Each year in early fall, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks places “wing barrels” at local businesses, in the hopes that successful upland game bird hunters will donate 1 wing from each bird to provide biologists with a more in-depth look at grouse populations in their region. With the end of Sage Grouse season on September 30th, wing barrels were pulled form the Hook and Horn in Wisdom, the Sportsmen’s Campground, Blue Moon Saloon in Divide, and the Mill Creek check station. In all, 46 wings were collected (30 last year). Wings were classified by species, age, and in the case of sage grouse also by sex, as follows:
Ruffed Grouse– 5 (4 juv, 1 ad)
Spruce Grouse– 14 (7 juv, 7 ad)
Blue Grouse– 18 (10 juv, 8 ad)
Sage Grouse– 9 (3 juv, 4 ad F, 2 ad M)
When combined, data from mountain grouse (ruffed, spruce and blue) suggest 109 juveniles: 100 adults (last year was 111 juveniles per 100 adults), suggesting slightly more juvenile birds in the population to replace aging adults. Data from sage grouse suggest 50 juveniles: 100 adults (last year was 175 juveniles per 100 adults), suggesting less juveniles in this year’s population. However, caution should be applied to both indices since these are relatively small sample sizes.
Later this fall, biologists Craig Fager and Dean Waltee will be adding their wing data to this data set. Stronger inferences could then be drawn for grouse populations in SW Montana, but the information provided here gives you a more local picture.
From Vanna Boccadori, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks: “Thank you to all who took the time to contribute wings from your Sage- and mountain grouse harvest this fall, whether in the barrels or dropping them off at BARO for me. Also, a big thanks to Hook and Horn, Blue Moon Saloon and the Sportsmen Campground for letting me put wing barrels up.”