Get Up for Grouse

A Dance in the Desert

Story and Photos by Kris Millgate

I’m well aware of the many disasters delivered due to lack of sleep. I’m also aware of the rare potential that putters around in the darkness.

Such potential pulls me from my bed long before the rest of the world opens its sleep-crusted eyes. It is the possibility of witnessing the wild at its finest. It is the promise of seeing the dance in the desert before it disappears. That is why I get up for grouse.

I leave my house at four in the morning and drive an hour north to Dubois. I take a few dirt roads west of I-15 and start looking for a tent in the middle of the desert. I have to be in the tent before the sun comes up. That’s when the sage grouse strut. “It’s just like waking up to a dream every morning,” says Ron Laird, manager of The Nature Conservancy ranch where I’ve arrived, as he zips me inside the tent. “We get a lot of morning wake-up calls from the birds banging around here.”

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