Public Land Grouse Hunt

Do You Hunt Public Land?

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1 | Montana Landscape

I joined some friends of mine in the Rocky Mountain Front of Montana in October 2009 for a sharptail grouse hunt on public land. They were toting shotguns; I was carrying my Canon camera and lenses. 

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2 | Preparing for the Shot

The weather that day was beautiful; mostly sunny with very little wind. There was already some snow on the mountain peaks, but dryer down low, where we were hunting. 

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3 | Finding Grouse in the Challenging Terrain

It’s difficult terrain around here, and following bird dogs through the steep mountains all day will leave you with a few aches and pains by sunset.  

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4 | Taking the Shot

It’s extremely difficult to photograph flushing upland birds — maybe even more so than shooting them with a shotgun! Singles and doubles are especially tough, since they’re small and move so rapidly. It’s hard to focus on them. 

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5 | Watch for Burs

The high fields are crazy with burs, and they pile up quickly on a long-haired dog like a setter or golden retriever. 

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6 | Eye on the Prize

Fast, cagey, and delicious — sharp-tailed grouse inhabit the open country of the West, and are a true prize for any upland hunter. Fantastic hunting can still be had for them on public land for guys with good dogs willing to put in the work. 

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7 | The Masterpiece

No, you don’t have to own an expensive over-and-under to be an upland bird hunter. Your old 870 will work just fine — but there’s no denying the allure of an Italian masterpiece in a setting like this. 

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8 | Buffet for Grouse

Juniper berries are like a prairie buffet to hungry sharp-tailed grouse.

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9 | Remember to Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is important on a hunt like this — both for the hunters and the dogs. 

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10 | Happy Hunt

Portrait of one happy hound — cockleburs and all.

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[Editor's note: This Realtree.com photo gallery was first published on Sept. 19, 2011.]

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Think great upland hunting on public land is a thing of the past? The images from this Montana hunt for sharptails may convince you otherwise.