Sage Grouse

I know I’ve said this before but there is no other bird I would rather hunt than sage grouse. The excitement of turkey sized grouse taking flight in a covey break is just awesome.

September 12th was opening weekend of Sage grouse. We arrived at our parking spot along a small creek just at sunrise. We geared up and watered the dogs. I slid an extra quart of water in my game bag and closed the tailgate.

We worked our way up a short slope to a series of flats above the creek. We turned north keeping the sun at our backs. Not far into the first flat my partner spotted some fresh grouse sign. We decided that if there were grouse close by they’d be working their way down towards the creek. I split right and my partner left. As he reached the next flat wings erupted. He fumbles with his safety but gets it together and drops a straggler. The birds sailed over a ridge and dropped down towards the creek where I couldn’t see. We decided to work our way down to the creek figuring the birds lit down somewhere between. We worked the hillside to no avail. Like Houdini they disappeared into the sea of sagebrush.

We decided we should work the valley as the initial covey seemed to be a mix of females and juvenile males figuring there must be some mature males nearby. We started up a draw on the west side of the creek. My Springer moved through the sagebrush zig zagging up the hill. We were just short of the ridge when the sage erupted again but this time with big males. I throw a hasty shot I missing a bird. I swing on a second bird this time I take my time and a bird crumples at the shot. My Springer charges forward and begins his retrieve. He brings it back and I set my shotgun down to put the bird in my vest. My Springer is still working the area when I hear a bird flush. I look up and see a bird flying down hill. I grab my shotgun and rolled him into the sage. My limit is now in my vest and it has just broke 10am. I unload my shotgun and hail over my partner. I told him I’d walk down the road and he could cut through the sage above the road. This way both our dogs could work for him.

We continued down the hill towards the truck. Upon reaching the bottom close to the stream my partners dog goes on point. Another descent covey breaks. My partner shoots and the our final bird crashes to the ground. 11am and we’re limited out.

This seemed to be great year for sage grouse. We encountered at least 40 birds in three different coveys. I was happy to see all these birds. It meant they survived the harsh winter and produced a large successful brood. Hopefully with the abundance of birds along with the moisture the numbers will continue to grow keeping keeping alive the iconic legacy of sage grouse and the American West.
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kiva

Member
What a great hunting trip! Your writing let’s us experience it with you. Sage grouse are such an awesome bird. They are moving up my list of birds I want to hunt. I’m going to dial in my blue grouse hunting skills and then possibly move on to either sharptails or sage. Which do you recommend with my lab?
 
Thanks Kiva. I'm glad you enjoy my stories.

You should hunt both! Either would be great with your lab.

Sage grouse tend to like flat areas. You will walk many miles without any nearby water sources to find them. It can be hard on both dogs and hunters. You'll have to carry a lot of water. Maneuvering though the waist high sage in the Sept heat can really be draining. The season is much shorter than our other seasons. North Park area has the largest population but they only have a 2 day season. The rest of the areas in the state have a six day season.

Colombian Sharp-tails open up on the 1st of September and close mid Sept. They are certainly worth the pursuit. Their range is limited to small pockets in Northwestern CO. DOW have recently released them in other areas but are not available to hunt. They like a mixture of rolling hills and sage brush along with grassy areas. They are nothing like the sharp-tails that live on the plains so you have to hunt them differently.
 
Because the seasons are shorter do the birds get pressured a lot?
I wouldn’t say they get pressured much. I don’t think they are terribly popular as they don’t always taste very good.
We saw a total of four other people. A lot of people just drive the roads and try to catch them crossing. You can find birds that way but you’ll burn a lot of gas. Generally after opening day you won’t see anybody. If the coveys have been dispersed it takes a few days for them to gather back up. So chances are better the earlier you get on them.
 
Haven’t hunted out by Craig since the mid 90’s. Just too far to trek over there. How are the birds outside of Craig? North Park seems to have a descent population and probably due to increased habitat restoration and the shortened season.
 
Plenty of birds just gotta know where to find them. I was headed there last weekend but had a breakdown and didn't make it unfortunately. Glad you are finding birds in North Park. A buddy hunted over by Lake John and didn't get anything and didn't hear much shooting. Your spot must be one of the better ones in that area.
 
Plenty of birds just gotta know where to find them. I was headed there last weekend but had a breakdown and didn't make it unfortunately. Glad you are finding birds in North Park. A buddy hunted over by Lake John and didn't get anything and didn't hear much shooting. Your spot must be one of the better ones in that area.
Sorry you weren’t able to make it out. I have some BLM spots that seem to hold birds. I also scout a bit during the summer months. That seems to help find them come opening day.
 
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