The United Kennel Club Hunting Beagle Nationals descended on Coshocton, Ohio, in April 2012 as they have for the past several years. Hometown dog, Grand Hunting Beagle Champion Circle H Hurry Up Blue Regis, owned by David and Douglas Hummell, was the overall National Grand winner after three days of hunt tests.

Winning the Grand Hunting Beagle Champion category of the April 2012 UKC Hunting Beagle Nationals in Coshocton, Ohio, was local dog, GRHBCH Circle H Hurry Up Blue Regis, owned by David and Douglas Hummell. Photo courtesy of UKC.

Nearly 500 people and 342 Beagles in a town of about 12,000 are quite a presence.

“Between filling up the hotels every night, and the restaurants and the bars in the evening, I would say we kind of invade the town,” says UKC Beagle Programs Manager Jed Nichols. “They actually do everything they can to make sure we’re happy. We have the support of the city 100 percent. The mayor usually comes out on Friday evening for the Black Gold awards banquet.”

So entrenched are the Beagle events in town that hunters, spectators and dogs alike are greeted by special banners on the town’s streetlight poles upon arrival.

The venue for confirming entries, measuring of the hounds – no dog can be more than 15 inches tall at the withers – and drawing of the all-important hunt casts is at the Coshocton County Fairgrounds.

A lone Beagle follows a scent during the UKC Beagle Nationals. Photo courtesy of UKC.

The three-day event was preceded on Thursday, April 12, with the Black Gold State Race National Runoff. Hunting Beagles accumulate points all year long in 12 regions across the United States. For the National Runoff, the All-Age and Junior (under 2) dogs that win their respective regions in each category travel to Coshocton to determine the top dog in each class. Split into four-dog/handler casts, each cast goes off to run rabbits for two hours with a non-hunting judge to score each dog’s performance, Nichols explains. The top-scorer from each cast goes into the next round, and so on. At the end of the day, one All-Age and one Junior emerge as the Black Gold Runoff champions.

Owners and dogs head out in a cast for a hunt test during the Hunting Beagle Nationals. Photo courtesy of UKC.

This year, GRHBCH Two Brothers Jill, owned by Mark and Chris Overcash of Troutman, N.C., came out on top in the All-Age class, while BNL’s Spike Sally, owned by Nate Butler and Evan Leach of Homer, Mich., took the Junior class.

The Nationals got underway officially on Friday with the Registered class. These dogs have yet to earn their titles as hunting Beagle champions. The first round saw about 100 Beagles head out with their guides to private and state-owned land. Again the dogs run in casts of four. However, in these preliminary rounds, one of the hunters is also the judge. The afternoon round drew about 60 dogs, Nichols says.

The evening is set aside for the Black Gold State Race awards banquet in the hunter arena on the fairgrounds. “Right around 300 people sat down together for dinner this year,” Nichols says. It’s a huge undertaking, but they usually have a nice meal catered in for the banquet.

The national runoff winners were recognized with a $1,000 prize package each. In addition, each high-point regional winner went home with a plaque and embroidered jacket. The National Hunting Beagle Association also presented its end-of-the-year awards.

“Everybody disperses quickly because Saturday morning comes very, very early,” Nichols says. Everyone must be checked in by 6:30 a.m. But Nichols’ day starts even earlier. He’s at the fairgrounds by 5 a.m.

Saturday morning is set aside for the Hunting Beagle Champions class. One hundred and six dogs and their handlers head out to test the dogs’ skills. Come afternoon, it’s time for 52 Hunting Beagle Grand Champions to take to the field.

HBCH WSHOWCH GRCH 'PR' W&J White River Leroy, owned and handled by Brandon Vance, second to left, of Harts, W.V., earned top honors during the Hunting Beagle Nationals Bench Show under judge Ottie Burke. Photo courtesy of UKC.

In between the morning and afternoon tests comes the bench show, the conformation part of the event. Forty dogs entered this year, Nichols reports, vying for everything from Veteran Female to Male Puppy to Champion Female to Overall/National Grand Champion/Grand Show Champion which went to HBCH WSHOWCH GRCH ‘PR’ W&J White River Leroy, owned by Brandon Vance and John Bullock of Harts, W.V.

In order to enter the bench show, a dog must hunt at the event as well. It must complete the allotted cast time in Registered, Champion or Grand Champion, or have 50 previous championship field points, Nichols explains.

“We’re kind of proud that we have the hunt requirement on that,” he says. “We really do have quite an elite field because of it.”

Hartleyville Grim Ripper, owned by Jeff Eing of Trimble, Ohio, took the top award in the Registered category, for dogs that have yet to earn their championship. Photo courtesy of UKC.

Come Sunday, the top 16 Registered dogs face off with scoring again done by non-hunting judges. Taking first was Hartleyville Grim Ripper, owned by Jeff Eing of Trimble, Ohio, with a score of 185+. In second was C And T Just Let Me Go, owned by Jason Prater of West Lafayette, Ohio, with 150+. ‘PR’ Six-Pack Barney, owned by Boy Syrews of Weston, W.V., came in third with 120+. Other winners were: Gauge VIII, owned by Dave McVay of Fresno, Ohio; Heat-Em-Up Studbolt, Chris Reynolds and Derek Bowen of Salem, W.V.; Yankee’s Top Gun T, Clair W. Wetzel of Mertztown, Pa.; Hurry Up Lightning Bolt, Jon Wise and Steven Chumney of Navarre, Ohio; Brushaxe’s Taking A Chance, Jarrod Waybright of Belpre, Ohio; Chumney’s Blue Is A Ringer, Steven and Monica Chumney of Dover, Ohio; and Shenango Susie, William McFarland and James Cataldi of Austintown, Ohio.

Scores are based on each dog’s performance, as it racks up points for identifying a rabbit, for its speed and drive, and for its recoveries. The plus sign after the score means the dog earned plus points, extra points for particular action during the test.

2012 UKC Hunting Beagle Nationals Champion was HBCH Linville's Diesel, owned by Brandon S. and Steve Vance of Harts, W.V. Photo courtesy of UKC.

The top 16 Hunting Beagle Champions also hit the field on Sunday. Winning champions included HBCH Linville’s Diesel, owned by Brandon S. and Steve Vance of Harts, W.V., with a score of 502.5+, in first; CH HBCH Swamplands Tuff Tina, owned by Wayne R. Herbert of Delton, Mich., 462.5+, in second; HBCH Branko’s Hurricane Summer Diane, owned by Curt Douglas of Keeling, Va., 422.5+, in third; and GRCH HBCH Burke’s Run-em Down Buddy, owned by Shawn Renner of Harts, W.V., 367.5+, in fourth.

After the tests in the Grand Hunting Beagle Champion class, Circle H Hurry Up Blue Regis was on top with 892.5+. GRHBCH Heat-Em-Up Tootsie, owned by Derek Bowen and Mitch Gould of Salem, W.V., with 697.5+, was second; GRHBCH White River Isabelle, owned by Jason Vandergrift and Jason McMillion of Shinnston, W.V., with 542.5+, was third; and CH GRHBCH ‘PR’ Six-Pack Brandy, owned by Ronald Wyatt and Bob Syrews of Buckhannon, W.V., with 477.5+, was fourth.

Nichols says the Nationals entry, which came from 15 states in 2012, has remained steady over the past few years, in spite of the economic climate. “Our numbers really did not drop whatsoever,” he says. “If you’re holding steady, you’re doing well.”

To see video highlights of the 2012 Hunting Beagle Nationals, click here.