View Full Version : anyone photographing Sharptails or Sage Grouse?

Tom Reichner
9th of April 2009 (Thu), 13:32
Just wondering if anyone else out there is pursuing Sharptail Grouse of Sage Grouse. I'd like to know if anyone has located a lek and how you're setting up. They're both extremely rare in my area, so I'm having a tough time of it. Hopefully someone is doing better.

11th of April 2009 (Sat), 07:57
Hi Tom,
I am not trying to shoot them since the do not live here in Michigan. On the other hand, I am very interested in trying to get some photos of a ruffed grouse. They have been a goal of mine for a bit over a year now. They can be a bit tough to find without dogs doing the work for you but I have a few of them located in general areas so just need to go in and start sitting and listening. During the spring the males will puff up and "drum" on a log and it can be heard for a mile or so. My dream goal is to catch one of those boys "doing his thing":lol: I enjoy your work. Good luck on the Grouse.


Tom Reichner
13th of April 2009 (Mon), 15:56
Hi, Rick!

Ruffed Grouse are quite difficult, too. Not as hard to find as the Sharptail or Sage Grouse, but possibly more difficult to photograph once you do find them. This is a function of the dense forested habitat they prefer.

They typically stop drumming for the day shortly after first light, which I believe makes a drumming shot a flash proposition. Certainly there have been exceptions to this. Three years ago, I heard an old 'Ruff drum around mid-morning. But this is rare.


16th of April 2009 (Thu), 02:39
Grouse are tough! Here's one in really low light:


This is where a faster prime really comes in handy.

Tom Reichner
16th of April 2009 (Thu), 18:50
Mike, very nice Ruffed Grouse image! BTW, it's a female.

UPDATE: I found a Ruffed Grouse drumming site. It's actually using a large rock surface instead of a log. I thought for sure I found the drumming log, so I spent the afternoon yesterday setting up two blinds, clearing vegetation, etc. Got there while it was still dark this morning, and found the grouse there. Unfortunately, it wasn't using the log! It was drumming from several different spots atop a boulder that is about 20 feet long. So I got to watch a grouse drum dozens of times, but didn't get to take any pictures, because of all the vegetation obscuring the camera's view. So after ole 'Ruff left, I set up a blind using natural vegetation . . . this time facing the boulder. The only spot for the blind was quite close to the drumming area - about 7 yards I would say. I'd have preferred to be back at least another 10 feet. Anyway, I plan to be there again tomorrow in the very early morning. hopefully he'll come in to this boulder again to drum. And hopefully he doesn't sense me and flee the scene.

16th of April 2009 (Thu), 21:28
Wow, that's amazing. You must live in some nice country to be able to go out your door and find ruffed grouse. Good detective work too, not easy stuff.

17th of April 2009 (Fri), 22:45
Thanks for the encouragement Tom. I am in the process of purchasing a 100-400 lens (first L) so I know the light will be a challange in the woods. I got a shot of one a few days ago but it was running away from me and with a 135mm it was pretty small. I do appreciate your photos of the pheasants as well. You do some nice work. I would be very interested in seeing some any photos you get of the bird drumming. Well, any pictures are fine as well!!!!:lol: By the way, do you use any of the pop up manufactured blinds or all natural. The wild turkeys ignore them so they are effective for them. I have seen a lot of grouse but most are while standing in a treestand bow hunting. Just curious if in your experience dothe smaller birds seem to ignore the popups? I wish you luck.

Mike, that is a fine shot. Thanks for sharing it. I have a 40 as well. I think this is going to be a challange but I think I can get some good shots as well. I spend a lot of time in the outdoors and really enjoy getting close with a camera. Thanks for sharing such a nice shot. Rick

17th of April 2009 (Fri), 23:02
No prob, Rick. For me the key to grouse has always been in late summer and fall along gravel roads (the grouse ingest gravel to help with digestion). That's why I drive those roads pretty slow. They blend in pretty well.

17th of April 2009 (Fri), 23:15
I am in northern Michigan and with all kinds of Forest service roads and public land, I have a lot of space to explore. I find birds the same way by driving. After finding them in an area, I can go in and see if I can get close. I have found birds often in the fall around raspberry patches and or service berry bushes. Trying to make the jump right now into the L lens family. I enjoy the chase so to speak but I like knowing that the picture is then in my hands to succeed and not being undermined by my equipment. :D Of course, that means there is only one person to blame for bad shots. Rick

18th of April 2009 (Sat), 03:32
Yeah Northern Michigan is a good spot. Theyare still tough to get though! they do like their berries too ,don't they?

Here's another grouse shot, this one from a national forest in Montana:


It was taken on non-L equipment, a 70-300 IS to be exact. Couple years back.

19th of April 2009 (Sun), 01:02
havent went out this year yet should maby give my new 40d a try.. here is a few from last spring... around here sharptails are real easy.. a sure deal every morning and eav..(for about a month) they could care less about a big blind sent up in there dancing ground... they use the same dancing grounds every year.. same hill. usually on virgin prarie.. on quiet mornings you can drive around and roll your window down and you can here them dancing and the other unexplanable by me noise they make..... from some distance mile+ to locate them.. and you can set up a blind.. if they spook when you walk up they usually will be back in just a few mins...
pics are just resized to fit here and nothing else so maby a little dull..

19th of April 2009 (Sun), 01:04

19th of April 2009 (Sun), 01:06
two more.

19th of April 2009 (Sun), 01:29
heres a little video i made the same day.. for anybody that hasent seen a sharptail dance..

http://i71.photobucket.com/albums/i143/fishstuffer/th_thechickendance.jpg (http://s71.photobucket.com/albums/i143/fishstuffer/?action=view&current=thechickendance.flv)

Tom Reichner
23rd of April 2009 (Thu), 16:14
Wonderful series of Sharptail images, Steve! That's exactly what I'm hoping to capture before it's all over in a couple weeks.

24th of April 2009 (Fri), 22:29
Nice grouse shots, Silly101. Where was that?

One thing that's cool about a place like Montana is you can run into different kinds in very short distances. If I lived there I would have all kinds of grouse shots.

25th of April 2009 (Sat), 03:01
north dakota

Tom Reichner
25th of April 2009 (Sat), 23:05
UPDATE: I finally got to photograph Sage Grouse! Thanks to a friend that located them for me. Also, I've located a Ruffed Grouse drumming rock and have had several successful shoots there. Found some Sharptails, too - but they are very spooky and will be quite difficult to capture (unlike the Sharpies in other areas).

4th of May 2009 (Mon), 18:49
Found a bunch in Bodie Ghost Town in the Sierra Nevadas.


Tom Reichner
4th of May 2009 (Mon), 22:18
Found a bunch in Bodie Ghost Town in the Sierra Nevadas.

Hey, Tyler! Great job finding those Sharptails

BTW, I have a couple Sage Grouse images - finally got 'em!

6th of May 2009 (Wed), 22:58
VERY nice shots Tom. I like the colors. Larimie, very nice shots as well. I managed to get a couple of shots myself with a 135 lens but haven't gotten them converted yet. No drumming but some passing shots. Good shots guys. Rick

6th of May 2009 (Wed), 23:02
Thanks Tom and Res. They're fun to shoot. Lots of great detail.

9th of May 2009 (Sat), 10:33
Well, not as good as all that have been posted but I have to start some where. :lol: I had a 200mm on order (at Tom's recommendation) but it had not gotten here yet so was still working with my 28-135 kit lens. This image is about a 50% crop and then a resize to get it to fit here. I need to work a bit on getting seperation from the back ground. By the way Tom, the 200 and the 1.4 are here. Now to find birds. It just HAD to rain today. :rolleyes: Rick