Unfortunately…One of my favorite grouse species is the most political bird in North America.
The Greater Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) or the spiny-tailed pheasant as Lewis and Clark described them in 1806 once inhabited 16 Western states and 3 Canadian providences. Their historic distribution has decreased significantly over the past 100 years due to destruction of the Sea of Sage that once was predominant in the American West. Reports of population reduction as high as 85% in certain regions are blamed by many components such as wild fires, draught, West Nile Virus, Coccidiosis, Giardiasis, loss of habitat (some 80 million acres of sage brush), over grazing of our public lands, roads and fences, urban sprawl, wind power and gas/oil exploration and development…the list goes on ad nausea. Researches, ranchers and politicians will never agree on the status of the Greater Sage Grouse, but their listing on the Endangered Species Act is inevitable.
I could get on a soap box and rant like a heretic about the Bureau of Land Mis-Mangement, piss-poor real-estate deals where subdivisions were placed on known leks, ranchers without range management skills, etc, etc, etc…but that’s not what Setter Feathers adheres to.
Greater Sage Grouse season opened in Colorado on Saturday September 10th 2011. Sterling and I migrated north to pursue these glorious bombers out on their Sea of Sage…with two minor stops in route. We chased blue grouse at 8,500 ft for first part of the morning in typical Colorado September weather. Gretchen had a very nice find on a covey of blue grouse on a ridge way above Sterling and I.
Our Second detour was for mountain sharp-tails (aka Columbian Sharp-Tailed Grouse)…when we reached the covert, it was 80 degrees and too hot for the dogs…our success here was one wild flushing sharp-tailed grouse and plenty of exercise.
We arrived at our destination in time for a wonderful dinner and hotel happy hour…
Saturday morning was picture perfect. Gep had a nice point on two male sage grouse, and Sterling was able to accomplish a goal on his bucket list by harvesting a trophy male that was shipped today to his taxidermist. The dog work was splendid and the company can’t get much better. I love these birds and the environs they reside.