Prairie Grouse Viewing at Fort Pierre Grassland, South Dakota

Ruben Mares, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Forest Service, stands next to a viewing blind. The Forest Service has three viewing blinds in the Fort Pierre National Grassland area. / U.S. Forest Service

Time to check out your nearby National Grassland to see if they have equivalent opportunities. Otherwise plan a trip to Ft. Pierre. My sources tell me it is a great experience.

Here’s an article.

Through May 31, you can watch and listen to grouse mate at the Fort Pierre National Grassland.

The U.S. Forest Service has three unheated plywood viewing blinds (one donated by the Missouri Breaks Audobon Society in Pierre) that birdwatchers can reserve to watch the display.

You can squeeze about four people into the blind, and you’ll want to be inside before sunrise so you don’t spook the birds too much.

After you’re in, being quiet and waiting for the grouse to un-flush, take some time to check out the other birds flitting around: western meadowlarks, killdeer, ducks and more.

Apart from that, the Forest Service offers these tips:

■ Dress warmly and bring a blanket. I wore coveralls and was not sorry, especially with the heavy mist and fog. A thermos of steaming hot truckstop coffee also served me well.

■ Bring binoculars, a spotting scope or a camera with telephoto lens. A flashlight will help navigate the dark.

■ Find your blind sometime the day before you’re scheduled to sit in it. Lots easier to find the turnoff in sunlight.

■ Forest Service roads become difficult to navigate in wet weather. Bring a four-wheel-drive car or park on the highway shoulder, if in doubt.

All in all, it’s well worth the drive. To reserve your spot, call the Fort Pierre Forest Service office at 605-224-5517.

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