Our blog will help keep you informed about news and information related to the farm, ranch and rural real estate markets. If you share our desire for wide open spaces and investment in the land, we hope you will subscribe, read and discuss the stories we find and develop here. More than just an investment, ranch, farm and rural real estate evokes a type of lifestyle that was born over a century ago and still provides a certain romance and passion for those who embrace the pioneering spirit from those days gone by.

A Rancher’s Paradise in Montana

Mountain Living magazine recently published a very nice feature story on Dancing Wind Ranch. Located 10 miles south of Livingston, the 1,750± acre all-deeded property is arguably the most beautiful ranch on the coveted east side of the Paradise Valley. It enjoys an impressive setting with its lush valley meadows transitioning to the dramatic wilderness front. This incredible scenery actually harbors both a productive livestock operation and extensive wildlife. The icing on the cake is of course the sensational Jonathan Foote-designed owner’s residence.

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The IX Ranch—No “Fixer Upper”

The IX Ranch is not a ranch requiring more capital expenditures after its purchase. It’s not like the situation often found among ranches for sale, a place that’s been let go because the owner is “over it” and has fallen off in his ranch maintenance, repair and reinvestment.

For example, it’s haying season in North Central Montana. Equipment needs to be in top condition to get through weeks of cutting, raking, bailing, hauling hay on fields over the ranch’s many miles. So, the IX just spent close to $300,000 on new haying equipment. It recently arrived on the ranch and includes a number of items from a $25,000 rake to a $120,000 tractor.

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North Carolina Plantation For Sale Profiled by Bloomberg

We were excited to see Willow Oaks Plantation profiled by Bloomberg.com.  The beautiful and diverse property comprised of 1,769± acres is situated on the Dan River in Rockingham County, North Carolina. It is an incredibly rich and bountiful recreational hunting property.  This area of North Carolina is regarded as the state’s trophy belt for whitetail deer and Willow Oaks is known to be one of its premiere spots.

An excerpt from the article reads: Although the plantation is vast, potential buyers will find that it requires “very little maintenance,” Dick said. When he acquired it, it was run as a dairy farm, but he got rid of the cows and turned the barn and other facilities into a guest lodge. (In Byrd’s time, the property was almost entirely wild; subsequent owners converted it into a large-scale farm.) Dick said that when he bought the land, “it’s not that it was mismanaged; it just wasn’t managed at all.” Grazing pastures were overgrown, roads on the property were eroded, and the 7,722-square-foot house had fallen into disrepair. “I did a total renovation of the house,” he said. “I actually put it up on temporary supports in order to redo its foundation. You name it, I did it.” 

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Broker Visit to Ranch at Rock Creek

By: Bill McDavid

Last week I was invited out to The Ranch at Rock Creek to be interviewed as part of an upcoming story that will be aired on French TV. While there, a great opportunity presented itself to film a rodeo from the air. Montana is looking pretty green as we approach summer. Just a few days ago there was a couple of inches of fresh snow on top of this grass. It’s a great time of year to be a Montanan.

The Ranch at Rock Creek Rodeo from Bill McDavid on Vimeo.

Living with Bears

By: Tim Murphy 

The Northern Rockies are arguably one of the most spectacular places to explore on the planet.  The expansive prairie lands extend out of the Great Plains and collide with the mountains in a region that extends essentially from Yellowstone Park well into Alberta and British Columbia.  Portions of this region represent the most ecologically diverse lands in North America.  Hall and Hall has played a role in selling lands throughout this region that include places like Strawberry Creek Ranch, Dancing Wind Ranch, Teton Diablo and others that are directly connected to the Greater Yellowstone and Glacier Park Ecosystems.  It is here where America’s top carnivore resides alongside humans.

The grizzly bear is a majestic animal and commands respect.  For those of us living in Montana, Wyoming and parts of Idaho, it is our equivalent of swimming with sharks.  Simply stated; you have to be prepared before you wander into the woods.  Living with bears isn’t a fearful thing, rather it includes understanding, admiration and preparedness.  However, each year a small percentage of the human encounters with bears results in an attack which can lead to a mauling or worse, death.

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Surprisingly, the vast majority of people who travel through the backcountry have little preparation for an encounter.  Sure, many choose to carry bear spray (a deployable canister of essentially mace), perhaps carry a weapon, and take other precautions such as wearing bells.  But a high percentage of people have never actually discharged a canister of spray to understand its effective range or how it reacts with wind.  I doubt most have ever had formal training on shooting a pistol or possess an ability to discharge the weapon with speed or accuracy.  There is also the question of what is the right weapon to carry, where to carry it and what is an adequate caliber and load.

You certainly hear a lot of opinions on this subject, mostly by people who think they know.  The reality is, it’s easy to forget what people tell you and what they do preach is largely not good advice.  When a bear decides to charge, it can cover 40 yards in 2.5 seconds and with adult males reaching 600-800 pounds, there is little you can do to defend yourself once it takes you to the ground.  It’s best to have strategized and practiced a game plan prior to a worst-case scenario.  With this in mind, Chris Forrest, a retired Navy Seal and self-defense instructor, decided to teach an ongoing 2-day course to help people develop a proactive way to defend themselves against an attack.

Chris instructs this class through a company he owns called Tactic.  The course is not designed solely to teach someone how to kill a bear.  In fact, that is the last thing anyone would or should want to do to such an incredible creature.  But if your life is dependent on it, this class will provide you with the reactionary tools to mitigate the situation.  It also will enlighten students to bear behavior, agility and cunningness.

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The first day of class is all about weapons training.  For us, it was a complete A-Z course on safety and shooting instruction and included men and women who were complete novices to shooting a pistol.  Three hours of indoor classroom training, and 300+ rounds of outdoor range shooting later, all participants were safely, confidently and accurately handling their firearms.

Day two began at a property north of Bozeman where wild animals are kept and trained for the movie industry.  It was here the class was able to experience what it feels like to stand next to an 850-pound male grizzly bear named Adam.  Despite the fact that he is a total sucker for Girl Scout cookies, and loved to have his belly rubbed, the fact that the trainers carried weapons was a reminder that this is still a very dangerous animal.  With the bear standing mere feet away with no cage between us, the feeling was a little uneasy.  On command, this bear could act aggressive, run at full speed, and display his athleticism.  We learned about aggressive posturing and trivial things such as their ability to climb a tree as fast as they can run on the ground dispelling the myth about climbing a tree to escape an attack.

Todd Orr, a Montana native who grew up in Ennis and has spent the last 20+ years working in Montana’s backcountry for the USFS, was also present.  Todd was mauled twice by the same bear last fall and the YouTube video he posted to his friends recounting the event went completely viral.  Todd is an exceptionally seasoned woodsman and has had many encounters with bears over the years.  Todd recited his story as we stood near Adam the bear.  Todd elected to remain in the back of the truck during our discussion and you could completely understand his sense of fear and respect of the creature that stood in front of us.  As experienced as Todd is, he was still not prepared for what happened last fall.  Despite a full discharge of spray as the female bear barreled towards him, it was not enough to deter the mauling.  This is not to say that bear spray is not a good deterrent; it is, but in this incident it proved to be somewhat ineffective.  Todd’s weapon remained holstered and was eventually ripped away from his body.  All Todd could do was remain in a balled-up position protecting his neck with his back to the bear, and pray that she would stop chewing on him and return to her cubs that she had cached over the hill.  Todd was lucky, and to do it again he would have had his weapon and spray in a ready position the first time he saw the sow with her cubs.  He had just seconds to react, and the remainder of the time he had to just keep his ground game together trying to remain silent and still while protecting his vitals.  Hearing this story, complete with emotion, while standing next to a very large carnivore, was gripping to say the least.

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The balance of the course was spent back at the range where we practiced deploying and discharging inert cans of bear spray at moving and active targets.  Where to carry the spray was important, and realizing that you will likely only have time to discharge it from a holstered position was an epiphany.  We then moved back into pistol training putting another 200 rounds through our weapons.  At this point the class was drawing, aiming and firing with precision.  The final challenge was to test our abilities on a target that moves towards the shooter covering the distance it spans in roughly 1.5 seconds.  There, the class was tasked to spray on the first assault, and shoot on the second.  It was then when the realities set in of what was going to work for the individuals.  Revolver versus semi-automatic, carrying spray on the left belt, right belt, or chest.  Regardless of what your personal preference is for defending yourself, the end result was that all 13 students in the class were able to do so effectively in under two seconds.  In all cases, we walked away feeling confident that we were as prepared as we could possibly be, and more so than perhaps 95% of the people who recreate and live with an expanding population of this incredible animal.  Like wearing a seatbelt, you use it and hope it never has to save your life.  To me, this was a class that anyone who spends time outdoors in the Northern Rockies would benefit from.

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Photos from the class (photo credit Fred Brault).

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Lasting Tracks

By: Jay Leyendecker

Beneath the scorching sun, I picked up the half-day-old tracks of a lost, small herd of cattle on a south Texas ranch. I was asked by the landowner if I thought I could find them without the use of a helicopter, and I believed I could. “They’re headed south,” I said and pointed as I climbed on the hood of the old red Dodge truck. It was hot that afternoon, deep into the 90s. The heat coming up from the engine of the pick-up didn’t make the ride any more pleasant from my perch, but it was undoubtedly the best place to be to cut the spoor.

As we steered south, I watched the tracks come into the crossroad. As they weaved in and out of the sendero, my mind wandered towards the ins-and-outs of my life’s journey and how I came to be in ranch brokerage. The art of what I was immediately doing—tracking these lost cows—took me back to my safari days in Botswana where I spent thousands of miles and hours tracking wildlife in the sands of the Kalahari Desert, while the San Bushman trackers were teaching along the way on how to pay attention to the detail and intricacies of a hoof print, and to envision the next move or outcome of the scenario. Little did I know that the same principles, yet less primal, would later apply to my realty career

Having grown up in and around south Texas ranches under the guidance of my grandfather, the laws and respect of the land were instilled in me at a young age. Every weekend was spent on his friend’s ranches where we worked and played at the same time. He had the keys to many properties across our portion of the state, a clear indication of the trust landowners in our area had in him. I was lucky to have him as a teacher and to this day I still maintain many of those friendships he had, though now with the younger generations.

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As the tracks veered from the road, it became apparent to me they were not coming back and it wasn’t going to get any easier. After about half a mile from where I saw the last bit of sign, we stopped the truck and I told the landowner I was going to walk into the brush and cut the trail to pursue them on foot. I asked him to wait by the vehicle and not move while I was away, unless I was able to call and instructed otherwise.

About 500 yards from the truck, I picked up the animal’s tracks moving in a south-easterly direction and commenced pursuit. As I followed, I noticed it was all getting fresher. Ahead I could see a dense coma tree and mesquite thicket where I believed them to be headed for a bit of midday shade. Sure enough, they had laid up in the entanglement but had just left the area. Upon closer inspection of the sign, I imagined I would find the strays in less than 15 minutes. As I resumed my pace while concentrating on the ground ahead, a cow bellowed right in front of me. I picked up my phone and took a quick snap and texted it over to my landowner friend who was patiently waiting by the vehicle. He was elated to see the hard evidence that the herd was still in fact there, as quite a bit of time had passed since he had last “put eyes on them.” I called to the cows and luckily, they responded well and followed me for the long trek back to the truck. When I returned with the lost animals tailing me, all I could see was a big Texas grin from ear to ear. He thanked me, gave the cattle some cubes, and noted that a couple new calves had been born since he had last seen them.

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We hopped back into the truck, finished making the rounds on the ranch, and after ensuring everything was as it needed to be, we headed home. We hadn’t driven about two miles down the road and he thanked me again and said, “Amigo, I need to introduce you to a friend of mine who is interested in purchasing a ranch down here and I know you have the established relationships and resources. Would you mind if I gave him your telephone number?” So, since then I’ve been on the track for a whole other animal.

I’m fortunate to have had my grandfather as long as I did and for all the friendships he bestowed unto me. Throughout those years he taught me a lot of lessons, the most important ones being to always respect the land, and how to grow and maintain long-term friendships.