Does the Judge have to See it to Score it; Other Coonhound News
February 7, 2018
Source: Allen Gingerich
As published in Coonhound Bloodlines January 2018.
Does the Judge Have to See It to Score It?
It is a common misconception amongst some hunters that a Judge must actually see an offense take place before he or she can make a ruling. That is simply not true. Indeed, there are times when you cant tell whats happening without being able to see it first-hand. But on flip side, there are many, many situations where you can tell exactly whats happening without seeing it first-hand.
By the very nature of the sport of nite hunting, most of what goes on comes to us on the night air as we stand completely in the dark. To a first-time hunter, none of it makes sense. Yet an experienced houndsmen can tell you with almost certain conviction exactly what is happening. Thats why it is so important for club officers and licensed officials to make every effort to appoint qualified individuals to judge casts. Most of what happens requires a judgment call based on experience.
Do you have to see a dog fight to scratch two dogs for being involved in one? Certainly not. You know a dog fight when you hear one. If there is no question as to which dogs are involved, they must both be scratched. Could the aggressor be determined without seeing who started the fight? That call is riskier. I would have to say that no, the aggressor could not be determined without witnessing the offense. But the fact that a fight did take place and the fact that there is a provision for scratching those involved when the aggressor is not known, obligates a Judge to make that call.
Just like you dont have to watch a dog leave a tree to minus them for it. If, as a Judge, you are certain of what is happening, it must be scored accordingly. Thats what judging is. If you are not certain, hold off until you are. Some handlers will attempt to pressure a judge into making a premature decision. Thats just as bad as not making a decision that you are certain about. Do you have Nite Champion dogs burning off game out of the country? You dont have to see the deer to scratch dogs for running it. Make the call if you are certain.
Judging is not for everyone, and if you are not confident enough to make the decisions that you know are correct, or if you are not confident enough to hold off making decisions until you do know them to be correct, then you should refrain from accepting the responsibility to judge. If you have been appointed as a Judge and cannot rightfully fulfill those duties, take your cast to the Master of Hounds and address your concerns with him or her. Do not take it upon yourself to pass the card to someone else in the cast. Let the licensed official do that.
If you are confident with your experience as a coon hunter and your ability to make decisions, then take pride in the fact that the club has confidence in you! Draw on your experience and score situations accordingly.
This topic never gets old so lets spend just a moment with a discussion of scoring trees. There are a couple important things to remember when scoring trees. First, in order to score plus or minus, it takes a majority of the cast decision to do so. A Judges vote holds no more weight than anyone else when it comes to voting on how trees should be scored in a hunting Judge situation. Sure, in a non-hunting Judge situation, its solely the Judges decision. But in a hunting Judge situation, trees are scored by a vote of the cast members, and each cast member has equal say. It takes three people on a four-dog cast to plus or minus a tree. It takes two people on a three-dog cast to plus or minus a tree. It takes both people on a two-dog cast to plus or minus a tree.
Also, it is mandatory that all cast members go to each tree to participate in the scoring. In split tree situations, it is NOT permissible to send two handlers to one tree to score it while the remaining two handlers score the other tree. Even in the essence of saving time, this is not acceptable. The rules say points will be plus when coon is seen by a majority of the cast when hunting a Judge is used. This is much different than saying, by a majority of the cast members present at that tree. All cast members must vote on how to score each tree, and those votes must be made in good faith after having searched the tree in question for the allotted time.
Unless the cast is in the process of shining a tree, it is acceptable to allow a handler to go to a split tree to tie his or her dog after the five minutes is up or trees are closed. However, that handler must then return to the original tree to help score it. And trees must be scored in that order. The dog that was declared treed first will have his tree scored first. Can that be an inconvenience sometimes? You bet it can. One reason for this is the option to re-cast rule. The dog treed first MUST always have that option to be recast first. The ONLY exception to not scoring in the order declared treed is when all dogs are declared treed. In that case, the rules do allow trees to be scored in the most convenient order. When all dogs are declared treed, none would have the option to recast.
Character Above Reproach?
It is kind of sad that I recently addressed two situations in two days concerning, how should I put it, character or class? One caller who described himself as definitely not being a prude, felt forced to withdraw his dog at an event because of the constant profanity and totally vulgar actions displayed by another cast member. The person calling had a young boy with him and asked several times that the handler tone it down a little. The handler refused to tone it down, and the caller felt he was left no choice but to withdraw his dog. Though he really wished to hunt his dog that night, it wasnt worth exposing a child to that kind of behavior. The caller asked if a person could be scratched for such behavior.
The next day I received a letter wanting to know if there was anything that could be done about a licensed official, in this case a Bench Show Judge, who openly made profane, distasteful comments about a young female handler in the show. According to this letter, the Judge went on and on with his lewd, profane dialogue and cared not who heard it. Nor did he care who heard his colorful stories of days past and the placement of registration papers on grade dogs. The letter asked if an official could lose his license if they lacked, as the Bench Show Judge Requirements put it, character above reproach.
While its not surprising that we have to deal with such issues in a male-dominated sport, it sure doesnt mean that we have to live with it. There are varying degrees of such behavior. What one person might find offensive, another does not. However, both of the situations that were described to me seemed to be clear examples of situations that needed some action taken. Can you scratch the individual in the cast above for excessive swearing? No, not really. Not unless you could make a case that it was being used in a manner to intimidate or stir up trouble. Would the club be within its rights to send the cast member in question a written notice that his entry would be refused at their next three events because he was hindering their ability to run a family event? You bet!
What about officials who lack character above reproach, such as the one described above? Is he a good representative of your club and United Kennel Club? I would say not. Is there a chance that anyone who was unscrupulous enough to put a set of papers on a dog would outright cheat on a bench show? Sounds reasonable to me.
There is something that can be done about it. A signed, written complaint may be filed against any licensed official. When we receive a complaint on an official, that Judge or Master of Hounds has a file started on them. Now I know darn well that some of these complaints are just sour apples, and one complaint may or may not result in a license being pulled. But I can tell you this, two or three complaints over a period of time for a similar problem will get a license pulled. Especially if the official has already been warned. Weve done it many times.
So the term character above reproach doesnt just apply to licensed officials. It applies to each and every one of us. If you have a total disregard for it, then this sport is better off without you.