By Assistant Field Director Jim Odle
The 19th annual running of the AKC National Small Pack Option Championship Trial held on April 12 & 13, 2013 is in the history books now. The highest Gundog Beagle hound awards in the U.S. are awarded at this event. I was privileged to attend along with Mr. Mel Stewart, AKC Field Director-Hounds. It is an AKC Licensed Specialty event held annually for qualified hounds and AKC Gundog Field Champions. The event is managed by the National AKC SPO Committee and overseen by the AKC Performance Events Department Hounds Field Staff. Hounds are awarded championship points and the winners are designated as National Champions. Following various committee meetings during the day on Thursday, the event was kicked off by a gala banquet hosted by Nestle Purina. Nestle Purina is the major sponsor along with Okie Dog Supply and Tri-Tronics. The delicious meal consisted of barbeque with all the trimmings. Nestle Purina does an excellent job putting on this annual banquet. Some three hundred beaglers and other guests got to enjoy it. During the evening Hall of Fame beaglers are recognized along with outstanding beagle hounds that have excelled during the year.
Early on Friday the main event began at the United Beagle Gundog Federation running grounds near Morgantown, KY. The AKC SPO National Committee leases this facility for this event annually. License plates observed in the parking lot disclosed participants as far away as Texas to New York and most all states in between. It is an excellent facility consisting of a large modern club house and two hundred plus acres fenced and cross fenced with plenty of rabbits. This facility is centrally located and is ideal for such large events. The female classes were run on Friday. When we arrived the club house was abuzz with some two hundred participants busy completing entry forms. This climaxes the drama that all participants have been looking forward to all year long. One can feel the excitement and anticipation in the air. The hounds are drawn at random in packs of seven for first series and the process of elimination begins. The first packs were cast early. Suddenly the action exploded with the melody music of the merry little beagle hounds echoing from the gently rolling hills of Kentucky. The hounds are divided by size and gender. The four classes consist of thirteen inch and under both males and females, over thirteen inch and up to fifteen inch hounds; male and female classes. With over a hundred entries in the thirteen inch female class, it wasn’t a surprise that the class did not get finished until Saturday. Most of the judges were mounted horseback. The fifteen inch female class was run simultaneously. Gunfire could be heard above the pack music as the hounds were tested for gun shyness by firing blank cartridges over the packs in full cry. The fifteen inch female class finished late in the afternoon. To no one’s surprise the thirteen inch female class was held over and was finished by noon on Saturday. These are the best of the best relative to gundog beagle hounds.
Eearly on Saturday morning we arrived at the club house by 6:00 A.M. The large club house was packed with beaglers filling out their entry forms for both of the male classes. Following roll call both classes went to the field under the advertised judges. The roar of the fifteen inch male class could be herd long distances when the packs crested the gently roll hills. The sounds were similar to an orchestra consisting of baritone, base, soprano and tenor. Both male classes were finished by late Saturday afternoon. It was exciting to observe the crowing of the four SPO National Gundog Champions. With over three hundred hounds competing for the coveted prizes it was a great event. It was a large group of sportsmen set out to have a good time in friendly competition. We could overhear conversations between participants already making plans to attend next year.
Editors from leading beagle trade magazines HOUNDS AND HUNTING and BETTER BEAGLING covered the event.
Everyone is invited to attend, whether one has an entry or not. Some great sportsmen/women attend this event including babies and senior citizens. I’m already looking forward to seeing you at the 2014 AKC SPO Nationals.