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UKC Licensed Hunt Tests: How We Got There

Five years ago or so 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 of asking the question, why is that? It is just a more laid back 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-coonhunters 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.

More recently, 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! And it became very obvious at that time that there was a huge segment of the tree dog sports that for one reason or another, just do not prefer the competitive licensed hunt format. I wish I knew the percentage of people that have a dog registered with UKC that participate in a licensed 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 that there are thousands and thousands of dog owners out there that are registering dogs but not participating in licensed hunts.

One of the slogans that UKC has used over the years, not so much in the tree dog 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 cur and feist dogs are hunted, were we missing a large segment of hunters looking for a different type of event in which to participate? UKC has always been about trying to provide the customer with quality events to participate in.

At this point the Licensed Hunt Tests became a reality and a program was started to test dogs, both coonhound and cur / feist, on night time hunts for raccoon. 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 a performance evaluation in the single registration process coonhounds, 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 coondogs 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!