outdoors

Courtesy photo Komet poses with the first wild pheasant bagged over his point.

Although Komet saw limited hunting action last season as a pup, with Phantom passing in January 2019 followed by my dad’s dog, Chester, passing in July, he suddenly found himself promoted from second-string back-up to top-dog.

Thankfully, he was up to the task. The 2019-2020 season was his time to shine.

Komet came into my life at the worst possible time in June 2018. Phantom was in the middle of taking chemotherapy treatments, and I was in the middle of battling kidney stones. Fortunately, Komet had my wife to care for and nurture him. After all, she was the one who actually picked him out.

By August 2018, things had settled down. Phantom was in remission, and my kidney stones were gone. I took Komet on his first hunt the following month.

Admittedly, convincing the wild youngster that I was in charge was a struggle at first. My illness had hindered development of “pack” cohesion.

However, by October we’d established a pecking order and were well on our way to becoming buddies. I knew we were on the right track when Komet started curling up on my lap daily to take a nap.

Fast forward a year, and Komet and I have been through a lot together. We’ve mourned Phantom’s loss, traveled, trained, and taken a bunch of naps together. We’ve built a friendship based on love, trust, and mutual respect – all essential ingredients in the hunter/bird dog relationship.

I knew he was ready for hunting season.

Komet proved more than ready, though. During September, he fetched doves like an old pro. I could often just remain seated on my bucket as Komet delivered doves to my hand.

Of course, I’d sometimes have to get up and provide him with limited direction on the harder retrieves, but in the end Komet always found his bird.

Best of all, I was pleased to discover Komet has an extremely soft mouth. Dogs often have difficulty with fine dove feathers and come up with some creative ways of dealing with them.

Trigger tried licking off all the feathers, which only resulted in a mouthful of feathers for him. Phantom felt if she simply bit down harder that would somehow prevent the feathers from coming off in her mouth. It didn’t, but it did result in us nicknaming her Captain Crunch.

Komet, on the other hand, carries the doves gently in his mouth. As a result, hardly any feathers are dislodged and no meat is damaged. He’s the best dove dog I’ve ever had.

Komet also proved his worth on grouse. When my dad knocked down a prairie chicken but couldn’t find it, Komet came to the rescue.

Despite his inexperience, Komet went on a long track until he suddenly slammed on point. He’d found the wounded prairie chicken which had run. On my command, he charged the bird and grabbed it - his first prairie chicken retrieve.

Pheasants were almost as scarce as grouse this season. But when Komet went on point one morning and then held it until I reached him, I knew we were in business.

The young rooster flushed to my right, and one quick shot brought it down. Komet was right there to nab it. This wasn’t his first wild pheasant retrieve, but it was the first pheasant I’d shot over a Komet point.

He also proved his pointing aptitude on quail, including one single he pinned down and held until I was able to circle around in front of him and move in for the flush. At the A5’s report, the bird fell - my first quail shot over a true Komet point.

I marked the spot and called Komet over, where he found the quail mere inches from my boot. I’d never have found it in the tall grass without him.

That same day he also found another quail that would’ve been lost to a lesser dog.

I felt I’d hit one on the covey rise, but a search of the immediate area turned up nothing. We continued hunting and had moved on several dozen yards when Komet started chasing something around in the grass. It was my wing-tipped quail, which had either glided or ran farther than I’d anticipated.

Both birds were brought to hand by veteran maneuvers usually performed by much more experienced dogs, not greenhorn pups of only a year-and-a-half.

There were other great highlights this season, and I’m sure there will be more. But now that the season’s over, it’s nice to reflect on this rising star’s stellar performance.

Komet’s career is off to a meteoric start.

Jarrod Spilger writes about the Outdoors for The Independent.

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