The Haymaker Ranch consists of nearly 50 square miles of rolling native range located two miles north of Two Dot in south-central Montana. Apart from the range, pockets of pine populate the ridges on a few sections in the northeastern parts of the ranch, where bull elk find refuge in the fall. Haymaker Creek meanders its way for nearly 11 miles through the ranch providing irrigation water for the hay bottoms and habitat for the varied types of wildlife. This is outstanding summer grass country and with a lack of heavy winter snow, the ranch is able to support upwards of 1,000 AU on a year-round basis. The improvements are modest, well kept and comfortable, and are easily accessible via the county road. Always captivating are the expansive views from several directions which showcase the Crazy, Castle, Little Belt and Snowy Mountains. This is a large piece of landscape with a scalable operation located on the threshold of desirable and accessible mountain country.
The Haymaker Ranch, as the name suggests, lies along Haymaker Creek which passes through the ranch for over 10 miles in a northerly to southerly direction, draining into the Musselshell right after it leaves the ranch. There is a small coulee called Willis Coulee to the west that parallels Haymaker. The upper reaches of this drainage offer several sections of pine foothills. The balance of the ranch is level-to-rolling grasslands with meadows along the creek. These meadows are generally subject to spring flood irrigation except during drought times like we have been experiencing in recent years. The upper end of the ranch lies just over three miles from the National Forest boundary of the Little Belt Mountains. The Big Snowy Mountains are visible to the northeast and the Crazy Mountains dominate the view to the south with their rocky peaks which are snow capped during much of the year. As one leaves the paved highway heading north on the county road the ranch spreads out as far as the eye can see. It is a dramatic open landscape that is brought into perspective by the surrounding mountain ranges. It is a ranch that beckons the horseman to lope out across its grassy plains. Livestock dot the landscape in random patterns and in greater concentrations as one nears one of the ranch’s many water sources. The ranch lies in a contiguous, nearly square block about seven miles from north to south and over eight miles east to west.
A classic virtually all-deeded working cattle ranch in one of Montana’s tightly held reputation areas. Off the beaten track but within easy reach of Montana’s many social, cultural and recreational amenities. The Haymaker Ranch encompasses nearly 50 square miles in a block that is almost entirely in its natural state with almost no maintenance requirements. This represents the ultimate long-term investment for patient capital.
Learn about the locale
The Haymaker Ranch begins approximately two miles north of the town of Two Dot, Montana. It is paved to within one mile of the ranch’s southern boundary. The ranch is served by excellent graveled county roads which run through it from south to north after leaving U.S. Highway 12. It lies about 13 miles west of Harlowton which in turn is about 44 miles north of Big Timber and about 90 miles northwest of Billings. Billings provides the closest and best air service just over 100 miles from the ranch, although Bozeman is only slightly further. Billings boasts extensive commercial air service options as well as facilities for private aircraft. Major carriers such as Horizon, Frontier, United and Delta combine to offer multiple flights each day to virtually any destination in the U.S. through their hubs in Denver, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis and Seattle. Most services and schools are available nearby in Harlowton.
The Haymaker Ranch lies in an area of large reputation ranches that rarely come on the market and have historically been passed down through the generations. While there are some smaller holdings in the area – especially along the river and near the towns – the Haymaker would not be considered a particularly large ranch for this part of Montana. Some of the famous families that put together the early ranching empires headquartered or operated in this area. Charles Bair – an early day sheep rancher - operated on hundreds of thousands of acres. That ranch, recently donated to a charitable foundation by Charles’ philanthropist daughter Alberta, is still intact with its headquarters just west at Martinsdale. Other ranches in the area have histories that go back into the mid to late 1800s when people moved into the area because of the gold mines in the Castle Mountains and over in the Helena area. The name “Two Dot” has an interesting history. George R. Wilson came to what was to become Montana in 1864 and had a successful career trailing cattle to the miners in Virginia City. To identify his cattle, he adopted a practice of heating up the king pin of one of his wagons and branding two dots placed horizontally on both hips. He used this mark throughout his life and at one time had over 8,000 horses branded with it. He was known as Two Dot Wilson and the town of Two Dot was founded in 1900 and named after him. The Two Dot brand was acquired by John H. Freeser in 1907 after Wilson’s death when he bought the remnants of his herds. It remained in the Freeser family until 1978 when their cattle were sold. The Freeser Ranch lies a few miles to the east of the Haymaker.The Haymaker Ranch was reputedly owned by a sea captain from Maine in the 1880s but he gave up on sheep ranching and much of the ranch was homesteaded unsuccessfully in the early 1900s. It was pieced together again by a cowman named Cleve Vannoy and changed hands a number of times before it was purchased by its current owners in 1963. The “big house” that was built by the Maine sea captain was converted to a stage stop and unfortunately burned down in 1975. The word is that Charlie Russell, the famous painter, stayed there from time to time.The Haymaker Ranch lies in the Musselshell Valley. In fact, the south end of the ranch is only about a mile north of the river. This is a valley well regarded by livestock people as an excellent year-round home for cattle. Pride of ownership and a sense of history is almost palpable everywhere one goes. The small communities of Two Dot and Martinsdale are comfortable gathering places for the local ranchers and Harlowton offers most services. This is an area that is somewhat off the main tourist track and has kept to itself to a large degree. Outsiders who have moved in have tended to respect the traditions and have maintained the ranching culture. The nearby Crazy, Little Belt, and Castle Mountains offer grand vistas and a dramatic backdrop to the open grasslands that dominate this part of Montana. This is an area where one can still buy a good operating ranch in a true ranching community with great mountain views and reasonable access to Montana’s more sought after towns and cities.
This is a relatively dry area with annual precipitation estimated to be in the area of 12 inches. Winters tend to be fairly open with limited snow accumulations. The area is subject to Chinook winds and it is not unusual to see cattle grazing throughout the winter months. Summers are comfortable with cool nights and daytime temperatures that can occasionally reach into the 90s.
The Haymaker Ranch is a huge block of pure rangeland with nearly 1,000 acres of meadows along Haymaker Creek which runs through the center of the ranch. It is reminiscent of the Serengeti plains of East Africa and this comparison seems even more appropriate when one sees herds of cattle and antelope dotting the plains. What sets Haymaker apart, is that it enjoys dramatic views of the Crazy Mountain peaks to the south and the Castle, Little Belt and Snowy Mountains to the north and west.
Learn more about the property
Acreage (Deeded & Leased)
Deeded: 27,708.30± Acres Used but not leased: 243.29± Acres State of Montana Lease: 2,868.80± Acres BLM Lease: 40.00± Acres Total under fence: 30,860.39± AcresThere are estimated to be 925 acres under cultivation which is subject to flood irrigation in good moisture years. The balance of the land would be classified as native range. As regards the “used but not leased” lands, these are two small tracts that are fenced into the interior of the ranch. The owners of the Haymaker Ranch have been unable to make contact with the heirs of the original owners of these tracts to formalize a lease arrangement.
Deeded Acres: 27,708±
Total Acres: 27,708±
The ranch boasts a comfortable but modest set of buildings at the headquarters. There are two mobile homes that are nicely landscaped and sited some distance apart to provide visual privacy. They currently house the long-time ranch manager and the owner when he is in residence. There is also a barn with a small set of corrals and shop in the main building complex. The buildings are set in a protected area overlooking the meadows more or less in the center of the ranch and about 1.5 miles off the county road. The shipping corrals were originally designed for use when the ranch ran yearlings and includes a set of certified scales. They are located about one mile off the county road a short distance to the east of the headquarters.The ranch is fenced into over ten 2,000 to 4,000-acre pastures with good exterior and interior fencing. Wells, springs and reservoirs are in good condition and well distributed for good utilization of pastures.
With regard to stock water, the ranch is well watered. A cow would have to work very hard to find a place on the ranch where water is more than a mile away. There are 13 operating windmills, one generator powered submersible pump, 12 springs, and 15 undeveloped springs or reservoirs that are used for stock water.With regard to irrigation there are five small dams that are used to store water for irrigation. The ranch is dependent on good winter snow pack and spring rains to assure a good soaking of the fields in the spring and to store water for later use in the ranch reservoirs. The ranch owns the major water rights from Haymaker Creek and has filed on the other springs and wells on the ranch. Springs provide water for the improvements.
Property taxes are estimated at $15,000 based on past history.
Learn about the recreational amenities
The nearby Musselshell River is an excellent fishery and one can get to the Yellowstone River at Big Timber and the Smith River at White Sulphur Springs in less than an hour’s drive. There is certainly potential to develop fishing in the ranch’s numerous reservoirs.
The Haymaker Ranch has good mule deer and antelope populations. There are also populations of Hungarian Partridge and Sharptail Grouse. The rotation of grain crops on the meadows would enhance the potential for improving this resource.
Learn about the general operations
For many years the owners of the Haymaker Ranch ran a yearling operation whereby they purchased calves in the late winter and early spring and ran them through the fall. The ranch is well-suited for this type of operation because it allows one to adjust numbers based upon grazing conditions which can vary dramatically. In recent years they have chosen to lease the ranch out to a nearby rancher. The lease calls for an annual rental of $125,000. It carries a cancellation provision upon change of ownership and calls for the landlord to provide maintenance of the property and oversight of the livestock. It limits the carrying capacity to 1,000 pairs or 2,000 yearlings. Considering the current dry conditions, the ranch is in good condition and this type of lease is considered by our management people to be the best. It provides for the landowner to stay in the land owning business and control the grazing practices on, and maintenance of, the ranch without actually becoming involved in the livestock business.In summary the Haymaker Ranch is a well-balanced operating ranch of enough scope to support a ranch manager or a family. It is a ranch that needs to be operated utilizing a conservative stocking rate to retain flexibility to adjust for drier conditions or limited snow pack.
Included in the offering are all deeded lands, one-half of the mineral rights owned by Sellers, the two mobile homes, and all surface water rights. Sellers will also assign the State and BLM leases to Buyer. Cash at closing.