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Rules and Regulations for the ESSFTA Master Hunting Dog Excellent

Revision: May 1, 2003


Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: General Regulations
Chapter 3: Test Standards

Definitions: The word “dog” is being used regardless of sex.
MHDX refers to Master Hunting Dog Excellent.

Chapter 1: Introduction

This guideline was prepared to provide a clear understanding of the regulations, performance standards, responsibilities, and procedures necessary for conducting a successful MHDX event. There will always be questions that will arise; however, these guidelines attempt to provide a high degree of uniformity between tests and will be reviewed and revised as required.

Purpose: The purpose of the hunting English Springer Spaniel is to find, flush, and retrieve birds in a pleasing and efficient manner. The Master Hunting Dog Excellent (MHDX) test was conceived out of the desire to keep the hunting community active in the ESSFTA, training their Master Hunter Titled dogs, and develop the very best hunting English Springer Spaniels.

Chapter 2: General Regulations

0. Eligibility of clubs: The ESSFTA Hunting Committee shall be the only authority to grant permission to clubs to hold MHDX events.

1. Rules applying to registration and discipline: All rules, standards, registration, administration, sanctioning, licensing, etc. shall be administered by the ESSFTA Hunting Committee.

2. Making application: Any club wishing to hold an approved MHDX event must make application to the ESSFTA Hunting Committee Secretary at least 60 days prior to the event.

Randy Capsel
586-190th Street
Ogden, IA 50212

3. Entry requirements: The MDHX test is open to all English Springer Spaniels registered with the AKC of at least six months of age; in good standing with AKC, ESSFTA, and the ESSFTA Hunting Committee; and have a Master Hunter title or at least one point towards their AFC or FC. Neutered dogs and spayed bitches are eligible for entry in the MHDX.

4. Bitches in season: Bitches in season shall not be eligible for MHDX entry and shall not be allowed on the grounds. The club sponsoring the MHDX test is free to formulate its own policy with regard to refunds regarding bitches in season, illness or death of dog.

5. Judges’ Eligibility and Approval: Anyone in good standing with the AKC and ESSFTA may be approved to judge the MHDX provided they have titled an AKC Master Hunter or is an ESSFTA Hunting Committee member. All judges must have been active in the hunt test program within the last five years of a judging assignment. All judges’ panels containing the names, addresses, assignments, and affidavits must be submitted to the ESSFTA Hunting Committee secretary with the test records before any dog is recognized as qualifying for a MHDX leg or title. A judge cannot judge a dog they co-own, own, or trained. Further, they can not judge an immediate family member handling an entry. Judges should be familiar with all the MHDX rules, regulations, and standards. Judges control the field.

6. Rosettes: Any club holding a MHDX event shall offer an MHDX rosette to all qualifying entries. The official rosettes are available from the ESSFTA Hunting Committee Secretary at a minimal fee to cover expenses.

7. Publications: All clubs holding an MHDX event will have available the latest edition of the MHDX Guidelines which is available from the ESSFTA Hunting Committee Secretary.

8. Training and Correction: There will be no training or corrections allowed at a MHDX event.

9. Hunt Test Committee: Any club sponsoring a MHDX event shall appoint an event committee made up at least three (3) people including the event secretary. At least three members of the committee or their appointees shall be at the event and shall set up the field (judges may assist). The Event Committee shall be responsible for compliance with all AKC, ESSFTA, and MHDX applicable rules and regulations and shall have the authority to decide upon any matter arising during the running of the event except those under the sole jurisdiction of the judges.

10. Premium List: The event secretary shall be responsible for issuing a premium list that includes the name of the club, location, date, names and addresses of the committee, start time, judges and their addresses, entry fee, and entry closing date. The premium list should be submitted to the ESSFTA Hunting Committee Secretary.

11. Entry Closings and Limits: The event committee shall be responsible to determine the entry closing date, entry size, and running orders.

12. Catalog: The event committee shall be responsible for printing a “catalog” listing each entry to include the full name of the dog, AKC registration number, sex, date of birth, and name and address of the handler and owner. As part of the catalog there shall be the following certification: “We certify that the following dogs qualified for a MHDX leg”; include the name and registration number of each qualifying dog; signed and dated by each judge. This signed catalog shall be submitted to the ESSFTA Hunting Committee Secretary.

13. Submission of Records: At the conclusion of the event, the test secretary shall certify to the judges’ signatures and number of entries, starters, and qualifiers. All records shall be sent to the ESSFTA Hunting Committee Secretary within 30 days along with a recording fee of $5.00.

14. Unsportsmanlike conduct: It shall be deemed unsportsmanlike conduct if any person in connection with a MHDX event abuses or harasses a judge, event committee member, or other participant. Any judge or Event Committee member may expel any person displaying unsportsmanlike conduct or is seen kicking, striking, or abusing a dog during the event. The Event Committee shall investigate any alleged unsportsmanlike conduct immediately and after investigation make a determination if the person should be expelled and report such instance with their submission of event records.

15. Safety: All persons in the field must wear an item of blaze orange. It is recommended that all bird planters wear protective eyewear.

16. Guns: Only official guns appointed by the Event Committee shall be allowed to shoot over the dogs. The official gun used shall be a break apart 20 or 12 gauge shotgun. The Event Committee shall provide a fake or unloaded break apart shotgun for the handler during the MHDX land and water mark test portions. It is strongly recommended that all gunners have attended the AKC Gunners seminar.

17. Birds: Only game birds shall be used for the MHDX hunt test (pheasants, chukars, partridge, ducks). The Event Committee shall appoint a bird steward to be responsible for the care of all live and dead birds. No bird used in the test shall be restrained or physically impaired. No live bird shall be thrown by hand or apparatus during the test. Dead birds shall be kept out of the general public’s eye. Bird planters should wear gloves.

18. Courses: The course shall be of sufficient size and cover to allow a brace of dogs to hunt naturally. The Event Committee shall set up all courses, but it is recommended that judges’ input be solicited. The course may be continuous or batch depending on the cover and area available.

19. Marshal: The Event Committee shall appoint a marshal who will assist the judges, control the gallery, manage the entries’ test times, and any other responsibilities necessary to keep the event moving in a timely and enjoyable manner.

20. Scorecards: The Event Committee shall provide each judge with a scorecard for each dog entered. While judges may not always agree on each score, both judges must agree on which dogs qualify. Scorecards shall be available at the end of the event only to the individual handler scored. Scoring will follow the AKC Hunt Test system. Any score below “7” will result in a non-qualification. Failure to find birds known to be present on the course will be judged as “0”.

21. Handlers: The handler will carry and shoulder a gun in all tests in a safe and prudent manner. Handlers warned three times as being unsafe or unsportsmanlike by the judges can have their dog excused.

22. Title: Three legs must be achieved to earn the Parent Club Title of Master Hunter Excellent. It is the goal of the MHDX program to have each leg earned under a different combination of judges and on different grounds; however, it is recognized that this is a long term goal and not presently achievable.

23. Other: It is recognized that further definition and refinement will occur as the program progresses.

Chapter 3: Test Standards




SITUATION: Two hunters with their respective dogs decide to hunt together a promising looking area for pheasants.

OBJECTIVE: Both dogs are tested on honoring the other’s flush and retrieve, hunting together politely in the same general area, covering all likely bird holding cover, hunting stamina, bird finding ability, steady to flush, and retrieve to hand.

STANDARD: Two or three birds are properly planted in likely cover on both course A and B. Two dogs are run in brace; one in each planted course. Each dog can not interfere with the other dog. Poaching over the “center line” is permitted; however, each dog must be under complete control of the handler and encouraged to stay in their assigned course. Each dog must honor the other’s flush and retrieve. Each dog must be steady to flush and flight. To qualify, a dog must honor another’s flush and retrieve.

Each dog should have the opportunity to find, flush, and retrieve to hand a minimum of two birds. Each dog must show the ability to be steady to flush and shot with a minimum of coaching. It is assumed that each dog will have the opportunity to show steadiness at a flushed and missed bird in the course of both dogs running in planted courses; however, a bird can be planted, flushed, shot at but missed to provide the opportunity if required. Judges can make that determination.

It is assumed that only experienced judges will be assigned; hence, each judge will stay with each dog during the run. Once both dogs have had one contact, it is recommended that the judges switch courses. Judges should try and use the “tap” method of releasing the dog after demonstrating steadiness.

Flags will be used to indicate boundaries only, but used minimally to mark a centerline separating the two courses. The field may utilize a “middle gunner” as an indication of the centerline. The two courses should provide approximately 30-40 yards wide hunting areas for each dog.

If a dog proves to be uncontrollable, the judges may declare it “not qualifying” and instruct the handler to finish the event with their dog on lease and heel or bring in a new entry in the judge’s opinion.

*The test should be designed so each dog is hunting for a minimum of 15 minutes to demonstrate stamina.

*A trained demo dog can be substituted as the honor dog if required due to an odd number of entries or a resources dictate.

*All handler/dog teams must come to the line at heel and demonstrate control at all times.


SITUATION: The hunter has flushed and hit a pheasant, but has not killed it immediately. The bird glides over a barrier and falls to the ground about 50 yards away. Due to a number of possible reasons, the dog does not mark the bird. The handler sends the dog to make the retrieve guiding the dog to the general area.

OBJECTIVE: The dog is tested on taking directions from the handler, through a natural barrier, to the general area of the fall about 40-60 yards from the handler, and making the retrieve to hand.

STANDARD: The dog must take the cast, take directions to the general area, utilize the wind and his nose to locate and retrieve to hand the bird. The handler can not recast from the original position nor move up. The dog must show that it found the bird in the general area of the blind by being handled rather than free hunting and accidentally running onto the bird. The distance of the blind is 40-60 yards. The dog must take at least one change of direction to demonstrate the ability of being handled unless a straight line accomplishes the task. The barrier must be a natural occurrence such as a fencerow, woodlot, marshy area, etc. and should not prevent the handling of the dog in the judge’s opinion.



SITUATION: The hunter is sitting in a blind hunting ducks and a flock of mallards flies into the decoys; the hunter scores a double. The handler sends his dog out for a mark and recasts his dog for the memory bird.

OBJECTIVE: The dog is tested on being steady at two shots from behind or either side, making a mark and a memory, swimming through water and decoys at a distance of 40-60 yards, and retrieving to hand.

STANDARD: The dog must demonstrate a true mark and retrieve to hand whichever bird the handler indicates is the “mark”. Decoys are used and the shots are fired behind or to either side of the handler. The dog is recast for the “memory bird”. Minimum handling is permitted on the memory bird provided the dog indicates it remembers and attempts to retrieve the memory bird. The distance of both birds thrown is between 40-60 yds.


SITUATION: Your hunting buddy hits a duck and it sails about 50 yards before landing in some cover on or near the water. Your attention was diverted in the opposite direction watching some ducks working in the distance and you did not see the fall. Since you are the only hunter in the group with a dog, your dog must make the retrieve.

OBJECTIVE: The dog is tested on making a blind retrieve through the water and decoys at a distance of 40-60 yards.

STANDARD: The dog must be handled to the blind through the water and make the retrieve to hand. The dog must show that it responds to the handler’s commands while in the water. The dog must swim through the water going. The dog must show that it found the bird in the general area of the blind by being handled rather than free hunting and accidentally running onto the bird. The distance of the blind is 40-60 yards. Bank running on the return is permitted if done with haste and is the shortest route.