Cattle Work at The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch
There is usually an opportunity for our guests to participate in cattle work. The art of working cattle is called stockmanship. We use the Bud Williams Stockmanship method or “low stress” methods to handle our livestock. You could compare this method of stockmanship with natural horsemanship with the goal of putting the least stress possible on the animal.
We always keep a small herd of yearlings at The Hideout or The Trapper Ranch property for our guests to enjoy and learn the basics of stockmanship.
At The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch we offer cattle work for all levels of riders from beginning to advanced.
Different Seasons – Different Riding
In spring you might ride a 100,000 acre BLM pasture looking for strays or just explore an area shared with the McCullough Peak Mustangs. Spring is the time of gatherings, brandings and riding the wide open valley prairies at elevations between 4,200 and 4,800 feet.
During the months of March, April and May there are typically fewer riders than during the summer season which is why some of our repeat guests love to visit in the spring.
During summer as the snow melts off the higher elevations, cattle are moved up into the mountains. This is what we call “gaining altitude”. Cattle in this area graze elevations up to 10,000 feet. While in the valley the temperatures may vary between 85 and 100F you will enjoy much cooler rides in the mountains varying from 70 to 85F. You will ride on private land as well as Big Horn National Forest grazing leases and most of the cattle work you participate in is what we call “scenic” cattle work because of the spectacular scenery of the country with pine forests, alpine meadows, creeks and mountain lakes.
In late October and early November we start gathering cattle at the higher elevations to move them lower as the snow starts falling. You could find yourself starting your ride at 7,800 feet in the snow in the morning. During the day you might cross 9,500 feet and end your ride near Trapper Creek Lodge in the red dust at 65 to 75 F. In the morning you will long for a hot coffee or hot chocolate to warm you up, while in the afternoon for a cold drink to cool you down.
From the 3th week of October through the end of the season there are typically fewer riders and there is a lot of riding needed. Many of our guests have begun to discover this unique riding opportunity.
Ride out or Trailer Up
Combining the private land we ride with Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Forest and Cloud Peak Wilderness permits, we have access to approximately 600,000 acres of land to ride in a rarely seen diversity of country and elevations. There is no way to ride that much land from the ranch so you will experience the life of cowboys and outdoorsmen/women who live and ride in this big country.
For a very few rides you will leave the ranch on horseback, but for most rides we load up the horses in stock trailers pulled by heavy duty 4×4 trucks and drive to the beginning of a route where no vehicle can travel and only horses can take you.
Your wrangler will load up your horses in the trailer (6 horses per trailer), and together with their group of riders he/she goes to where we start our ride or cattle work is needed. The horses are unloaded, bridled and the wrangler and a maximum of five guests per wrangler ride out to do the day’s work or ride on the range. After a hearty and delicious lunch and afternoon work, you return to the trailer at the end of the day, load up the horses and drive back to the home base.
At the barn we unload, unsaddle, brush and feed the horses. Our horses are well trained athletes and we take care of them accordingly.
All of our trucks are well maintained, equipped with exhaust (Jake) and trailer brakes and our staff are trained in handling this equipment in a safe and effective way.
Having access to a fleet of seven trucks and trailers gives us an enormous flexibility to explore new country and rides.
Cattle Work or Cattle Drives
We usually talk about cattle work, which defines all actions and ranch work related to handling livestock. This includes gathering, branding, checking and fixing fence, sorting, searching for cattle, checking on cattle and of course moving cattle.
“Cattle drives” typically refer to cattle work that is offered as a tourist attraction for the guests only.
Stockmanship or Low Stress Livestock Handling
Stockmanship refers to the techniques used to handle livestock in a low stress way whenever working, moving, sorting, or doing anything involving cattle or other livestock.
You could define it as communicating with cattle in such a way that is respectful and limits stress. Or like some say “Be as gentle or intense as needed, but if you can get it done without stressing the animal do it that way”.
During most of the season we have a small herd of cattle at The Hideout who graze our little 200 acre pasture at the creek bottom. A fun day is learning the techniques of moving cattle in the arena and then riding out to gather these naughty boys and girls driving them through the creek, uphill, through the woods and into the arena.
After this, guests can enjoy team penning, sorting and other “cattle games” on horseback. This is an ideal controlled setting to practice prior to going out on the range to participate in some real work for the ranch. Many guests prefer practicing cattle work with our small herd compared to the work on the range.
Cattle Work Year-Round – Some weeks more than other weeks.
At The Hideout we involve our guest in cattle work and stockmanship during most of the guest season. Some weeks there might be one or two days of cattle work. Some weeks even the most “die-hard cowboys” among our guests switch to a day of trail riding, fly-fishing, trapshooting, canoeing or other non-riding activities having seen too many cattle and spent too many hours in the saddle.
Some weeks we move large numbers of livestock, during which we may have to ride many hours in search for a few strays, lost cattle or to round up a couple of mama cows who are hiding their babies in a secret canyon, an alpine forest, a red gulch or near a mountain lake or stream.
We graze private land, BLM (Bureau of Land Management), National Forest Leases and we graze at elevations from 4,200 to above 10,000 feet. It all depends on the time of the year. We believe in rotational grazing to protect the environment from overgrazing and constantly move our herd around the property.
Beginning, Intermediate, or Experienced Riders
Cattle work can be enjoyed by all levels of riders. The novice rider might help keep the herd together while the other guests ride out with the wranglers to round up cattle and drive them towards the herd we are moving. Maybe you and one of the wranglers will ride out to sort some strays out of the timber or ride ahead to see if all fences are open or closed.
Toward the end of the season, experienced riders can enjoy long hours in the saddle at wrangler speed to clean out the country. This means riding lots of miles to look for the last strays and head them down before the snow falls in the mountains.
Scenic Cattle Work
This region offers a rarely seen variety of scenery to please all levels of trail riding and each and every one of our days working cattle in this area is like a scenic ride.
At the Hideout, there is always some “cowboying” to do in some of the prettiest country out West.
You will not only be spending a week in one of the most remote area’s in the least dense populated state of North America but also in one of the most challenging and beautiful areas of the West.
Wranglers, Cowgirls, Cowboys and Riding Guides at The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch
To enhance your time spent in the saddle, you may experience a rotation of experienced, knowledgeable guides.
Several of our wranglers are year round employees because it takes several years to learn the terrain and the skills to wrangle both guests and cattle and make it a worthwhile, safe and exciting experience. The Hideout takes pride in the high number of repeat guests for whom part of the experience is to see familiar faces they trust year after year.
Our hands are not your typical dude ranch wranglers. They are personable and attentive with guests, and they shoulder much of the responsibility of the care of the cattle. This means you ride with real cowboys and cowgirls and participate in day-to-day ranch activities. The horses you ride are the horses we ride. We take great care in matching horse and rider to assure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.
Safety is key
Experience and knowledge are vital to providing our guests the most rewarding rides. You will encounter a wide variety of terrain and it is not uncommon to encounter large temperature variations. Your riding opportunities will change depending on weather, location and difficulty of terrain.
Please also read our page Trail Riding in which you will find more very useful information on riding a The Hideout Lodge & Guest.