Sharp-tailed Grouse Blind Lottery

Two sharp-tailed grouse crouched down in the grass facing eachother

General Background Information

The mating routine of Sharp-tailed Grouse involves males displaying communally at a traditional site (one used year after year). This site is known as a “lek.” Males compete for mates by performing a ritualized dance in conjunction with calling (often a booming sound) and inflating purplish air sacs along their necks. Females approach the edge of the lek, observe and eventually select a dominant male to mate with.

Male grouse hold territories on the lek with the dominant male usually claiming the most central position. The central male also normally mates with the most females. In general, a male’s success at attracting females is highly correlated with his position on the lek. This leads to relatively few males siring most of the young.

This dancing ground, first observed in 1988, consisted of 12 male birds displaying on the lek. In 1989, the “Grouse House” was opened to the public for viewing from April through May. Over the years, participants have reported seeing as many as 45-70 males. Since 1988 three other leks have been found on the refuge, however, this lek supports the largest number of male dancers.

 

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 The "Grouse House"

 

Grouse Blind Lottery

Every spring we hold a grouse blind lottery at the Refuge.  We allow people to observe the Sharp-tailed Grouse each Thursday (new for 2018), Friday, Saturday, and Sunday beginning the last weekend of March and ending the middle weekend of May. For 2018, the first day is March 29th and the last day is May 13th. The grouse house has six folding chairs and room for up to ten people.  If you are interested in getting a chance to observe the Sharp-tailed Grouse mating display, you will need to submit the following information by March 25th: 
 
 
  • Name
  • E-Mail Address
  • Phone Number
  • Top three dates
You can submit information by e-mail at bentonlake@fws.gov, or by phone by calling (406) 727-7400 ext 226, or stop by the office and submit your information in person. Those selected will be notified by email the week of March 26.  Good Luck!