Sharptail prospects look good in Wyoming, while sage grouse could be a challenge
By Marissa Jensen
We will cover Wyoming’s sharptails and sage grouse in two parts, following.
Wyoming hunters can breathe a sigh of a relief that a record snowstorm which dumped anywhere from 30 to 40 inches of snow in southeastern Wyoming seemed to have minimal effect on sharp-tailed grouse.
“Spring lek surveys indicated that it did not appear to have a negative impact on plains sharp-tailed grouse,” says Martin Hicks, Wildlife Biologist for Wyoming Game and Fish Department. “If anything, the snowstorm vastly improved nesting and brood rearing cover.”
Additionally, spring weather and brood rearing conditions remained favorable in the state, especially compared to previous years. “Conditions, particularly in the Southeast are the best they have been in several years.”
As we head into late summer and the promise of fall, Hicks remarks on the adequate forb and annual weed production that helped boost chick survival. “We expect to see an increase in juvenile plains sharp-tailed grouse in the Southeast.” With male attendance at leks increased and conditions favorable for brood survival, Hicks believes this fall will be better than previous years.
“Hunters should focus on Walk-In Areas in the extreme southeast, particularly Goshen, Laramie, and Platte counties,” shares Hicks.
Greater Sage Grouse
Like the sharp-tailed grouse, sage grouse seemed to fare well over the 2020-2021 winter. But the drought conditions Wyoming experienced in most of its sagebrush ecosystems are not ideal conditions for nesting and brood-rearing.
“The habitat is dry with not many ‘green zones’ available to supply chicks with the necessary food items of insects and forbs,” says Leslie Schreiber, sage grouse/sagebrush biologist for Wyoming Game & Fish Dept. “We are expecting sage grouse numbers to be down this year compared to last year, because our wing data collected last year suggested a chick ration of 1.1 chicks per hen, which is below the threshold of 1.5 chicks per hen necessary to sustain a stable population.”
Schreiber shares that the areas which traditionally hold high numbers of sage grouse are still good places to hunt due to the large, contiguous stands of sagebrush which support larger populations of sage-grouse. Schreiber recommends hunters look to the southwest region and its virtually endless public lands for success this season.
Nebraskan and prairie grouse hunter Marissa Jensen shot her first sage grouse last fall in The Cowboy State.