You may never swing a shotgun after a sage grouse, the largest North American grouse, but you still have skin in the game in the fight for their future.
I first saw sage grouse when I was about 13, sitting in a ground blind waiting for pronghorn to step into bow range in Idaho’s Lemhi Valley. Every sundown, scores of these huge birds would lift off and skim the tops of the sage to their roosting areas, their wingtips nearly brushing my hat. I’ve been a big fan ever since.
The future of these birds—and the West they represent—is being decided right now. The fight is hot and the stakes are high. Here are some critical points to keep in mind as the sky fills with rhetorical flak.
One word commonly bandied about is “balance.” From the bird’s (and bird hunters’) perspective, this balance has been tipped well off-center for decades now. The question is, is America big enough and visionary enough to make sure sage grouse—and all the species within the sagebrush steppe ecosystem—have a place in our future?
Artemis is the name of the Greek goddess of the hunt. Artemisia is also the Linnaean genus of sagebrush. In a vast swath of the West, the future of sage and the future of the hunt are twisted together like strands of a rope. Everyone burns oil, but sage grouse have very few political advocates. Hunters would be wise to be among them.