- So that you don’t waste your time and money, it is important that you read and understand the AKC Hunt Test Rules. It is not uncommon for dogs not to pass because of handler mistakes. Shame on you if you are one of these people. Ask questions if you are not sure on any part of the rules.
- No dog training is allowed anywhere on the grounds while the Hunt Test is in progress. This is an AKC Rule. However you may pick your dog up at any time during the test to insure that any bad habits exhibited are not reinforce while being tested. Dogs catch on quickly.
- Know when you may and may not collar your dog. Collaring your dog outside the rules or without direction to do so by the judge is an indication that you are picking the dog up. This will end the test for your dog.
- Maintain your self control. Do not be abusive to anyone, any animals or the judges before, during or after the test. Disregarding this AKC rule carries consequences you may regret.
- Make sure you understand and are in agreement with all information printed on the Hunt Test Premium before you enter you dog into that test.
- Be considerate of the host clubs workers and judges. A lot of work money and planning goes into putting on a Hunt Test. Pay attention to what is going on and be at the cast off line when it is your turn. By the rules if you are more than five minutes late for your brace your dog is eliminated from that test. Also by being late, you just moved your brace mate down to the bottom of the running order. This is not a good way to make friends. You also made the test last more than five minutes longer than it should have.
- Weather conditions can effect your brace time. Your brace may be much later than you anticipated. On the other hand dogs breaking during testing may move your brace to an earlier time than you anticipated.
- Even if things don't go as you planned during your brace, always remember to thank the judges for looking at your dog. It is a hard job sitting in a saddle all day, especially when the weather is bad. Being a judge does have its rewards as they are able to watch a lot of good hunting dogs work. If you enjoy the Hunt Test scene you mighty even consider working toward becoming a judge. Helping out at a Hunt Test is a good way to learn more and pay back what is extended to you. There is usually always something you can do. All you have to do is ask. If all participants are just takers then Hunt Test will soon fade away. Find out about your local breed club and become involved. It takes people just like you to make things happen.
- Be considerate of other Hunt Test participants. They have invested time, money, training and travel to be at the test. You shouldn't enter a dog that you know will interfere with its brace mate. Senior and Master dogs must never interfere with their brace mate. Junior dogs are given a little more leeway. Dogs that start a fight at any test level will be on their way to being barred from entered all future AKC Hunt Test.
- You must carry a starter pistol while running a dog at all test levels. You will need to discharge your starter pistol immediately after a bird flush in a Junior Test. At the Senior and Master level you may or may not have the need of its use. A starter pistol uses a blank cartridge to make a loud report but is incapable of producing a projectile. Starter pistols eject hot powder and are loud. Do not discharge them in the direction of animals or near other people. Indiscriminate use of a starter pistol is not allowed during Hunt Test. You will not be allowed to use bank cartridges in a real gun, so don't even try.
- Master Test level require you to carry a shot gun or imitation of a long gun. Some people carry BB guns and some carry wooden facsimiles for this purpose. It should look like a gun but doesn't have to shoot. If you carry a gun it should be of the break open type and must not be loaded at any time. You will not be shooting at flushed birds but you are required to shoulder whatever devise you carry as if you were shooting. Designated gunners will be provided for you. It is your responsibility for their placement before you flush the bird. It is their responsibility to safely execute any actual shooting.
- During your brace you and your dog are a team. Whenever you feel it necessary, you should provide guidance by directing your partner into "birdy" areas and away from difficult situations. You are not running a foot race with the other handler unless you happen to be on a course that has a bird field (read the premium). In which case it is in the best interest of participants that both dogs reach the bird field about the same time. You or your dog may not cut the course in order to reach a bird field.
- Walking fast during your brace may seem like a good idea as you push your dog to get to the birds first. Two things can go wrong with this plan. The first being that you might push you dog so much that it does not adequately hunt the area in order to find any of the minimal number of birds placed there. It's a sad feeling when you reach the end of the course with time left on the clock and your dog is birdless. What a waste of time and money. Secondly, you have out paced the other handler and proudly approach your pointing dog. Suddenly you realize that you did not outpace the other dog. Now you have an extra dog in the area with no handler present and you are not allowed to handle it. This is never a good situation because dogs without viewable handlers sometimes do things they wouldn't otherwise do. What if the other dog runs past your dog to steal point or worse, takes the bird out. Unless you have an extremely well trained dog, yours will probably break. In your haste to be first, you just wasted your time and money for the day. Worst of all, you have no one to blame but yourself. Believe me, there are enough things that can and do go wrong during a brace without adding to them. Pay attention to what is going on. Keep in mind the location of the other handler and dog and what they are doing.
- Try not to let your dog tailgate its brace mate. Your dog must find and work its own birds. A trailing dog usually ends up with a stolen point. Except for a Junior dog, that just ruined your day. The judges will split up if dogs move apart. You go where you want. The judge or marshall will see that you don't stray off course. Pay attention to the wind direction. Try to navigate the course where your dog is quartering or running into the wind. Running down wind is of little use to anything but an experienced dog.
- If you encounter roads or trails while on course, stay off of them. If you walk the roads your dog may spend time there also. Most likely there will be few birds found along the road. If your dog encounters a bird on a road the bird will usually be walking out of the area. A walking bird when disturbed will either fly or run. Neither action is a good situation for your dog. Don’t waste your time on the road.
- According to the rules, when a bird has moved from its hiding place it is considered flushed. (Read and understand the rules about this.) Don't do extended chases on running birds. Don't run round and round a bush pile trying to get a bird to fly. Doing this is very stressful on your dog. A lot of dogs break under this pressure. You don't realize how much time you spend not watching your dog while trying to get a bird to fly away. If you feel a situation is unworkable, tell the judge you would like to move on. If allowed, you may heal your dog out of the area and move on. (understand the rule about delayed chase.) Warning, the judge must see the bird you were unable to flush. Ask the judge if he saw the bird. If not, this is considered a non productive point. One non productive point may lower your dogs score. If your dog does not find and point a bird the judge is able to see, your dog can not pass that test.
- Within the rules, help your dog whenever you feel it necessary. Just remember to trust your dog. The quantity of birds on course and the time to find them is limited. Your dog can not pass a hunt test if it doesn't find and point a bird. Your dog may not pass if the judge feels you directed your dog directly to a bird you located. You may however, direct your dog some distance upwind of an area where you hear or have seen a bird and let the dog locate and point it. When the scenting conditions are not good, I have witnessed dogs work past viewable birds that were only a few feet away from them. In defense of dogs, what is visible to a handler or judge may not be visible at dog level.
- On occasion a judge may ask you to direct your dog into an honoring situation. Honoring situation can use up valuable time. If your dog has not located and pointed a bird you may refuse this request and continue hunting. It is advisable to view any honoring request at dog level to satisfy yourself that it is a workable situation for your dog. Sometimes judges forget what they view from horseback is not necessarily visible at dog level. Bring it to their attention if you feel they are asking you to direct your dog into an adverse situation. Except for Junior Test, in your dogs quest to find a bird, should it encounter its brace mate on point it must execute an honor whether it has found a bird or not. For this reason a lot of Master and Senior dog handlers try to keep their dogs separated until such time as there dogs have pointed and worked a bird. It is always good to get retrieving and honoring done while on course thus avoiding a call back situation.
- "Call Back" situations are only offered to Senior and Master level dogs. A call back situation may be conducted at the end of your brace, or at a later time. Call backs may include dogs that were run in Master and Senior test levels. If you are directed to a call back it means your dog has pointed a bird and has a passing score up to this point. Each dog invited for a call back will be given the opportunity to demonstrate an Honor, Retrieve or both if necessary. Your dog may fail or pass the test at this point. There is a tremendous amount of pressure put on a dog during call back situations. You should train for these situations as they are short tight test. Your dog will not have the opportunity to run off any excess excitement before it is put to work.
- Most importantly, if you are in doubt of anything before or during your test, ask the judge. Judges are there to judge your dog and see that the rules are followed. It is up to you to handle your dog correctly. Judges should answer any question you may have.
The Advice given here does not overwrite any AKC Hunt Test Rules. It is only handling techniques gained through years of participating in and judging Hunt Test. It is offered as information to help relieve some of the stress for new Hunt Test participants. I have also entered some insight which may be of value to persons participating at higher Hunt Test levels. As you participate in Hunt Test you will gain experience and acquire your on handling techniques.
Written by Gerald Richey 03/04/2011
Revised by Gerald Richey 10/28/12