What to Expect
Before the grass is green, before the frost has melted out of the deep prairie sod, the greater prairie chickens are out on their lek, bustling about the cluster of territories that the male grouse vigorously defend day after day for months on end. They're performing the age-old ritual of spring. The greater prairie chickens that made it through the challenges of winter will have the opportunity to multiply and share the summer bounty with a fresh brood of newly hatched chicks.
In order to fully experience the spring on the prairie, you'll awaken early in order to hide away in a viewing blind well before the sun makes its gradual appearance. The prairie chickens have chosen this spot well in advance of your arrival, having staked out their territories in the fall and winter months. As twilight advances, the motion of the male chickens will slowly become visible, and then as if turned on by a light switch, the booming will begin. After this, the prairie comes alive with sound, motion and excitement.
In order to make your visit the best it can be...
Be sure to get reservations early, since many blinds are booked in advance, especially during the weekends of late April and early May.
If possible, visit the blind the day before, to familiarize yourself with the trail in to the blind. If you can't make it in advance, be sure to bring a flashlight so you can find the way.
Wear warm clothes! Even if the weather forecast is for warm and sunny, chances are you will be in the blind at the coldest part of the day. Paying attention to the overnight low temperature and the wind speed will tell you a lot, but be prepared in case snow starts to fall or the wind picks up.
Snacks, binoculars and a blanket are recommended.
Don't stick your hands or head outside the blind; the chickens might object.
Please let others know about the experience. Better yet, join the MPCS in our efforts to conserve the greater prairie chicken and please share your stories with us at our annual meeting!
Due to COVID-19, some locations are requiring one household per blind.
Where to Go
Minnesota - see map below
1: The Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge will have blinds available for prairie chicken and sharp-tailed grouse reservation in 2023. These blinds are located near Mentor, MN. For reservations, contact the Refuge at (218) 687-2229 visitor center ext. 31478 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
2: UPDATE: 2023 MAY BE OPEN FOR RESERVATIONS. The Erskine DNR Wildlife Field Office handles reservations for one blind located on the Tympanuchus WMA located southeast of Crookston. For information and reservations, contact Area Wildlife staff at (218) 551-1100 or email email@example.com
3: UPDATE: 2023 WILL NOT BE OPEN FOR RESERVATIONS DUE TO ONGOING RESEARCH PROJECT. The Twin Valley Heritage Center handles the reservations for two blinds located southwest of Twin Valley, MN. For more information and reservations, contact the Heritage Center at (218) 584-5658.
4: The Nature Conservancy will have two blinds available for reservation in 2023. These blinds are at the Bluestem Prairie SNA, located southeast of Glyndon, MN. For information and reservations, contact Sonia at (218) 498-2679 or at firstname.lastname@example.org (email is preferred for 2023).
5: The Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge, northwest of Detroit Lakes, MN has one blind available for reservation in 2023. Reservations for this blind can be made by contacting the US Fish and Wildlife Service office in Detroit Lakes at (218) 844-3406 or by email at email@example.com.
6: The Fergus Falls DNR office has one blind with limited availabilty for reservation in 2023. The blind is located about five miles west of Rothsay, MN. For reservations, contact Marnie at (218) 671-7978, or at email Marnie.Franze@state.mn.us