Wildlife Photography on Colorado Ranches

By: Cody Lujan

One of the most attractive attributes of any ranch is its wildlife. From songbirds and quail to white-tailed deer, elk and moose, a diversity of animal life inhabit ranches throughout the country. While experiencing dramatic landscapes and peaceful settings are certainly integral aspects of ranch ownership, photographing the wildlife that resides on one’s own property is truly rewarding.

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Some of the most knowledgeable landowners I’ve met seem to have an impeccable understanding of the wildlife residing on their properties. They know what animals will be where and when they will be there – regardless of the season. Through patient observation and diligent photographic documentation, these individuals have patterned both their resident wild denizens as well the itinerant migrators who may pass through, only utilizing their land for a day or a few weeks. In short, many landowners will agree that wildlife photography is not only an enjoyable aspect of ranch ownership but also an important stewardship tool that enhances the overall understanding of their land and its wild inhabitants.

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My favorite time to photograph wildlife on Colorado ranches for sale comes during a three-week window in the fall. This window of opportunity opens immediately after Colorado’s archery elk and deer season and closes the day before the 1st rifle season. A combination of peak leaf color on aspen trees, cool temperatures, a lack of human activity, and the peak of the elk rut provide the perfect setting for days spent in the pursuit of wildlife photography.

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One of the best days our Colorado ranch broker team recently experienced was at the Ghost Ranch. We were surrounded by bugling elk for nearly an hour before the sun broke over Mount Werner and the Steamboat Ski Resort to our east. With the golden hour of morning light in our laps, we began to call and the elk participated in earnest, with bulls running literally right up to our cameras. After close encounters with a number of elk herds and bugling bulls, we headed back down the mountain to the ranch’s stretch of Yampa River – capping the day with an afternoon of shooting still and drone imagery of fly fishing for trophy trout.

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Factors such as weather, lighting, and the wary nature of wildlife can dictate the level of success one experiences when out on a large ranch with a camera. Colorado partner Jeff Buerger and I spent several days photographing wildlife on the Piedra Valley Ranch during the last week of September. Conditions ranged from warm and sunny to cool and overcast. While we were able to photograph raptors, waterfowl, turkey, and deer throughout the day, our best results were predictably achieved during the first and last hour of each day.

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These “golden hours” typically provide the optimal shooting light for cameras, as well as the best opportunity to locate animals as they transition between bedding zones and feeding, watering, or rutting areas. In addition to capturing excellent photography of the ranch’s abundant animal life, we gained an in-depth knowledge of herd size, feeding and watering habits, roosting and bedding areas, and located areas of the ranch we might have otherwise not discovered, all of which are important details that will be shared with every potential new ranch owner.

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Elk Hunting on Montana Ranches

By: Keith Lenard

September is the cruelest month. The crisp autumn air hearkens nostalgically and golden aspens beckon us to the mountains during still-long days. For the first time this year, the light lengthens and falls softly across the broad Montana river valleys, setting off a riot of glinting sparkles across our pristine trout rivers. Snow dusts the tips of close peaks like whip cream on a sundae. Elk bugle in the high country and majestic herd bulls round up large harems of cows. And the wind just shifted and sent the whole lot running down the mountain.

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It’s not over, you tell yourself. There are plenty more elk in them there hills and you shoulder your pack and go searching for the next magic moment. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege to hunt many of our listings during bow season. The Dempsey Creek Ranch and the Hoover Creek timber property are just a few that can be mentioned. In fact, I got my first archery elk on Dempsey Creek, courtesy of the gracious new owners that had just acquired the property to continue their family’s legacy of cattle raising.

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Montana ranches for sale in our current inventory offer a multitude of exceptional properties with abundant, private elk and deer hunting opportunities. In western Montana, the Sula Peak, Warren Peak, Miller Lake and Lone Cypress Ranches each offer exceptional solitude and scenery, not to mention large elk. In central Montana, properties such as the Bull Mountain Ranch, Lippert Gulch and Elk Basin fill the bill. The IX Ranch, a legacy offering that is also rich in cattle-raising history, provides some of the best elk hunting in the world, with a hunt area that offers some of the most coveted permits in Montana. Colorado and Wyoming ranches for sale offer an equally rich and diverse opportunity to purchase your own wildlife nirvana.

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Regardless of whether you’re a hunter or just a wildlife enthusiast that marvels at the seasonal ritual of jousting monster bulls, Rocky Mountain ranches for sale provide a smorgasbord of rural land investment opportunities that will provide you and your family endless memories of sapphire skies, snowy mornings and bugling elk.

I haven’t managed to get my elk so far this bow season. Although I’ve been within 50 yards of elk every single day that I’ve been out, I haven’t managed to close the gap into bowshot range. I guess the cruelty and wonder will continue.

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Hall and Hall Featured in Mansion Global Ranch Real Estate Story

We were pleased to see two of our Partners, Jeff Buerger and Jim Taylor, prominently featured in a Mansion Global story about the ranch real estate market. The piece highlights Stealey Mountain Ranch, a new Colorado ranch listing. Excerpts from the story entitled, “Home on the Range: Multi-Million Dollar ‘Lifestyle’ Ranches Are a Strong Draw For Wealthy” can be read below.

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“We have a long list of people who will quickly buy something really super [that are] under the radar at a top price but won’t even consider places that aren’t quite super,” said Hall and Hall’s Jim Taylor

Though not the most common method of sale, Mr. Taylor said that this year, his firm sold four premium recreational ranches—ranging from about $10 million to $40 million—without ever formally listing the ranches.

Putting a premium on the beauty and recreation value of a ranch really began in full-force in the late 1980s, Mr. Taylor said. In 1989, he helped broker one of the largest and perhaps most well-known recreational ranch sales of the time: Ted Turner’s purchase of the 107,000-acre Flying D Ranch in Montana for $21 million. “After that, the floodgates opened,” Mr. Taylor said. “People were then really willing to pay for the scenery, for the trout fishing, it was much more than just about a ranch.”

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“What makes a premium recreational ranch can really depend on the buyer, but when it has a lot of those bells and whistles—really beautiful views, privacy, great hunting and fishing, tucked up near a national forest, and not too far from civilization, it’s something people who can afford it will buy,” said Jeff Buerger, a Hall and Hall broker who represents the Stealey Mountain Ranch—a $24,950,00 Colorado property at the foot of the San Juan mountains, a soaring and rugged range of the Rocky Mountains. Along with wildlife and expansive views, the more than 2,100-acre property, bordered by the Uncompahgre National Forest, also features an 8,079-square-foot main residence, perched on a hilltop, with an indoor saltwater pool. The seller of the property, which has been on the market for about three months, declined to comment.

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While the demographic of the top-tier lifestyle ranch buyer is generally someone from the Baby Boomer generation, “someone who maybe grew up watching John Wayne and really put value in that old-fashioned Western way of life,” Mr. Buerger said, he’s also seen a growing number of younger buyers, especially from the tech world, looking to invest in the land and the lifestyle.  

“A beautiful ranch can really be like buying a beautiful piece of art,” Mr. Buerger said. “It can be a be a long term investment, and it’s also very subjective.”

A Father’s Colorado Dream

By: Rob Hart

My father has always loved Colorado.  As a kid, we drove all the way from Arkansas in the summer, in the winter, and any other time he could convince my mom that experiencing the outdoors was just as important as school.  We got the full experience – whitewater rafting, skiing, visiting the national parks, horseback riding, hiking, rock climbing, fishing and camping.

Besides the usual fun activities, there was the inevitable and infinite quest to find a little piece of Colorado land we could call our own.  Dad has always dreamed of owning land in Colorado and every single trip included a day of property exploration.  There was rarely a “for sale” sign that we passed without exploring the possibilities.  We walked, hiked and climbed them all, but most proved to be too expensive for our situation or were only accessible by a team of mountain goats.

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Life has gotten in the way and he’s yet to find the perfect place to hang his hat.  However, I’ve learned that it was the search and the dreams that he most enjoyed.  There has never been a tract of land where Dad did not see the possibilities.  “This would be the perfect place for a very, very small cabin.” “You’d have to bolt a house to the side of the cliff, but you could certainly teach the kids to repel and climb.” “It might be a flood plain, but it will be a great place to kayak and fish.” – or – “This one is right next to the national forest, you’d just have to hire a team of mules to get you over there.”

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Regardless of the ultimate purchase possibilities, we always ran across some of the most gorgeous places on this earth.  Lush green forests, crystal clear rushing creeks, miles and miles of endless views, and meadows that made you want to stay all night and try to count the stars. Colorado really is one of the most amazing places on the earth.

The childhood experiences of exploring the unknown and dreaming of the possibilities has had a permanent impact on me.  I can’t remember ever telling a single person that my professional goals were to work in real estate, much less specialize in large tracts of land.  I now find myself living in Colorado doing exactly what I was unconsciously raised to love.  I find no better comfort than spending the day wandering through the back roads of Colorado looking for that perfect place to build that cabin, hunt, fish, kayak and camp.

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Dad and I still haven’t found our little slice of heaven, but at 74 years old he hasn’t given up the search and mine has just begun.  Last week while visiting we went for our annual land run through the Colorado mountains.  As expected, we didn’t find the perfect place but I won’t be disappointed if we never do.  I know now, it’s not about finding perfection but the search that keeps the spirit alive.

Wall Street Journal “House of the Year” Poll Includes Six Hall and Hall Listings.

We are thrilled that the 2015 Wall Street Journal “House of the Year” poll includes five of our current listings and one property that sold earlier in the year. Below are profiles of the homes in contention. Please vote for your favorite here.

The Farm at McCauley Butte rises above current market offerings in almost every way imaginable. Combining architectural significance with a unique ex-urban location, the property artfully blends luxury appointments, natural amenities and outstanding recreation.

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Crowned by an exceptional custom home perched on a bench overlooking the Elk River Valley, Sky River Ranch is distinguished by its live water, wildlife habitat, luxurious accommodations and spectacular panoramic vistas.

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An exquisite blend of nature and luxury, Kessler Canyon is one of Colorado’s hidden secrets. Located in a secluded, private valley and controlling a large expanse of high country wildlife habitat, this striking 15,000± acre property features luxurious accommodations, outstanding big game and upland bird hunting, fishing, and a breathtaking setting including the Brush Creek valley and Skinner Ridge.

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Wildflower Woods is a gorgeous 1,715± acre farm located just minutes from Nashville and Franklin, Tennessee and near the charming community of Leiper’s Fork. Rarely do you find a property of this stature situated as conveniently to these culturally significant and buzzing urban areas.

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Knob & Kettle Ranch is a true one-of-a-kind holding in Western Montana’s Blackfoot Valley offering something for everyone. There are over 1,185± deeded acres at the “end of the road” with nearly a mile of frontage directly on the Blackfoot River in an excellent stretch of fishing water.

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Located in the Sundance Bench, a private locked-gate development 40 miles south of Ennis, this 40± acre property know as Trollhaugen enjoys an exclusive end-of-the-road location on a high bench above the rest of the ranch.

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Colorado Ranch Real Estate Market Roundup for 2015

By: Cody Lujan

Colorado ranches for sale experienced a level of increased showing activity during the fall months relative to the moderate activity experienced during the typically busier spring and summer season. The year started with a relatively light snowpack throughout Colorado. Though this is typically the slowest time of year for showings and sales in the Southern Rockies region, the quickly retreating snows had brokers throughout the State anticipating a quick start to the spring and summer season. Fortunately, relief from the low snowpack was granted in the form of an exceptionally wet spring that provided much needed moisture to many areas of Colorado. While many ranches were literally soaking up the moisture, these conditions did not prove conducive to a strong, spring selling season. Buyers were looking, but not in strong numbers. It should be noted that there were only a handful of true ranch sales completed throughout the State by the first of July.

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Sky River Ranch is distinguished by its live water, wildlife habitat, luxurious accommodations and spectacular panoramic vistas.

Showing activity picked up during the summer months with August and September showing a flurry of interest and activity from buyers. This late period of interest carried over into the month of October with a number of ranches going under contract during the fall season. Ranch sales activity certainly picked up around Colorado relative to earlier months, but not at the levels seen during the previous two years. Essentially, the strongest period of demand for the 2015 season came late with the early fall months providing beautiful showing conditions and increased levels of interest from a number of buyers.

The general Colorado ranch market consensus is that Colorado is sitting on a significant quantity of recreational ranches for sale relative to the number of buyers in the market. This is contrasted by Colorado’s short supply of working ranches that continue to see the greatest demand from buyers – a number of such properties are currently under contract as we enter the final weeks of the season.

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The Buckhorn Mountain Ranch spreads across 6,573± deeded acres of stunningly beautiful high desert land at the base of Storm King Peak.

Qualified buyers remained price sensitive throughout the 2015 season and demonstrated a willingness to expand their geographic areas of interest as they shopped for value throughout the greater Rocky Mountain region. Existing recreational listings with price reductions and listings perceived as valued within their respective local markets received the most interest from serious buyers, as did properties possessing a quality angling component. Combined with a still strong beef market, the production-based inventory will likely continue to see increased demand through the coming year.

As evidenced by the low number of transactions that have and will close throughout Colorado by year’s end, the level of sales activity throughout the year was lower than anticipated. Unlike some of the “hot” residential markets in some of Colorado’s communities, no specific market or locale demonstrated exceptional ranch sales activity during the 2015 season. While properties with good water rights, irrigated meadow, a proven carrying capacity, and exceptional hunting and fishing amenities remain in high demand across the western states, buyers will remain price sensitive and continue to display an increasing level of sophistication in researching land values and future operating expenses.

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Table Rock Ranch is one of the finest fly-fishing properties in western Colorado.

Demand for high-end recreational properties in Colorado exists, but buyers are driving hard to achieve maximum value in a market that is loaded with opportunity. The good news is Colorado’s recreational ranch inventory includes a number of exceptional listings that will carry it well into the 2016 season.