Cowlitz Wildlife Refuge: Kosmos Release Site Fosters Pheasant Hunting Fun

By Kimberly Mason
For The Chronicle
Remington and Hoover: a boy named after a gun manufacturer and a bird hunting dog named after a vacuum cleaner.
When I heard that those two were teaming up for the youth pheasant hunt weekend at the Kosmos site east of Morton, I couldn’t help but giggle at what I sincerely hoped would be a prophetic pair of names.
It was Remington’s first pheasant hunt and the start of Hoover’s second season in the field. I was invited to tag along — or maybe I begged them and they relented to the persistent pressure of “Please, please, oh, please!” — I really don’t remember which.

Saturday Morning Start
It was a lazy Saturday morning — so lazy that even the breeze lacked the ambition to blow across the fields. Legal hunting hours at pheasant release sites are from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., but we didn’t arrive until around 9 a.m.
There was no sense in being in a rush. Unlike most other pheasant release sites across the state, the two release sites in Lewis County — Kosmos and Lincoln Creek — aren’t heavily hunted. The competition for birds is minimal to minor at most.
On this particular Saturday morning, there were only two other sets of adult and youth hunting teams set to scour the 325 acres of the site besides our own small group.

Kim Mason / For The Chronicle: Matt Cournyer (right) reaches out to slow youth hunter Remington Stanley's approach to a solid point-holding Hoover before Cournyer sends his dog in to flush the bird from the brush. Remington's dad, Ryan Stanley (left), looks on.

Our party included head gunner Remington Stanley, a 12-year-old boy from Mossyrock; his father Ryan; Hoover, a German Shorthaired Pointer; and Matt Cournyer, Hoover’s owner, trainer, handler and best friend; and me.
It took just a few minutes to don our blaze orange vests (including Hoover) and douse ourselves with bug spray before we headed into the field.
A few more minutes were required for Hoover to shake the summer off his tail and get his mind on the job ahead — but only a few. After the first false flush of a big-bodied rooster, it was obvious that Hoover had decided to buckle down to the serious business of fall pheasant hunting.

Kim Mason / For The Chronicle: Remington Stanley, 12, Mossyrock, and hunting dog Hoover pose for a portrait shot at the end of a morning of shooting. The pair worked up at least six birds on Saturday at the Kosmos pheasant release site east of Morton and in just over an hour's time had their daily limit of two birds in the bag.

A Dog’s Tell-Tail
Hoover alternated between racing through the field, nose high in the air as he reached for the scent of a bird on the wind, to busting through brush at the edges, his nose low to the ground as he chuffed and filtered the various scents with each deep breath.
His tail circle wildly as he ran, like radar trying to hone in on a weak signal.
When the scent of a pheasant hit him in the face, his head lowered, his mouth closed, ears lifted at the base and straining, and the circling stub of a tail would start to quiver like an arrow that had found its target. His eyes probably narrowed into a Clint Eastwood squint of serious intention, but I never could confirm that as fact since he was always facing the other direction.
“Hoover should never play poker,” I said laughing with delight for the beauty of the bird dog. “He’s got a heckuva tell-tail.”

Kim Mason / For The Chronicle: Hoover's nose points the way to the pheasant hidden from sight and waits for the release signal from his owner, Matt Cournyer, before he busts the bird out of the brush and into the air.

Hoover’s second point was a solid lock-up; we crept forward to get ourselves into position.

Remington Shoots
I had only a few short seconds to wonder if the pressure of the moment would get the better of Remington before the hen flushed up and “BAM!” it was on its way down again. Hoover was sent in for the retrieve.
The kid’s a crack shot, I tell ya.
Rem saw eight birds and fired nine shots that morning. The only shots he missed were too far away or too close into the trees to be effective.
The last hen taken was shot twice, once on the way up and once on the way down.
It was quite a sight to see.
Out of three youth hunters in the field that day, Remington Stanley and Hoover (“He doesn’t have a last name,” said Cournyer) was the only pair that went home with any birds.

If You Go
The general western Washington hunting season starts Saturday, Sept. 29. Hunting is allowed from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. each day.
Bug Spray: Do not, and I mean it, DO NOT head out into the Kosmos fields without putting a bottle of bug spray in your pocket. The fields are lousy with the nibbling nuisances and will be until the first good frost.
Best Days: Birds are released on Friday evenings after hunting hours are over. The best time to hunt is Saturday morning, but birds will probably hold in the area throughout the weekend. Hunters must compete with coyotes and hawks for their supper, so the sooner you get there after the release, the better.
Special Regulations: the Kosmos release site is a nontoxic shot zone. It is “unlawful to possess shot (either in in shotshells or as loose shot for muzzleloading) other than nontoxic shot for any purpose.”
Hunter Orange: Anyone hunting upland birds is required to wear a minimum of 400 square inches of fluorescent hunter orange exterior clothing, worn above the waist and visible from all sides.
Licenses and Limits: A western Washington pheasant license is required. A small game license and western Washington punch card are not required to participate. The western Washington pheasant permit costs $90.00 for adults and $42.00 for youth (under 16). The bag limit is two pheasants of either sex per day. A three-day permit is also offered for $42 for residents.

Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer and photojournalist. Visit her website at almostdailynews.com, find her on Facebook (Kimberly Mason — The Chronicle), call 269-5017 or email kim@almostdailynews.com.