Field trials for hound dogs may be unfamiliar to many outdoorsmen and women. But, for hound hunting families it is like the Superbowl of family fun every year.
I didn’t know what to expect when I decided to attend my first hound field trials announced on the Montana Outdoor Radio Show website in May (https://www.montanaoutdoor.com/2016/05/state-championship-hound-field-trials-set-for-june-4-5th/)
The scent drag is laid after each heat by dragging a scent soaked drag behind a motor bike which leads the hounds to a tree with a live raccoon safely suspended above them.
My son Kaden and a friend Joe McGillivray and his son Leo met at the Gault Ranch where the hound trials were to be held and set up camp.
The next morning dozens of hounds and their owners were stacked along an aspen grove where water for hounds and camping for people is available.
Hounds and Their Owners Line Up At A Scent Drag Start. Once The Signal Is Given By The Race Director Owners Watch Hounds Race Along The Scent Drag And Then Hustl To “The Tree” To Watch Their Hounds In Action.
A single sign in the middle of an open pasture showed the starting line for many of the days events and heat numbers painted on a flip board were ready. A trailer with the Montana State Houndsmen Association served as a registration booth and for a few bucks houndsmen could enter hounds in each of several events.
Moments before the release…
Scent drags were laid out by dragging a scent soaked raccoon hide behind a motor bike and the distances for the scent drag were between a mile or two and 5 or 6 miles depending on the event.
And They Are Off!
Puppy classes for pups under one year old and open classes followed the AKC pure bred classes.
I entered my two pups Action and Flora in the drag races which ended at a tree with a raccoon in a cage suspended high enough above the hounds that they couldn’t reach it. To my surprise my 9 month old pup was the second hound to cross the line and the second to reach the tree and howl at the ‘coon looking down at her.
Every heat takes the top two hounds – as shown here the authors hound Flora was the second hound pasta pre-determined line and second to the tree. Flora advanced to the final round where she was too hot and little to keep up with the big dogs.
Midday competitions include AKC contests where hounds of various pure-breeds are shown by owners. Hounds must run along with the owners then stand for physical scrutiny by a qualified judge. Winners are declared for each breed.
Hounds eager to chase the hide clad dummy across the water charge out of the dog box resting at the waters edge during the Montana State Championships near White Sulphur Springs, Montana.
Another fun event is called the “single tree” and “double tree” where a line is made around a tree about 20 feet in circumference. The tree has a live coon in a cage which by mid-afternoon couldn’t care less about the annoying barking hounds. The objective is for the hound to bay at the ‘coon without stepping out of the circle. The number of barks is counted. On single tree it is one hound on double tree it is two hounds.
Hounds barks while chasing a dummy across a pond during the hound field trials.
Another fun event is the “fastest hound” event where hounds are backed up about 100 yards or so from a live ‘coon in a cage and released. Like the title of the raced eludes – first hound to the tree is the winner.
A Bit of Showmanship Rounds Out The Days Events Like This Beautiful Black and Tan Hound. AKC Registered Hounds Compete For Various Categories Including Best Of Breed Like This Winner.
To wrap up the weekends events a rope is pulled across a pond for a water race. The hounds must follow a dummy across the water which is propelled by a rope connected to a bicycle. Some poor soul has to keep peddling fast enough to keep the drag just in front of the hounds as they swim along behind it. At the end of the drag the dummy cloaked in a ‘coon skin raises above the water resting atop a pole out of hounds reach. The hounds must bark “treed” to get points. Fastest hound that trees is declared a winner.
Prizes and trophies are given for hounds that perform making for lasting memories for Parents and their children like Joe McGillivray and his son Leo pictured here with their dog Doc.
Amidst all the barking and field trialing campers share stories, catch up on Association business and for guys like me, learn a lot about this time honored way of life.
For more information visit: www.montanahoundsmen.com