Idaho’s prairie grouse hunting will be challenging this fall, drought to blame
By Chad Love
As in much of the West, hotter and drier weather during the Idaho spring and summer hatching and brood-rearing period had an adverse impact on Idaho sharptail breeding success.
“Spring and summer weather were warmer and drier than average,” says Jeff Knetter, upland game and migratory bird coordinator for the Idaho Fish and Game Department. “July was exceptionally hot and dry. While the hatch was likely good, I believe brood survival will be poor.”
Unfortunately, says Knetter, habitat conditions statewide going into the fall season reflect the hard conditions of the spring and summer nesting season.
“It is exceptionally hot and dry throughout the state,” says Knetter. “Grass height is below average.”
Based on what he sees in the field, Knetter says he anticipates the Idaho prairie grouse season to be below average for both sharptails and sage grouse.
“In 2020, the juvenile-to-adult adult ratio for sharp-tailed grouse was lower than in 2019,” says Knetter. “Combine lower production in 2020 and the conditions we’ve experienced in 2021, and unfortunately I am not very optimistic about our fall prairie grouse populations.”
Upland bird hunters in Idaho need to be aware of changes to sage grouse and sharp-tailed grouse requirements for the 2021 hunting season that require the purchase of a new tag for sage grouse hunting and a separate permit just for sharptail hunters, along with a hunting license.
The new tag and permit structure was passed by the 2021 Legislature, but is not reflected in the printed 2020-21 Idaho Upland Game, Turkey and Furbearer seasons and rules.
The sage- rouse tag, which is required for all sage grouse hunters, is $22.75 for residents and $74.25 for nonresidents. The sharp-tailed grouse permit will be required only for people hunting those birds – not sage grouse – and will cost $5.75 for residents and $17.75 for nonresidents. See more details about the new rules here on the Idaho Game & Fish website.
Chad Love is editor at Quail Forever.