisfaction? Is that sport made up of a high percentage of ex-coon hunters who are burned out on competition hunting? Of course, we can only speculate as to what the correct answer may be, but that’s what got us thinking.

Within the last year or so, this very topic came up on the coonhound message forum on the UKC website. Specifically, that topic was, “What makes a person primarily and, in many cases exclusively, a pleasure hunter.” The list of reasons was varied, well thought-out and long! It became very obvious at that time that there was a huge segment of the coonhound sport that for
one reason or another just do not prefer the competitive nite hunt format.

I wish I knew the percentage of people who have a dog registered with UKC who participate in a licensed nite hunt each year. I don’t. It would be impossible to determine and dangerous to even guess, knowing you might not come within twenty or thirty percentage points of the correct answer. What I do know is there are thousands and thousands of coonhound owners out there who are registering dogs but not participating in nite hunts.

One of the slogans UKC has used over the years, not so much in the coonhound world but in promotion of our all breed events is, “Our Dogs Do Stuff.” Simple but straight to the point. We have not, are not, and hopefully never will be primarily a pet registry. The vast majority of our dogs and owners participate in working type programs. The vast majority of our Labrador Retrievers participate in our Hunting Retriever Program. The vast majority of the Beagles registered at UKC run in our Hunting Beagle Program. And right on down the line for all the working breeds. And while there is no question that the vast majority of our coonhounds are hunted, were we missing a large segment of houndsmen looking for a different type of event in which to participate? UKC has always been about trying to provide the customer with quality events.

The first step in getting the idea of a hunt test program off the ground was to form a committee made up of individuals who considered themselves strictly pleasure hunters to determine what they considered the most important criteria in a well-balanced pleasure coon dog. At this point, we will not launch into the age old debate comparing nite hunt dogs to pleasure dogs, and if there is any difference at all. I just wanted to know what this type person expected out of their hound, what type of event they would find most enjoyable, and what type of title the most rewarding. E-mail is a wonderful tool, and I knew if I could get the right group of guys on board who were willing to quickly correspond their thoughts with a group, I could make some progress. For the record, I found the right group, and we did make progress. Quickly. The slowest link in the system was myself because I was not able to devote 100 percent of my time to this new project. I would like to thank the following individuals for their time and input on this project: Bob Brooks (Michigan), Frank Brown (North Carolina), John Carroll (Kansas), Sam Buff (North Carolina), Jim Hill (Minnesota), Ad Medcalf (Georgia) and Tommy Trott (Oklahoma).

Our goal from the outset was to keep this program as simple as possible, while at the same time making it enough of a challenge that we weren’t simply handing out certificates. For instance, as opposed to simply requiring the dog to tree a coon and be done as with the performance valuation in the single registration process, it was thought that the dogs should be required to hunt for a full hour and be able to tree one coon that is seen without committing two of the listed faults. It was also decided that this should not be a one-pass deal, on what could in effect be one lucky night, in order to earn a certificate. If the hound were to go out on three separate occasions and do what coon dogs do, without committing the typical coonhound faults, that would say a whole lot more about the quality of the hound. And believe me, as simple as this sounds, it’s not a walk in the park!