There’s more than one way to shoot a grouse—and more than one type of grouse to shoot at. Here are a few other upland options in the fields and forests around Bozeman.
‘Round these parts, ruffed grouse play second-fiddle to the bigger, more iconic blues; but they’re an esteemed and much sought-after game bird in other parts of the country. Ruffs are fast, explode suddenly into flight, and tend to inhabit dense forests, where it takes patience, skill, and speedy reflexes to line up and nail a shot. To find ‘em, poke around aspen-choked drainages and in other brushy low ground. Keep your dog close and your gun ready.
Splendor in the Grass
Though rare around southwest Montana, sharp-tailed grouse are worth keeping an eye out for. They’re a prairie bird; you’ll find them in open, grassy expanses, often on benches and plateaus above area rivers. They tend to mingle in small groups and cluck a lot, especially as they break into flight. Sharpies look a lot like hen pheasants, so use caution when in or near pheasant habitat.
Two in the Bush
Given the short season, low bag limit (only two per day), and scarcity of habitat, sage grouse are the least-hunted bird in Region 3. But they’re also the biggest, fattest, and, arguably, the most fun to hunt. Roaming wide-open sage flats, mountains all around, dog darting through the brush in search of fresh scent… this is Montana bird hunting at its finest. Scout during the summer and if possible, negotiate future access with ranchers.