I shot my first sage grouse the other day. I was out in the desert and plugged one ... and just like that my sage grouse hunting for the day was over. One bird per day of the seven day season, a very low number compared to other game birds. A hunter can shoot two cock pheasants per day Oct. 15-Dec. 31.
The short season comes from a historically low population level. As human populations have spread across the desert, the number of sage grouse has been on a steady decline. Large tracts of the birds’ inhabitable area have been lost to development. Some years, hunting the birds has been banned altogether, other years a very limited season is allowed. Some groups are even lobbying for a protected status for the grouse
After the recent fire at the INL in southern Idaho, officials began actively replanting sagebrush in an attempt to stem the growth of invasive species like cheatgrass. As with most conservation, protecting native tracts of inhabitable land is vital to a thriving population of sage grouse.
When the rest of my party limited out, we went back to camp and cooked up one of the birds. I was surprised at how large sage grouse are: about the size of a small turkey. I can say that it was the single worst wild game I have ever eaten. It tasted like a combination of liver and sagebrush. I'm not sure what I expected from a bird whose diet is 99 percent dependent on sagebrush but in my imagination, it sure as heck tasted better.
I propose a disclaimer on the hunting regulations for sage grouse. I think that hunters who have never shot one should be warned that they are nasty tasting. In general I am all for a limited season on the sage grouse, mostly to protect hunters from having to eat them.
Randy King will eat birds and tell others how bad they taste. Click to follow Randy on Facebook.