The Senior Hunter title is the mid-level AKC Hunt Test title. Dogs are required to perform and receive qualifying scores in various categories.
Scoring in a hunt test is based upon four criteria for Junior Hunter and six criteria for Senior and Master Hunter. The categories in Junior are Hunting, Bird Finding Ability, Pointing, Trainability, and in Senior and Master, Retrieving and Honoring are added. These criteria are loosely defined as follows:
- Hunting: Dogs must demonstrate desire, boldness, independence, speed and a useful pattern of running. Dogs must hunt and not merely be out for a run in the field. They must show independence by leaving their handlers side to explore the territory. Junior dogs are scored more leniently than Seniors and Masters.
- Bird Finding Ability: The dog must demonstrate the ability to find game. Translated, find a bird or don't pass. The number of finds is not as important as the quality of the finds. Scenting conditions, terrain and cover should be considered in the scoring of this category. Note: the course should have sufficient birds (no less than two per brace and more are strongly recommended) to insure that a dog with good finding ability will locate them.
- Pointing: scoring in this category should reflect the style (intensity and staunchness) of the dog and its ability to pinpoint birds, especially with difficult or confusing scent patterns. A dog with a low stance should not be scored lower than a dog with a high stance if it demonstrates staunchness and intensity, particularly in difficult pointing situations. A 12 o'clock tail is not necessary and indeed is not found in any AKC Pointing Breed standards. Flagging (considered a lack of staunchness) on game is generally a fault in older, more experienced dogs, but should not be reflected too severely in the Pointing score of a Junior dog. A flash point cannot quality in any of the three levels. A flash point is generally a point in which the dog stops only momentarily before chasing the bird. Junior dogs must hold their point until the handler gets with normal gunshot range. Senior dogs must point and remain in position until the bird is shot or the dog is released. The dog may reposition itself if it is attempting to pin the bird. The dog should not creep after or trail a bird that the handler is attempting to flush. Master dogs must demonstrate steadiness to wing and shot on all birds and cannot receive a qualifying score if it breaks.
- Trainability: A judged on its willingness to be handled, its obedience to commands and its gun response. In Junior, the dog must demonstrate "reasonable obedience" to commands and be willing to be handled. The Senior dog is scored with less tolerance than the Junior. The scoring of "obedience" and "willingness to handle" should reflect the level of response by the dog. The Senior dog must stop on a wild flushed bird and may be commanded to do so. The Master dog cannot be given a command to stop. Gun response is also evaluated under Trainability.
- Retrieving: Not required of a Junior dog. A good retrieve is one characterized by directness to the bird, quick location, prompt pick up, brisk, direct return to the handler, with tender delivery. A Senior dog is not required to retrieve to hand. Generally one or two steps would be generally acceptable. A Master dog must retrieve absolutely to hand. The handler cannot assist the dog on the retrieve in either Senior or Master tests by moving toward the downed bird. Mouthing is a serious fault and any dog which renders a bird unfit for consumption cannot receive a qualifying score.
- Honoring: Honoring is a requirement in Senior and Master. If a dog is given an opportunity to honor and refuses, it cannot receive a qualifying score. In Senior the handler may give the dog a command to honor but only after the dog acknowledges that its bracemate is on point. A dog that steals its bracemate's point cannot receive a qualifying score. A Master dog must honor on its own.