the ultimate guide to akc hunt tests
05-11-215 mins read
At first glance, the standardized hunt test world can be intimidating. We aim to pull back the curtain a bit, and cover everything you can expect to see at your first weekend AKC hunt test.
Training Tips

The Ultimate Guide to AKC Hunt Tests

Hunting season is over and your gun dog is working hard at keeping the couch warm for you; but you both may want to do more. The off-season is a great time to continue making progress with training and if you feel like challenging yourself, AKC hunt tests are a great way to keep the good times rolling. Many people believe they don’t need to chase ribbons or earn titles, and their dogs are good enough, and we certainly understand that. However, the hunt test game is so much more than that. It’s an enjoyable and productive way to keep you and your hunting partner active and in tune during the off-season. It proves your dog is, in fact, good enough, and it is an accolade to the relationship and training you’ve built together. Dogs work hard throughout the year. Those ribbons and titles, albeit not always necessary, are a venerable testament to a dog’s skill, intensity, and love for retrieving!

The Junior Hunter Test

At the Junior Hunter test, your dog should be relatively obedient on leash, they do not have to be steady, and you can hold their collar while the bird or mark is being thrown. Nonetheless they shouldn’t be absolutely out of control. There are two series you must complete: a land series and a water series. Each series includes two marks, thrown one at a time. Your dog must retrieve to hand; they can not drop it at your feet. So let’s do a quick dry-run for an example: 

You have entered your first test and you and your dog are almost up. You will be asked to wait with your dog in a staging area or holding blind until it is your turn. Once you’re ready, you will attempt to walk nicely on leash to the line, which is the location where the judges ask you to work from. You will sit your dog down nicely, unleash him/her, put the leash in your pocket (which is one of the rules), and, when you are ready, you will signal the judges to start the test. There will be a duck call in the field to help your dog look out, then a gunshot and a bird thrown. The judge will release you after watching your dog for obedience, then you can let go of the collar and send your dog for the mark. If all goes well, your dog will find the bird and return the bird gently to hand. After you take the first bird from your dog, you get ready for the second. You’ll signal when you’re ready, wait for the judge to release you, then send your dog to do their job once more. If you pass the land series, you will then be invited to run the water series. Again, two marks, same rules, and if you complete both series, you earn one of four passes needed towards your Junior Hunter Title. 

There are a few reasons your test could result in a fail: 

  1. The dog doesn’t find the bird 
  2. The dog chews or eats the bird 
  3. The dog drops the bird at your feet or at the shoreline and won’t pick it back up 
  4. The dog shows zero control on- and off-leash 
Photo courtesy of Red Bud Retrievers & Aaron Davis

The Senior Hunter Test

Once you’ve passed junior level, a Senior Hunter test is next. At this level, your dog is expected to be steady, work well off-leash, pick up two marks on land and water, run a blind (a bird that the dog doesn’t see fall) on both land and water, honor another dog while they work, and perform a walk up. Here is the example you may see at a Senior Level test:

You’re in the holding blind waiting your turn, then the judges will tell you to come to the line. You will need to unleash your dog and walk them off-leash and under control to the line. Once you and your dog are ready, you will signal the judges and start the test. You will hear a duck call, the shot, and then the first mark will be thrown. A few seconds later and—quack, bang—another duck will be thrown. Your dog must sit and wait for you to release him/her. After you are released by the judges, you can send your dog for the retrieves. Your dog has to pick up one bird at a time, deliver it nicely to hand, and then you’ll be asked to run a blind. You will send your dog out for the blind, blow whistles, and handle your dog to the bird. Once you complete that portion, you will have to honor the next dog. With your dog still off-leash, it must sit quietly without interrupting the next dog. Once you successfully complete that, you will be invited to the water series, where you will have to do a water double and a blind. 

During the test you will have to honor once, so either during the land series or the water series but not both. You will also have to complete one walk-up. A walk-up is when you heel your dog from the holding blind to the line, but you do not stop. You continue to heel until there is a shot and a bird thrown. At that point, you can either blow a sit whistle or say sit to control your dog, watch the second bird fall, and then release the dog to do the work. In order to earn a Senior Title, you will need to successfully pass four tests, as long as you already have a Junior Title. If you haven’t completed your Junior Title, there is an additional test. Each test is a one-day event, the same as Junior.

Things that may result in a fail: 

  1. Breaking or leaving before you release the dog
  2. Breaking on the honor
  3. Running a blind poorly
  4. Returning to an old fall. 

(Returning to an old fall is when your dog has picked up one bird already, still has to pick up the next mark, but, rather than hunting for the second bird, they leave the area and go back to where they found the first bird. This is a major infraction and is not allowed.)

Photo courtesy of Red Bud Retrievers and Aaron Davis

The Master Hunter Test

The top and final tier is Master Hunter. The judges can throw everything plus the kitchen sink at you. This level has three series and takes an entire weekend to complete. There is a land series, a water series, and a combination series (land and water). You and your four-legged companion have to perform one walk-up, one honor, and several blind retrieves. Generally, there are three marks at each series, but you can sometimes see two marks (albeit quite difficult) at one series. At this level, your dog has to be under exquisite control, have near-perfect manners, show excellent marking ability, exhibit stellar teamwork on blinds, and are, in general, held to the highest standard. You must successfully complete five tests to earn your Master Hunter Title. If you don’t have a Senior Title, there is an additional pass to earn the Master Title. 

Photo courtesy of Red Bud Retrievers and Aaron Davis

Bonus — The Master National

The Master National is the annual event where the best Master Hunters qualify and compete to earn more accolades. If you pass three Master National events, your dog will be inducted into the Retriever Hall of Fame and earn a Master National Title. This is a five-to-six series, ten-day, grueling event where only the best survive to earn the treasured Master National Pewter Plate!

In summary, hunt tests are a phenomenal way to keep yourself and your dog working together, progressing with your training, and having fun, while you anxiously await the next duck season.

You can find a test near you at or Best of luck and most importantly, have fun!

share this story
T-Boned at 70mph... But My Dogs are Safe
“I am still in shock that those dogs made it out of that wreck alive, heck I'm shocked my husban...
A Car Pulled in Front of Me on the Highway, I Couldn't Stop
It was nighttime in Moultrie, Georgia, but still daylight when I was hit in a 2020 Toyota Tundra ...
Summer's Story | Stories from the Pack
Storm and his dog, Summer, were finalists in our 2021 Gunner Effect competition. Along with their...


Our support team are on hand
Monday - Friday
8am - 6pm CDT




I've reviewed and approve the design shown in the preview



Regular price
Sale price
I've reviewed and approve the design shown in the preview




Valued up to $60 per kennel

By submitting this form, you agree to receive recurring automated promotional and personalized marketing text messages (e.g. cart reminders) from GUNNER at the cell number used when signing up. Consent is not a condition of any purchase. Reply HELP for help and STOP to cancel. Msg frequency varies. Msg and data rates may apply. View Terms & Privacy.


Customer Reviews
4.9 Based on 2,876 Reviews
5 ?
4 ?
3 ?
2 ?
1 ?
Customer Photos
Write a Review Ask a Question

Thank you for submitting a review!

Your input is very much appreciated. Share it with your friends so they can enjoy it too!

Filter Reviews:
Brandon M.
United States United States
  • How would you describe your dog? Gun or Bird Dog
  • What's your primary use of the product? Travel
It’s like an insurance plan….

This is by far the best kennel made. I use mine daily and they take lots of abuse. They never even seem to wear at all. Hose them off with soap and water and they look brand new. I encourage all of my puppy buyers to get them as well. It’s like an insurance plan for your best friend!

Kris T.
United States United States
  • What's your primary use of the product? TravelHomeHome & Travel Equally
  • How would you describe your dog? Family or Companion Dog
Wow, Just Wow

Wow, this kennel is the Yeti of dog kennels! everything about this kennel is first rate. Yes, there are cheaper, but none can compare to a Gunner kennel.

Alec L.
United States United States
  • What's your primary use of the product? Travel
  • How would you describe your dog? Family or Companion Dog
Amazing travel kennel

This thing is built like a tank. I have no doubt this will protect our little guy if we are ever involved in an accident. We recently completed an 800 mile road trip with him in the crate. It was well worth the money. This was the first time he was calm in the car and not whining. He slept easily during the drive. We felt calm know he was secure and comfortable. Cannot recommend this crate enough!!

Angus O.
United States United States
  • How would you describe your dog? Family or Companion Dog
  • What's your primary use of the product? Travel
Unlike any other crate I have seen

I purchased two Gunner kennels, a medium and a small, for my pups. Immediately, you understand this is a different level of product compared to what you’ve used before. The construction is fantastic and legitimately heavy duty. I feel so much better knowing I’ve done everything I can to keep my dogs safe in case of a worst case scenario.

Patrick K.
United States United States
  • What's your primary use of the product? Travel
  • How would you describe your dog? Gun or Bird Dog
Best purchase for my best friends

I’ve been buying cheap kennels for the four years I’ve owned my dogs, none of them seemed to hold up. I’ve wanted a Gunner for a year now, and the more I read stories of how they have saved dogs lives, it made me think of how losing my best friends would damn near **** me. So I made the purchase and will never look back. It is one solid kennel and I will not let the kennel hold me back from traveling farther to hunt anymore. It’s well worth the investment. I’m a firm believer in you get what you pay for, and this will not let anyone down.