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Wyoming’s Bird Hunting Guide: From Sage Grouse to Pheasants

Wyoming’s Bird Hunting Guide: From Sage Grouse to Pheasants

Bird hunters walk along while hunting Sage Grouse in Wyoming

Experience the thrill of bird hunting in Wyoming’s vast landscapes. Dive into our comprehensive guide and chase iconic upland species across the state’s diverse terrains.

“Harper’s on point!” hollered Danielle Schoenwolf, a Wyoming-based upland hunting guide with Uncharted Outdoorswomen. Her Vizsla stood stock-still, pointing a covey of sage grouse at sunrise on opening day.

As I walked up on Harper, the covey erupted, and a dozen birds took flight just yards in front of my face. My new shotgun stock found its home in my shoulder quickly and easily. A string of steel #6 shot connected with a large hen, and she sputtered towards the ground. Harper bounded towards the bird, picked her up gently, and brought her back to Danielle. 

I admired the bird’s intricate feather patterns against short grass and flowering sage in the early morning light. Her weight leaned against my back after I tucked her into my vest. 

Hunting Wyoming’s sagebrush sea is an unforgettable Western experience for countless reasons. Seemingly endless public sagelands and mountain ranges cover 48 percent of the state, and state-owned lands tack on an additional 5.6 percent. In years with great bird numbers, it feels like you can walk on and flush birds forever.

If you’re headed to the Cowboy State this fall, be sure to review the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s (WGFD) hunting regulations.

Wyoming Upland Bird Season Dates and Bag Limits

Game SpeciesDatesDaily/PossessionNotes
Sage GrouseSept. 16-30, 20232/4Hunt Area 1
Closedn/aHunt Area 2, 3, and 4
Blue (Dusky) GrouseSept. 1-Dec. 31, 20233/9
Ruffed GrouseSept. 1-Dec. 31, 20233/9
Chukar PartridgeSept. 15-Feb. 28, 20245/15
Gray (Hungarian) PartridgeSept. 15-Feb. 28, 20245/15
Sharp-tailed GrouseSept. 1-Dec. 31, 20233/9That portion of Wyoming east of the Continental Divide
Pheasant*Nov. 1-Dec. 31, 20233/9Hunt Area 1
Nov. 1-Dec 3, 20232/6Hunt Area 2, any pheasant
Dec. 4-Dec. 31, 20232/6Hunt Area 2, male pheasant only
Nov. 1-Dec. 31, 20233/9Hunt Area 5
Nov. 1-Dec. 31, 20233/9Hunt Area 7
Oct. 12-Oct. 31, 20233/season limit 9Hunt Area 8, any pheasant (Springer permits) Refer to Section 5
Nov. 1-Nov. 17, 20233/9Hunt Area 8, any pheasant
Nov. 1-Dec. 31, 20233/9Hunt Area 9
Nov. 1-Dec. 31, 20233/9Hunt Area 11
Mourning DoveSept. 1-Nov. 29, 202315/45Closed Area Section 3 Sub-Sections: b, d, e, a – after Nov. 17, c – after Nov. 14
Sora and Virginia RailSept. 1-Nov. 9, 202325/75Closed Area Section 3 Sub-Sections: b, d, e
SnipeSept. 1-Dec. 16, 20238/24Closed Area Section 3 Sub-Sections: b, d, e, a – after Nov. 17, c – after Nov. 14
Cottontail RabbitSept. 1-March 31, 202410/20
Snowshoe HareSept. 1-March 31, 20244/8
Gray, Red, and Fox SquirrelSept. 1-March 31, 202410/20

*Each pheasant season has its own legal shooting hours and hunting limitations. For more details, please see the WGFD upland bird and small game hunting regulations.

**These dates were last updated on September 22, 2023, and may not reflect current changes. Check out the Wyoming Game and Fish Department website for the most up-to-date information.

A successful sage grouse hunt in wyoming

Sage Grouse Hunting Wyoming

Greater sage grouse are an iconic Western upland bird species many hunters strive to check off their bucket list. Wyoming features 27,860 square miles of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land; since BLM land tends to be low-country scrub lands, public access for sage grouse hunting is great. Even though sage grouse numbers vary each year depending on water and food availability, during good years, the state has a very healthy population of birds.

There are four sage grouse hunting areas in Wyoming: 1, 2, 3, and 4. Areas 2, 3, and 4 are currently closed to hunting. Area 1 includes the vast majority of west-central Wyoming. The Area has a bag limit of 2 and a possession limit of 4. The season opens on September 16 and continues until September 30, 2023.

Sharp-tailed Grouse Hunting Wyoming

Sharp-tailed grouse are another Wyoming highlight found in western prairies and grasslands. They can be hunted east of the Continental Divide in this state. Sharptail grouse hunting season opens on September 1 and ends December 31, 2023. The daily bag limit is 3 sharptails, and the possession limit is 9.

A successful dusky grouse hunt in the mountains of Wyoming

Blue (Dusky) Grouse Hunting Wyoming

Dusky grouse are abundant in Wyoming. These tasty birds travel between forested and open habitats each day to access food, water, and safe cover. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch them mid-morning coming down from higher elevations as they head towards water and food sources. They can be found on both US Forest Service and BLM lands. If you’re not hunting with a shotgun, dusky grouse can legally be taken with any firearm, not just a plugged shotgun.

The entire state of Wyoming is open to dusky grouse hunting. The season opens on September 1 and ends on December 31, 2023. The daily bag limit is 3, and the possession limit is 9. 

Ruffed Grouse Hunting Wyoming

Although Wyoming isn’t known for its ruffed grouse numbers, pockets of this species can be found in timbered areas within the state. They are relatively uncommon and tend to live in “islands” of habitat. However, that doesn’t mean they’re impossible to hunt. Lucky hunters can successfully take ruffed grouse in this Western state every year.

Ruffed grouse hunting is available in the entire state of Wyoming. The season opens on September 1 and ends on December 31, 2023. The daily bag limit is 3, and the possession limit is 9 for ruffed grouse. However, keep in mind that the population of birds here is very small, and you might consider practicing self-imposed limits here to help conserve this species.

Gray (Hungarian) Partridge Hunting Wyoming

Gray partridge, also known as Hungarian partridge or Huns, can be found in sage grouse country across Wyoming. These fast-flying little birds offer unique shooting opportunities, which may pop up during a sage grouse hunt. 

The entire state of Wyoming is open to Hun hunting. Their long season opens on September 15 and continues through February 28, 2024. The daily bag limit for Huns is 5, and the possession limit is 15.

A chukar stands on a rock in Wyoming

Chukar Hunting Wyoming

Another speedy bird of the West, chukar can be found adjacent to sage grouse habitat in Wyoming. Known for their propensity for steep country and tough shooting, chukar can really spice up an upland bird hunting trip to the Cowboy State. 

Similar to Huns, all of Wyoming is open to chukar hunting. Their season also begins September 15 and ends February 28, 2024. The daily bag limit for chukar is 5, and the possession limit is 15.

Other Bird and Small Game Species to Hunt in Wyoming

In addition to symbolic western species like sage grouse, chukar, Huns, and sharptails, Wyoming offers dove, pheasant, rabbit, and squirrel hunting

The state’s early dove hunting season is a great way to sharpen your wingshooting skills before important dates, like sage grouse opening weekend. Plenty of mourning doves can be found in and around sage grouse country, too, so you can double up and scout for grouse while toting your shotgun loaded with dove shot around. 

Although Wyoming’s pheasant hunting season dates and boundaries feel a little confusing, the state’s Walk-In Access lands can offer great pheasant hunting opportunities. Just remember that you need a Pheasant Special Management Permit unless you are hunting in one of the areas exempt from said permit.

If you appreciate bringing home a mixed bag, Wyoming offers ample rabbit and squirrel hunting. Any snowshoe hare, cottontail rabbit, or gray, red, or fox squirrel is huntable throughout the entire state. Interestingly, jackrabbits are defined as predatory animals per Wyoming’s small game regulations, so you do not need a license to hunt jackrabbits. You also do not need a license to hunt crows. 

Keep in mind that midget-faded rattlesnakes are a protected species in Wyoming, and they cannot be killed, trapped, hunted, or caught. Thankfully, they are pretty rare and are only found in the Colorado River drainage. “In Wyoming, midget faded rattlesnakes are found in appropriately rocky, cliffy habitats along the Green River and its tributaries, south of Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge,” said WGFD. Comparatively, prairie rattlesnakes are quite common, and no rules surround catching or killing prairie rattlers.

Wyoming Hunting Licenses and Hunter’s Safety Course

Daily game bird/small game$9$22
12 month game bird/small game$27$74
Youth 12 month game bird/small game$40
12 month game bird$16
12 month small game$16
12 month conservation stamp$12.50$21.50
Lifetime conservation stamp$185.50$185.50
Lifetime small game/game bird/fishing$496
Lifetime game bird/small game$311

*These Wyoming license fees were last updated September 27, 2023. Please see the WFGD website for the most up-to-date information.

In Wyoming, no one born on or after January 1, 1966, can hunt with firearms unless that person can demonstrate that they have earned a hunter’s safety certification. However, there is an exception to this law; residents hunting on their own family’s land do not need a hunter safety certification to take wildlife with a firearm.

Anyone under 14 in Wyoming may hunt and take small game and game birds with a firearm as long as they are with a mentor who possesses an active small game or game bird hunting license and conservation stamp.

Additionally, active members, honorably discharged past members, veterans, or any qualified active or retired Peace Officer may obtain an exemption from Wyoming’s hunter safety certification requirement. However, this is not valid for elk hunting in Grand Teton National Park or for persons acting as mentors in the Hunter Mentor Program.

Blaze Orange Clothing Requirements in Wyoming

Hunters are not required to wear blaze orange or fluorescent pink when hunting upland birds and small game unless they are hunting pheasants on Department of Wildlife Habitat Areas or Bureau of Reclamation Withdrawal Lands bordering and including Glendo State Park. The state of Wyoming recommends that you always wear fluorescent orange or pink when hunting, and so does Project Upland.

A hunter gets ready to train his bird dog in Wyoming

Dog Training Regulations in Wyoming

Pen-raised birds are legal to use for dog training purposes in Wyoming year-round. However, some conditions are required to train your dog on raised birds in this state legally. These conditions include:

  • Trainers must have an active, unexpired permit while training dogs
  • Before any pen-raised bird is released for training purposes, it must have a leg band or its toes clipped by the owner of the game birds
  • Folks interested in training dogs must notify WGFD in their permit application that they are strictly interested in training dogs and provide legal descriptions of the lands on which they plan on training their dogs to the nearest section. 
  • Pen-raised birds may not be released in areas with wild populations of the same species of bird, unless that species’ hunting season is open
  • For the full list of dog training regulations, please see the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission’s live wildlife possession document

Wyoming Content in Project Upland Magazine

In the 2022 winter issue of Project Upland Magazine, Joshua Tatman wrote “Ghosts in the Aspens,” which talked about hunting ruffed grouse in islands of habitat in Wyoming.

Conservation and Non-Profit Organizations for Wyoming Bird Hunting

Pheasants Forever

Sage Grouse Local Working Groups

Sage Grouse Initiative

Wyoming Wildlife Federation

Wyoming Bird Habitat Conservation Partnership

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