Posts Tagged ‘sage grouse hunting’
Tuesday, September 17th, 2013
Most states west of the Mississippi River have upland seasons for prairie grouse – prairie chickens, sage grouse and/or sharp-tailed grouse – opening in September. These early upland seasons are ideal for dog work and sharpening your wingshooting skills. Don’t expect a lot of competition for spots, as many prairie grouse hunting opportunities are notoriously underutilized by upland hunters. This outlook focuses on the states with the most widespread populations:
Kansas has an early prairie chicken season (Northwest and East units, Sept. 15 – Oct. 15, 2013) that gives bird hunters a unique opportunity to walk up greater prairie chickens and work bird dogs long before pheasant and quail seasons open. The early season was established to provide additional hunting opportunity for this tallgrass prairie icon and let hunters enjoy a true one-of-a-kind grassland hunt. The traditional prairie chicken season is Nov. 16-Jan. 31, 2014 in the East and Northwest units, and Nov. 16-Dec. 31 in the Southwest Unit, and during this season, most prairie chickens are taken by pass shooting. While prairie chickens rarely flush within shotgun range of walking hunters during the regular season, the early season, flocks of young birds are more likely to hold for walking hunters and dogs. All prairie chicken hunters must have a $2.50 prairie chicken permit in addition to a hunting license. Permits may be purchased wherever licenses are sold and online. Information provided by hunters at the time of purchase will help biologists estimate prairie chicken harvest and hunting pressure. A more substantial prairie grouse population update is expected to be released by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism later this month.
Even Montana, one of the last great places for mixed bag upland hunting, is seeing land changes affecting its upland bird populations. Large acreages of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands are being returned to crop production in many places, habitat loss which is expected to have a long-term impact to prairie grouse populations if habitat isn’t restored. The weather side hasn’t been much kinder, as a drought last year was followed up by substantial spring flooding events in early June. Consequently, sharp-tailed grouse numbers are expected to be average to below average across the eastern region of the state. Sage grouse were really hurt by last year’s extreme drought conditions, which led to low brood survival. Hunters can expect sage grouse numbers to be average to well below average across Montana’s entire sage grouse range, though excellent brood rearing conditions this summer may mitigate those declines to some extent. Both grouse seasons in Montana opened Sept. 1, with the sage grouse season closing Nov. 1, 2013 and the sharp-tailed grouse season closing Jan. 1, 2014.
Nebraska’s July Rural Mail Carrier Survey indicated regional and statewide declines in prairie grouse (sharp-tailed grouse & greater prairie chicken) abundance compared to 2012. Regional declines were greatest in the Northeast and Central regions. The Sandhills, west of Highway 81 in the western grouse zone, continues to be the core of the prairie grouses range in Nebraska, and will offer the best opportunities for harvest this year. East of Highway 81, in the eastern grouse zone (where one of 400 special, free permits is required) brood observations, like those of pheasants and bobwhites, have been few. Further, habitat loss continues to accelerate in the eastern zone. As for southwest Nebraska, Johnson and western Pawnee Counties should offer the best chances this year. Nebraska’s prairie grouse season runs Sept. 1, 2013 through Jan. 31, 2014.
Sharp-tailed grouse, as well as Hungarian partridge populations, are down significantly from last year in North Dakota. The July and August roadside counts suggested suggest sharp-tailed grouse numbers are down 51 percent statewide from last year, with the number of broods observed down 50 percent, while the statewide Hungarian partridge population is down 34 percent from last year, and the number of broods observed is down 31 percent. Aaron Robinson, upland game biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Dickinson, said even though spring survey numbers indicated a population comparable to last year, the telling factor is always late-summer counts. “Fall hunting season success is directly correlated to the current year’s reproductive success – if there is a good hatch then logically there will be more birds on the landscape come fall hunting season,” Robinson said. The season for sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge in North Dakota runs Sept. 14, 2013 through Jan. 5, 2014.
Prairie grouse production – sharptails and greater prairie chickens – was the worst on record in 2012, likely in response to record drought conditions in central and western South Dakota. “The cold and wet spring was not ideal for prairie grouse production in 2013, but we are optimistic that production will be higher than 2012,” says Travis Runia, a senior upland game biologist with the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department. Runia noted that continued grassland habitat loss has eroded the prairie grouse distribution along their eastern range, but when hunters do find grasslands, they should find them with more cover than last year, which should help hunting success. The Fort Pierre National Grasslands, with 100,000-plus acres of well-managed grasslands, still represents the premier destination for prairie grouse hunters in South Dakota. South Dakota’s prairie grouse season runs Sept. 21, 2013 through Jan. 5, 2014.
Monday, April 29th, 2013
Last year’s list of the 25 Best Pheasant Hunting Towns in America selected locales predominately based in the Midwest where the ringneck is king. Because Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever members hail from all reaches of the United States, from Alabama to Alaska, we’ve assembled this year’s list to include pheasants as well as multiple quail species, prairie grouse and even forest birds. The main criterion was to emphasize areas capable of providing multiple species, along with destinations most-welcoming to bird hunters. In other words, there were bonus points awarded for “mixed bag” opportunities and neon signs “welcoming bird hunters” in this year’s analysis. We also avoided re-listing last year’s 25 towns, so what you now have is a good bucket list of 50 destinations for the traveling wingshooter!
What towns did we miss? Let us know in the comments section.
1. Pierre, South Dakota. This Missouri River town puts you in the heart of pheasant country, but the upland fun doesn’t stop there. In 2011 (the last year numbers were available) approximately 30 roosters per square mile were harvested in Hughes County. Cross the river and head south of Pierre and you’re into the Fort Pierre National Grassland, where sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chickens become the main quarry. In fact, the U.S. Forest Service manages the Fort Pierre National Grassland specifically for these native birds. Just North of Pierre also boasts some of the state’s best gray (Hungarian) partridge numbers as well.
While you’re there: Myril Arch’s Cattleman’s Club Steakhouse goes through an average of 60,000 pounds of aged, choice beef a year, so they must know what they’re doing.
2. Lewistown, Montana. Located in the geographic center of the state, Lewistown is the perfect city to home base a public land upland bird hunt. Fergus County has ring-necked pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse, gray (Hungarian) partridge, as well as sage grouse. You’ll chase these upland birds with stunning buttes and mountain ranges as almost surreal backdrops, and find no shortage of publically accessible land, whether state or federally owned. Two keystone Pheasants Forever wildlife habitat projects are 45 minutes from Lewistown. Located six miles north of Denton, Montana, the 800-acre Coffee Creek BLOCK Management Area is located between a 320-acre parcel and an 880-acre parcel of land – all three areas are open to public hunting. Pheasants Forever also acquired a 1,000 acre parcel known as the Wolf Creek Property, a project which created 14,000 contiguous acres open to public walk-in hunting.
While you’re there: Once the birds have been cleaned and the dog has been fed, head over to the 87 Bar & Grill in Stanford for their house specialty smoked ribs and steaks.
3. Hettinger, North Dakota. Disregard state lines and you can’t tell the difference between southwest North Dakota and the best locales in South Dakota. Hettinger gets the nod in this region because of a few more Private Land Open to Sportsmen (P.L.O.T.S.) areas.
While you’re there: A visit north to the Pheasant Café in Mott seems like a must.
4. Huron, South Dakota. Home to the “World’s Largest Pheasant,” Huron is also home to some darn good pheasant hunting. From state Game Production Areas to federal Waterfowl Production Areas to a mix of walk-in lands, there’s enough public land in the region to never hunt the same area twice on a 5 or 10-day trip, unless of course you find a honey hole.
While you’re there: The Hwy. 14 Roadhouse in nearby Cavour has the type of good, greasy food that goes down guilt free after a long day of pheasant hunting.
5. Valentine, Nebraska. One of the most unique areas in the United States, the nearly 20,000 square mile Nebraska Sandhills region is an outdoor paradise, and Valentine, which rests at the northern edge of the Sandhills, was named one of the best ten wilderness towns and cities by National Geographic Adventure magazine in 2007. Because the Sandhills are 95 percent grassland, it remains one of the most vital areas for greater prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse in the country. Grouse can be found on the 115,000-acre Samuel McKelvie National Forest, and grouse and pheasants may be encountered on the 73,000-acre Valentine National Wildlife Refuge.
While you’re there: Head over to the Peppermill & E. K. Valentine Lounge and devour the Joseph Angus Burger, a finalist in the Nebraska Beef Council’s Best Burger Contest.
6. White Bird, Idaho. Hells Canyon is 8,000 feet of elevation, and at various levels includes pheasants, quail, gray partridge and forest grouse. Show up in shape and plan the right route up and down, and you may encounter many of these species in one day. It’s considered by many wingshooting enthusiasts to be a “hunt of a lifetime.” Nearly 40 percent of Idaho’s Hells Canyon is publically accessible, either through state-owned lands, U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands or U.S. Forest Service lands.
While you’re there: Floats and rafting adventures are popular on the Salmon River, in case your bird hunt also needs to double as a family vacation.
7. Heppner, Oregon. Nestled in the Columbia Basin, within a half-hour drive hunters have the opportunity to harvest pheasants, California quail, Huns, chukar, and in the nearby Blue Mountains, Dusky grouse, ruffed grouse and at least the chance of running into mountain quail. With the exception of the Umatilla National Forest for grouse, the hunting opportunity is mostly on private land in the area, but the state has a number of agreements in the area for private land access through its Open Fields, Upland Cooperative Access Program and Regulated Hunt Areas.
While you’re there: As you scout, make sure to drive from Highway 74, also called the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway, winding south from Interstate 84 through Ione, Lexington and Heppner.
8. Winnemucca, Nevada. Winnemucca claims legendary status as the “Chukar Captial of the Country.” Long seasons (first Saturday in October through January 31), liberal bag limits (daily limit of six; possession limit of 18) and the fact that these birds are found almost exclusively on public land make chukar Nevada’s most popular game bird. The covey birds do well here in the steep, rugged canyons that mirror the original chukar habitat of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the birds’ native countries. Just know the first time you hunt chukar is for fun, the rest of your life is for revenge.
While you’re there: Nearby Orovada, 44 miles to the north of Winnemucca, is known for excellent hunting areas as well as breathtaking views of the Sawtooth Mountains.
9. Albany, Georgia. Buoyed by tradition and cemented with a local culture built upon the local quail plantation economy, Albany has a reputation as the “quail hunting capital of the world” and a citizenry that embraces “Gentleman Bob.”
While you’re there: save an hour for the 60 mile trip South to Thomasville, Georgia where you can visit Kevin’s, a landmark sporting goods retailer devoted to the bird hunter.
10. Milaca, Minnesota. There are places in Minnesota where pheasants can be found in greater abundance, ditto for ruffed grouse. But there are few places where a hunter may encounter both in such close proximity. While pheasants are found primarily on private land here, state Wildlife Management Areas in the region offer a chance at a rare pheasant/grouse double, including the 40,000-acre Mille Laces WMA. The nearby Rum River State Forest provides 40,000 acres to search for forest birds.
While you’re there: For lunch, the Rough-Cut Grill & Bar in Milaca is the place. This isn’t the type of joint with a lighter portion menu, so fill up and plan on walking it all off in the afternoon…before you come back for supper.
11. Sonoita, Arizona. Central in Arizona’s quail triangle – the Patagonia/Sonoita/Elgin tri-city area – the crossroads of U.S. Highways 82 and 83 puts you in the epicenter of Mearns’ quail country, and 90 percent of the world’s Mearns’ hunting takes place in Arizona. Surrounded by scenic mountain ranges, the pups will find the hotels dog friendly, and moderate winter temps extend through the quail hunting season. Sonoita is also close to desert grasslands (scaled quail) and desert scrub (Gambel’s quail). After your Mearns’ hunt in the oak-lined canyons, you can work toward the Triple Crown.
12. Abilene, Kansas. A gateway to the Flint Hills to the north and central Kansas to the west, the two areas in recent years that have produced the best quail hunting in the Sunflower State.
13. Eureka, South Dakota. Legend has it the town’s name stems from the first settler’s reaction to all the pheasants observed in the area – “Eureka!”
14. Wing, North Dakota. Located just northeast of Bismarck, this town’s name is a clear indication of its premiere attraction. While primarily a waterfowler’s paradise, bird hunters looking to keep their boots dry can find pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse and Huns on ample public ground.
15. Redfield, South Dakota. By law, there can only be one officially trademarked “Pheasant Capital of the World” and Redfield is the owner of that distinction . . . and for good reason!
16. Tallahassee, Florida. Home to Tall Timbers, a partner non-profit focused on quail research, this north Florida town is steeped in the quail plantation culture and quail hunting tradition.
17. Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. This fisherman’s paradise also makes for an excellent October launching off point for the bird hunter. Head south toward Fergus Falls to bag your limit of roosters, then jog northeast to find ruffed grouse and timberdoodles amongst thousands of acres of public forest lands. Point straight west and you’ll find prairie chickens in nearby Clay County if you’re lucky enough to pull a Minnesota prairie chicken permit.
18. Park Falls, Wisconsin. For more than 25 years, Park Falls has staked its claim as the “Ruffed Grouse Capital of the World.” It’s more than just proclamation – more than 5,000 acres in the area are intensively managed as ruffed grouse and woodcock habitat.
19. Iron River, Michigan. Four-season recreation is Iron County’s claim to fame, and with the nearby Ottawa National Forest, it’s no coincidence the county bills itself as the woodcock capital of the world.
20. Lander, Wyoming. Wyoming is home to about 54 percent of the greater sage-grouse in the United States, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Wyoming manages millions of publically-accessible acres.
21. Miles City, Montana. Sharp-tailed grouse are well dispersed throughout southeast Montana, and the state boasts the highest daily bag limit – four birds – in the country. Thicker cover along riparian areas also provides chances at ringnecks. Did we mention there are roughly 2.5 million acres of publicly-accessible land in this region?
22. Spirit Lake, Iowa. The many Waterfowl Production Areas and their cattails make northwest Iowa a great late-season pheasant hunting option.
23. Holyoke, Colorado. Lots of Pheasants Forever and state programs – including walk-in areas – are at work in Phillips County which has made the rural, northeast Colorado town of Holyoke the state’s shining upland star.
24. Barstow, California. San Bernardino County is a top quail producer in the state, and the vast Mojave National Preserve is the most popular destination for hunters from throughout southern California, where wingshooters can also find chukar in addition to quail.
25. Anchorage, Alaska. From the regional hub of Anchorage, bird hunters can drive or fly to excellent hunting areas in all directions, which include ptarmigan, ruffed grouse and spruce grouse. To maximize your chances and stay safe here, consider hiring a guide.
Thursday, September 13th, 2012
Most states west of the Mississippi have upland seasons for prairie grouse – prairie chickens, sage grouse and sharp-tailed grouse – opening in September. These early upland seasons are ideal for dog work and sharpening your wingshooting skills. Don’t expect a lot of competition for spots, as many prairie grouse hunting opportunities are notoriously underutilized by upland hunters.
As the nation’s leading upland conservation organization, Pheasants Forever’s wildlife habitat mission is also being utilized to help prairie grouse. Nationally, Pheasants Forever is a leader on the Sage Grouse Initiative, and Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologists are working with landowners in the southern plains as part of the Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative. Additionally, Pheasants Forever chapter habitat projects where pheasant and grouse ranges overlap – Canada, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Montana, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming as examples – are also benefitting prairie grouse.
Outlook: Colorado’s rich upland offering includes prairie chickens, sage grouse and sharp-tailed grouse, one of just a couple states in which all three exist in huntable populations. The largest populations of sage grouse open to hunting are found in North Park (Jackson County), Grand County, and Moffat County. Greater prairie chickens are found in the sandhills of northern and central Yuma County, extreme eastern Washington County and extreme southern Phillips County. Sharptails are doing well thanks to the presence of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands in their range.
- Multiple seasons, consult regulations for details
- Season: Oct. 1 through Jan. 6 (select units only, consult regulations for details)
- Daily Bag Limit: 2
- Annual Bag and Possession Limit: 2
- Season: Sept. 1 through Sept. 16 (select units only, consult regulations for details)
- Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 2 / 4
Outlook: Idaho is home to Columbian sharp-tailed grouse and sage grouse, and reports from the field suggest this fall will be promising, according to Jeff Knetter, Upland Game Biologist with the Idaho Fish and Game Department. Counts of male sage grouse on lek routes were down 13 percent this spring, but nesting conditions were favorable for production. For sharptails, eastern Idaho is the best area, namely the southeast and Upper Snake regions. “There is abundant public land (state and federal) and many Access Yes! properties that provide access for hunting to private land,” Knetter says of these regions. For sage grouse, the best areas to hunt would be the southwest, Upper Snake and Salmon regions. “Most sage grouse hunting opportunities can be found on abundant public land, primarily BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands in Idaho,” Knetter says. On the habitat front, the Conservation Reserve Program-State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) practice is being implemented in both the Southeast and Upper Snake regions to improve or enhance sharptail habitat, while the Sage Grouse Initiative is being implemented across the range of sage grouse in Idaho. Last year, Utah hunters harvested 2,900 sharptails and 2,100 sage grouse.
- Season: Sharp-tailed grouse: Oct. 1 through Oct. 31; Sage grouse: Sept. 15 through Sept. 21
- Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 2 sharptails, 1 sage grouse / 4 sharptails, 2 sage grouse
Outlook: Populations of greater and lesser prairie chickens remain strong in west central and northwest Kansas, though down slightly from last year, reports Dave Dahlgren, Small Game Specialist with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. Greater prairie chicken populations have increased in northwest Kansas in recent years, so the state has expanded its early season into this area that includes some of the highest densities. The extreme drought of the past two years has especially hurt southwest Kansas, including lesser prairie chicken areas that have seen extreme declines in recent years. Dahlgren adds that the Flint Hills did not receive prescribed management burning this year due to drought, which left more nesting cover on the landscape and likely resulted in higher production of birds in that area. Last year, 6,200 greater prairie chickens and 400 lesser prairie chickens were harvested by Kansas hunters. New for 2012, Kansas prairie chicken hunters are required to purchase a $2.50 prairie chicken permit which will allow the state to monitor harvest with much more precision.
Early Season (Northwest and East units)
- Sept. 15 through Oct. 15
- Daily Bag Limit: 2, single species or in combination
Regular Season (Northwest and East units)
- Nov. 17 through Jan. 31, 2013
- Daily Bag Limit: 2, single species or in combination
- Nov. 17 through Dec. 31
- Daily Bag Limit: 1
Outlook: Michigan is home to the eastern-most huntable population of sharp-tailed grouse in the U.S. Last year marked the state’s first sharp-tailed grouse season in a dozen years, as the grouse population was greater than biologists realized. The hunt is open in parts of two counties in the eastern Upper Peninsula. Most of the sharp-tailed grouse habitat in the eastern Upper Peninsula is on private land, so permission will be needed from landowners. A free sharp-tailed grouse stamp is also required to hunt Michigan sharptails.
- Season: Oct. 10 through Oct. 31
- Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 2 / 4 (limit 6 per season)
Outlook: Minnesota’s sharp-tailed grouse count declined by 22 percent this spring, but the statewide index of sharptails per dancing ground was similar to the long-term average observed since 1980. Sharp-tailed grouse are more abundant in northwest Minnesota, but can also be found in east-central Minnesota. Minnesota typically has about 5,000 to 10,000 upland hunters who pursue sharptails annually, with a yearly harvest of up to 22,000 birds. Pheasants Forever and the Minnesota Sharp-tailed Grouse Society recently, with the help of a grant recommended by Minnesota’s Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, acquired a 1,285-acre parcel in Kanabec County. The property, now permanently protected habitat for wildlife, including sharp-tailed grouse, has been turned over to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to be open as a state Wildlife Management Area.
- Season: Sept. 15 through Nov. 30
- Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 3 / 6
- Season: Oct. 20-24*
- Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 2 / 2
*The application deadline for Minnesota’s limited-draw fall prairie chicken hunt was Aug. 17. Surplus tags go on sale Sept. 24th at noon.
Outlook: Montana boasts one of the strongest remaining sage grouse populations in the country, as well as the most liberal sharp-tailed grouse season – a four-bird daily bag limit – making it a premier stop for prairie grouse hunters. Across Montana’s sage grouse range, numbers are expected to be back at average or even slightly above average except for south central Montana. Sage grouse are found in Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Regions 3, 5, 6 and 7. As for sharptails, an above average season is expected in Region 4, which stretches from Fergus and Petroleum Counties in the central part of the state northeast to the Rocky Mountain Front. Region 6, which has many times been the top sharptail producing area of Montana, should have numbers improved over last season, and possibly even above average the further east you travel. Sharptail numbers are also stable in southeast Montana.
- Sept. 1 through Nov. 1
- Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 2 / 4
- Season: Sept.1- Jan. 1, 2013
- Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 4 / 16
Outlook: Prairie grouse population counts from Nebraska’s summer surveys were higher compared to 2011, with a statewide increase of 46 percent, and Jeff Lusk, Upland Game Program Manager with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, expects a good season of sharp-tailed grouse and greater prairie chicken hunting in the state. “The Nebraska Sandhills continues to be the premier area in the state for both sharptails and prairie chickens,” Lusk says of his state’s core grouse range. Lusk adds that abundant prairie chicken populations exist in southwest and south-central Nebraska, but hunting activity in these areas has typically been low. East of Highway 81, the continued loss of grassland habitat, particularly in the southeast prairie chicken range, is impacting the population, though Lusk says a fair amount of publically accessible Open Field & Waters program acres in southwest Johnson and western Pawnee Counties should provide good prairie chicken hunting. In 2011, an estimated 6,082 hunters harvested 17,356 prairie grouse.
- Season: Oct. 27 through Jan. 31, 2013*
- Daily Bag / Possession Limit: West zone, 3 grouse in aggregate; East zone, permit allows the take of 3 prairie chickens during the grouse season / West zone, 12 grouse (combined); East zone, permit allows harvest of only 3 prairie chickens during the grouse season.
*A special, free permit is required for the east grouse zone, east of State Highway 81. Permits can be obtained from the Nebraska Game & Parks Lincoln Office.
Outlook: Nevada is another sage grouse option, where as recently as 2009-2010, nearly 9,000 sagehens were harvested. Predominately a resident-only hunt, nonresidents have, in recent years, been able to apply for two separate seasons with 75 permits awarded at the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge.
- Multiple seasons, consult regulations for details*
*The deadline for nonresidents was Aug. 3. Mark your calendars for next season.
Outlook: North Dakota hunters should expect to see a slight increase in sharp-tailed grouse numbers this hunting season, based on spring survey numbers. Aaron Robinson, Prairie Grouse Biologist with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said the spring sharptail breeding population was up from last year, and that the mild winter and spring allowed for good nesting success. The widespread drought may have impacted chick survival, but Robinson says the bigger long-term problem is the continued loss of native prairie and acreage previously enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, both of which are negatively affecting the sharp-tailed grouse population. Found statewide, look for birds wherever native prairie is mixed with shrubland and small grain crops. Hay fields and pasture lands can also provide sharptail action. North Dakota also has a small sage grouse population, but that season is closed.
- Season: Sept. 8 through Jan. 6, 2013
- Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 3 / 12
Outlook: Oregon’s best sage grouse hunting areas can be found in the southeast, and since much of eastern Oregon is owned by state and federal agencies, it offers the potential for a public do-it-yourself hunt. Popular units in this controlled hunt included the Whitehorse, Beatys Butte, Warner, Beulah and Malheur River.
- Season: Sept. 8 through Sept. 16*
- Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 2 / 2 (season limit)
*The application deadline for Oregon’s controlled sage grouse hunt was Aug. 27. Mark your calendars for next season.
Outlook: South Dakota will again be a top prairie grouse destination, as hunter success is expected to be comparable to last season in which wingshooters bagged 48,000 sharptails and greater prairie chickens combined. Drought hit South Dakota as early as last fall, says Travis Runia, Senior Upland Game Biologist with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, which could have reduced available nesting cover and which may make getting close to birds more difficult. Runia points out the Fort Pierre National Grasslands will again represent a premier destination for prairie grouse hunters in South Dakota. “The 100,000 acres of well-managed grasslands boast an abundance of both sharp-tailed grouse and greater prairie chickens.” Runia says, “The Grand River and Buffalo Gap National Grasslands are also notable destinations.” But hunters can stay east of the Missouri River and still find birds. “The Missouri river breaks on either side of the river hold good numbers of sharp-tailed grouse,” Runia says, “Grassland dominated landscapes within the first tier of counties east of the river are often over looked by grouse hunters but have tremendous opportunities for quality hunting.” South Dakota also offers a two-day, public land-only sage grouse hunt. Last year, 11 birds were harvested in what’s looked at as a trophy bird opportunity for avid grouse hunters. Sage grouse abundance is similar to last year.
- Season: Sept. 15 through Jan. 6, 2013
- Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 3 (combined) / 15 (combined)
- Season: Sept. 26 and 27
- Limit 1 per season
Outlook: Greater sage grouse populations are very low right now in Utah, while sharp-tailed grouse numbers have been stable the past three years, reports Jason Robinson, Upland Game Program Coordinator with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Because Utah has a limited draw only for designated hunting areas, the hunter success rate is very high; in fact, 600 hunters averaged a bird each in 2011 for each species. For those who draw a permit, Utah’s Walk in Access program does allow for hunting opportunities for these species.
- Season: Sept. 29 through Oct. 21*
- Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 2 / 2 birds total for the entire season, must have a permit for each species
*Limited entry, draw only for designated areas. You already have to have a permit to hunt in 2012. The application deadline was July 3, 2012. Mark your calendars for next season.
Outlook: Wisconsin is also home to small but relatively stable sharp-tail grouse population, the majority of which are found in the early successional Pine Barrens and savannas in the northwestern portion of the state. Some of the larger state-owned areas that focus on sharp-tailed grouse management include the Crex Meadows and Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Areas in Burnett County.
- Season: Oct. 20 through Nov. 11
- Daily Bag / Possession Limit: Determined by permits
*The application deadline for Wisconsin’s sharp-tailed grouse hunt was Aug. 1. Mark your calendars for next season.
Outlook: Wyoming is also a premiere sage grouse hunting destination, as last year nearly 4,500 hunters pursued the big birds, harvesting just more than 10,000. A 15-day season is open in Big Horn, Fremont, Hot Springs, Park, Sweetwater, Uinta, Washakie and portions of Albany, Carbon, Lincoln, Sublette, Natrona Counties, with publically accessible land available. Another 1,300 hunters pursued sharp-tailed grouse last season, with 3,315 finding game vests.
- Opens Sept. 15 (see regulations for closing dates in different hunt areas)
- Season: Sept. 1- through Dec. 31
- Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 3 / 9