Procedure 8-J - The Deer Rule
By Jim Odle
At all Beagle Field Trial Rules Judges Seminars for the Small Pack Option/Gundog Brace formats and regularly at beagle field trials we have a lengthy discussion on the "Deer Rule". What we are really talking about is the American Kennel Club BEAGLE FIELD TRIAL RULES AND STANDARD PROCEDURES FOR BRACE, SMALL PACK AND SMALL PACK OPTION FIELD TRIALS rule book. The rule is stated in the rulebook under the italicized SMALL PACK OPTION part of the rulebook.
More specifically Procedure 8-J "Except for trailing deer, which shall be a demerit, trailing game other than announced shall not be considered a demerit, nor shall any hound be demerited for failing to pack if the pack has been proven to be on game other than announced. In the event the hound has been ordered up, it shall be reinstated in the pack."
Some excellent and experienced judges get confused and frustrated sometimes in applying Procedure 8-J. First of all, the rule only applies to the Small Pack Option (SPO)/Gundog Brace formats and the only animal covered is deer. Several years ago the Beagle Advisory Committee (BAC) in an effort to keep the Beagle useful for hunting purposes as well as field trial competition presented the proposal to AKC and consequently the rule was adopted and implemented. Beagle field trial enthusiast and rabbit hunters realized the seriousness of the problem with a deer running Beagle hound. The BAC and AKC moved to give judges explicit authority to demerit hounds for trailing deer. This is the only "other than announced" animal that hounds may be demerited for trailing. In other words if the hounds trail fox, pheasant, coyote or any "other than announced" animal they shall not be demerited.
Procedure 8-J could have been incorporated into or added onto Procedure 5. STANDARD FOR JUDGING. However, the BAC placed additional emphasis on Procedure 8-J and made it a separate procedure because it applied only to SPO at the time of its inception and later to the Gundog Brace format. Different judges handle deer running beagles differently at field trials. And each situation is different and requires different subjectivity on the judge’s part. In the event of a deer race there is no set time limit allowing the handlers to regain control of the hounds. It is the judge’s discretion. The judges may give the deer runners another rabbit or the judges may order the hounds up and move on to the next pack. Trailing deer is a demerit, nothing more, nothing less.
Any hound that has been ordered up for not participating in running off game shall be reinstated in the pack, Note: Procedure 8-J does not state that the judges must "see" the off game. Most experienced judges realize quickly when the pack is running off game and react accordingly. In small classes the hounds may receive further consideration following a deer race but most judges don’t tolerate deer trailing hounds. Hounds may be ordered up and eliminated from further competition but not disqualified for running deer.
Procedure 7-M States: "Should there arise at any time during the running of a heat a question concerning the actual running of the hounds that is not provided for in these Procedures, the Judges shall handle the situation in a manner not contrary to these Procedures, and shall so decide the matter as to give each hound an equal opportunity". In other words just use good common sense.
It these two formats it is most important that judges start scoring hounds immediately when the hounds are cast. In the case of the winners pack trailing deer, scoring the hounds early on search could very well play an integral part in determining the winner. Judges should be very conscientious of this and carry out their duties accordingly.
Hopefully this will clear up this most important issue. Should you have questions concerning this or any other procedures please feel free to contact any of our friendly AKC field staff.