No Beagle Club Close? Why Not Start One?

I hear folks say the sport of Beagling seems to be dying when you compare the present with the past. I am fairly new to field trials, but just in the last couple years I have seen 4 clubs close their doors. I have heard all the excuses like someone ticked me off, I always felt cheated, I don’t like old so and so, just can’t get enough hounds and so on. I also hear folks say they love Beagling, yet they don’t want to even try a field trial. I was one of those guys that just wanted to run my hounds and hunt. But once I went to the right trial for my type hounds, I was hooked.

I have stated many times before that I never really experienced Beagling until I joined a Beagle club and started field trialing my hunting hounds. I worry I will live to see all the clubs close their doors, and folks will just run on their own. Some of us are doing all we can to prevent this from happening. I believe many Beaglers would trial and belong to clubs if they had one close by. Well, why not start a club? It’s really very simple to do!

Starting an ARHA Gundog club is easy once you get a place to run and a place to meet. The club we started runs on public land and meets in the basement of the office building that manages that land. It cost us under fifty dollars a trial to rent the building and pay for the permit. Three entries at a trial pay for that! Clubhouses come in all shapes and sizes some are fire stations, barns, actual clubhouses, community buildings, church halls; any place that will allow you to meet. The clubhouse does not need to be on the running grounds. I have been to trials that you drive 10 miles to the running grounds from the clubhouse. I have also been to some that we ran the casts right behind the clubhouse. Anything will work if you want it to. If you have good running grounds, whether public or private, try to find a building in the closest town and you will be surprised how easy it is to start an ARHA club. Many communities welcome Beagle clubs with open arms. At least a couple weekends a year it brings in folks from outside to stay at the local hotel, buy fuel, eat and shop in the area. Our area newspaper even runs articles every time we hold a trial. The local hotel will set aside a block of rooms if we think we will have a big turnout.

Many trials are held in small communities, most will really welcome your club if you go about it in the right way.  Now that we have the grounds and clubhouse covered, we need folks and hounds. If you can muster up 15 people, and at least that many hounds, you have yourself a club. Keep in mind if you start it they will come. I try to travel to any club within 5 or so hours away. I know many folks that drive farther for a good trial at a reputable club. So just because you only have 15 people doesn’t mean that’s all that will be at your trial. I can almost guarantee you will get twice that from outside your club. Once you get your folks gathered, you’re going to need club officers. You need a President and Secretary/Treasurer for sure, and then you can have a Vice-President, Master of Hounds, and a club Board of Directors. Now all this sounds like a big deal, it really isn’t.

It seems the Secretary/Treasurer is the hardest to fill. If you have someone willing to handle the money, the rest is easy. The President and Secretary/Treasurer are the ones that seem to handle most of the business. The club votes on things and the President and Secretary/Treasurer make it happen. The Board is comprised of members that can step in when needed to make big decisions; the board is who the President answers to. In our two years as a club, the Board only had to rule on one thing, an unruly member. Other than that, they just make sure things are run fair and honest. It sounds hard, but it’s not, I am a club President and it does not take much of my free time to handle club affairs.

Now that we have our running grounds, clubhouse and EBoard it’s time to apply to hold an ARHA Gundog Hunt. The first thing to do is, contact ARHA and request a new club packet.  When you receive it, fill it out and send it back with the charter fee ($25) and proof of insurance. If you don’t have insurance, ARHA can put you on theirs for around $300.00 a year. You will want club insurance! If someone gets hurt at your trial, you will want to be covered. Where does the money come from? We collect annual membership dues $15.00 for single $20 a family. This money covers our charter and insurance.

Don’t worry, after the first trial you will have money in  the bank. Now it’s time to set up a hunt. Pick a date that does not conflict with other gundog club trials. This way folks from those other clubs will come to yours. If you’re not familiar with the ARHA Gundog rules, get copies to all your members (these can be downloaded for free off the ARHA web page www.arha.com). Read all the rules and make sure you understand them.

Once you have the ARHA approval, it’s time to run your trial. About a month before the trial, you will want to order some kind of award for the winners. Most folks understand it’s your first trial so they won’t expect much. Asimple certificate or ribbon will do. Do you plan to have food? Have members bring a dish of some kind, nothing fancy, a simple snack and drinks will do until you get on your feet. You will need to get a couple qualified judges and a Master of Hounds to help run your first trial and train your folks. I would also highly recommend having someone from other clubs there to help with the paperwork.

Contact an ARHA State rep, or any E-Board member to help you line up some help. After your first trial, it’s very easy to handle the next ones on your own. I assure you once you get your first trial done and things in order, the club will run itself.

Other than getting awards and food lined up for each trial it really does not take much to put one on.  There is also another option for folks that want to try an ARHA Gundog trial. Recently the Division Chairman has been asking already established Beagle Clubs that run in different formats to try a Gundog trial. This is a very simple process and I think it will work for many clubs. Some organizations will only allow a club to hold a couple trials a year. Our approach has been why not run an ARHA Gundog trial or two so your club can have a few more trials a year. The hounds that run in the Gundog Division also fit in a couple other formats. The one big thing is the ARHA Gundog Division is looking for a smooth, close and clean hound. Speed is not an issue, but cleanliness and line control are. We have had folks from ARHA Progressive Pack and AKC Gundog brace and SPO try the ARHA Gundog trials and like them. The trend in some areas for some other formats has been faster hounds and less emphasis on control. Many of the folks that like control in a hound have found a home in the Gundog Division. There is nothing wrong with fast hounds or slow hounds, it’s just some have found their hounds no longer fit those formats. So why not try this one? An already established club can contact one of our EBoard members and ask how to try a Gundog Trial.

Beagle clubs and Field trials are a great way to enhance your Beagling experience. I have become friends with many folks that I would never have met if it wasn’t for field trialing. I recently attended a funeral of one of our club members. It was very gratifying to see all the flowers and cards from area Beaglers. Not to mention all the people in attendance from area clubs. Had it not been for the Beagle Clubs and trials, I would have never had the opportunity to meet that fine man who passed. I take many hunting trips every year with folks I met at trials. My point is, if you have never experienced a trial before, give one a try. Don’t listen to others who may not like trials. Go experience one for yourself! If one is not around, start a club with your Beagle buddies.

The ARHA Gundog Division Executive board invites you to try a Gundog Field trial. If you would like to start a club, we are here to assist you in any way possible. Happy running and hope to see you at a trial real soon.

ARHA Gundog Contact:

www.arha.com — Click on the gundog Division then the Executive Board tab on the left

By Brian Spini, Lane KS, ARHA Gundog Division Watchdog Chairman

President Eastern Kansas Beagle Club, 913-208-7964, burnemupkennel@gmail.com