Striking Dogs Hot Topic!

Several months ago, I had an interesting discussion with Bill McFarland and a few others surrounding a topic that is not only controversial, but that is also being scored inconsistently. It’s not a matter of blatant incorrect scoring, but rather some judges are not clearly aware of the proper way to score certain strike call situations.

Those that know him will attest that Bill has a sharp pencil in hand when it comes to the Hunting Beagle rules. Ninety-nine out of a 100 times he is going to be the winner of most any rules debate. For the sake of fair warning, if you doubt his knowledge he may very well break out documentation in the glove box of his truck that will prove you wrong. I say that with the utmost respect.

Bill has very likely saved more published articles relative to rules and UKC policies than any other hunter in the country. Actually, he probably has some articles filed that UKC’s Steve Fielder, Todd Kellam and Todd Morgan wouldn’t even remember writing. He’s not so much a stickler on what the rules are as he is for applying them correctly in accordance with the specific situation at hand. Even I have borrowed some old rules articles from him that were written way back in the day. It’s interesting to read a lot of those articles and see that the majority of the rules are still applied the very same way today.

Nonetheless, the topic at hand surrounds the recourses for various scenarios of striking a dog that has not opened. It’s not about pitching or striking the wrong dog in the cast so much, but rather what to do when a handler strikes a house dog, a goose, a train, a cow off in the distance, or a dog you can’t hear opening or that has not opened. Usually, when discussing this topic with other hunters, it becomes evident that the majority believes that some sort of penalty should apply regardless of what triggered the strike call from the handler. Maybe it should, but the fact is a penalty is not always supported by the rules for every situation.

In order to come to a conclusion on how to score specific “bad” strike call situations correctly, we’ll first break down current rules specific to declaring dogs struck. Beyond that we’ll provide UKC’s position on those not specifically outlined in the rules. This is one you may want to print off and toss in your glove compartment for future reference.

Rule 2 (a): 100 points for dog that opens and is declared struck first, second etc. etc.
Rule 4 (e): When handler strikes the wrong dog, they are to receive the called position minused. After minus, position becomes available. For second offense see Rule 6(m).
Rule 6 (m): On second offense, if handler calls another handler’s dog (dog is scratched).
Rule 8: They must tell the Judge when the dog opens on strike.
Rule 16 (a): Dogs to be declared struck and recorded according to their called positions upon opening. Dog must open before being declared struck.

Let’s start with Rule 16 {Dogs to be declared struck and recorded according to their called positions upon opening.} “Upon opening” are key words interpreted as, a call may only be made immediately after the dog opens. Not five or ten seconds later.

Rule 8 further justifies this interpretation when it states {They must tell judge when dog opens on strike.} In other words. The judge should be able to recognize the dog that is being called just opened prior to being declared struck. If it is obvious to the judge that the dog being called has not “just” opened, then the call should not be accepted. Example; a dog opens one time and is not declared struck. Ten seconds later, the handler now declares the dog struck without any further barks. In essence the handler chose to not strike the dog “upon opening”; therefore, it is not acceptable and the handler must wait for the dog to open again before declaring it struck. Per the rule mentioned above the dog must be struck “upon opening”.

Most common occurrences of handlers declaring a dog struck after “upon opening” is when another dog in the cast opens a little later. Some will argue that they are then calling the wrong dog and should be minused for it. That should never be the automatic result. Instead, the judge needs to determine if the handler was calling the second dog that opened or if the handler was simply now calling his dog that had opened earlier. Again, if the handler was now calling the first dog, then then the strike call should not be accepted.
If it’s a matter of “pitching”, a term used when a handler strikes another handler’s dog, then Rule 4(e) applies and the dog is minused the called position, per 4 (e) on the first offense. On second offense the dog is scratched, per 6(m).

Rule 4(e), for first offenses, uses the terminology “the wrong dog”, while Rule 6(m) clearly states “another handler’s dog” for second offenses. Because these two rules are related to each other, it creates debates because a house dog or another dog in the area opening is not “another handler’s dog”. Regardless, it seems like a better choice of wording within the two rules would eliminate confusion. Before making an official decision as to how it should be handled, I searched for any written clarifications on this topic. It seems odd there would not be something written in the past on this topic but, unfortunately, I came up empty-handed.

I doubt that most think Rule 4 (e) should include “any” dog for the first offense, but then “another handler’s dog” only for the second offense. It simply makes no logical sense to have strike call violations that you can get minused for, but that don’t count against a second offense. Therefore, it is UKC’s position that Rule 4(e) “the wrong dog” shall be interpreted as the position is minused for calling the wrong dog in the cast. Then that position becomes available again. This makes both rules consistent with each other.
So, how about strike calls that are determined to have been a dog that is not in the cast, such as a house or farm dog? Or how about a train off in the distance, a goose honking overhead, a Blue Jay, one of Ridenhour’s feeder hogs, or what have you? In all of these cases, the call is simply not accepted. No penalties are associated with it other than possibly a few friendly handler skills tips offered by the peanut gallery. We are well aware that in the past this has not always been the way these situations have been scored. That’s fine, but for the sake of consistent scoring and consistency within the two rules, it’s the way we need to be handling it.

That said, UKC would have no issues with the next Rules Committee considering a proposal that would penalize a dog when it is determined to be anything other than the actual dog that was declared struck. Unless that happens, though, judges should simply not accept the call when it is determined that the handler struck something other than a dog in the cast.

Finally, how about a dog being declared struck that the judge did not hear open? First, the judge is ultimately responsible for making the decision; however, if he or she has any question, we would suggest that the judge poll the cast before making a ruling on a dog they didn’t hear open. Truth is, not every judge will always have the sharpest ears in the cast, and someone else in the cast may have, in fact, heard the struck dog open. Polling the cast for this situation is not necessarily a matter of majority rules. It’s simply a courtesy if the judge thinks, based on the situation, a dog could have opened and he or she simply did not catch or hear it. Then the judge makes a decision accordingly on whether or not to accept the call. If the handler, or any handler for that matter, disagrees with the judge’s call, they have a right to question it following the procedures in place for questioning all calls.

• Striking the Wrong Dog in the Cast = on first offense, position is minused and remains available. Scratched on second offense.
• Pitching a Dog = same as calling the wrong dog in the cast. On first offense, position is minused and remains available. Scratched on second offense.
• Striking a Dog after “Upon Opening” = call is not accepted. No penalty otherwise.
• Striking a House Dog or Farm Dog = call is not accepted. No penalty otherwise.
• Striking a Goose, a Cow, a Hog, a Train etc. = call is not accepted. No penalty otherwise.

Unfortunately, I took up most of the space available for this Full Circle for this topic alone, but hopefully it’s justified. It’s not a matter of agreeing or variances in personal opinions. It’s a matter of being consistent. If a rule change relative to this topic is in order, I’m sure that will happen in time. Happy hunting, and good luck at the trials!




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