Hunting Greater Prairie-Chickens

Male greater prairie-chicken perform their spring courtship display.
Male greater prairie-chicken perform their spring courtship display. Photo by © Wayne D. Lewis/CPW.

Hunters looking for a unique, upland game bird-hunting opportunity in northeastern Colorado should try their luck on greater prairie-chickens. Some veteran wingshooters believe that prairie-chickens are the most challenging species to be hunted with a shotgun.

Greater prairie-chickens are fairly common local residents in the sandhills of northern and central Yuma County, extreme eastern Washington County and extreme southern Phillips County. They prefer mid-grass sandsage grasslands on sandhills, mixed with cornfields.

Once numbering in the millions, the greater prairie-chicken population dwindled during the last century. First due to over-hunting and later to loss of suitable habitat. Hunters are now lucky to get a chance to target these birds. Only four states offer seasons for greater prairie-chickens, and some of those states require special permits.

Male greater prairie-chicken.
Male greater prairie-chicken. Photo by Wayne D. Lewis/CPW.

Between 1973 and 1993, Colorado’s greater prairie-chickens were listed by the state as an endangered species. In 1993, the birds were delisted to threatened and in 1998 they were delisted to a special concern/nongame status. Through Colorado Parks and Wildlife recovery efforts, which included cooperative habitat projects with eastern Colorado landowners, greater prairie-chicken numbers have grown from a low of 600 birds in 1973 to an estimated fall population of 10,000 to 12,000 birds, which can easily sustain a limited harvest.

Early morning hunters who position themselves near the birds’ roosting areas may be rewarded with pass-shooting opportunities as the birds fly to feed on cut corn, sorghum or soybean fields. No public lands are open to prairie-chicken hunting. Applicants don’t need permission to hunt from landowners before buying a small game license. However, hunters must obtain landowner permission before hunting on private property.

The 2013-14 hunting season is now underway and runs Oct. 1 through Jan. 5, 2014. Game management units 93, 97, 98, 100, 101 and 102 are the only areas open for greater prairie-chickens. The bag and possession limit is two birds per year.

Greater prairie-chickens aren’t actually a variety of chicken, but they are large birds in the grouse family. Possibly the most dramatic feature of greater prairie-chickens is their spring courtship display which can be seen here:

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


✉ Follow for Updates

Sign up for email updates.

Never miss a post! Enter your email address and receive notifications of new posts by email.

More Posts


Spring and Summer Outdoor Adventure Tips

Coloradans and the outdoor community play an integral role in keeping our landscapes healthy, living in harmony with wildlife, and making the outdoors inclusive and welcoming.

American avocet

American Avocet

If fashion legend Ralph Lauren was given the task of designing a shorebird for a spring/summer show, the American avocet would be the result.

bear on picnic table

Be Spring Bear Aware!

Colorado bears are awake and looking for food! Black bears are curious, intelligent, and very resourceful; they will explore all possible food sources.

Translate »