For Sale

Wagon Box Spring Ranch

$9,950,000 Pompeys Pillar, MT 8,455± Deeded Acres

Executive Summary

Wagon Box Spring Ranch is blessed with a combination of unique features that combine to make it arguably the finest trophy elk hunting ranch in Montana for its size. Consisting of 8,455± deeded acres plus a 640± acre State lease in a contiguous block south of Interstate 90 near Pompeys Pillar. Located an easy 30 to 40-minute drive east of Billings, Wagon Box Spring has immediate access to all the amenities of Montana’s largest city. Yet it lies behind a locked gate surrounded by larger ranches. Unusual for this part of the world, it has extensive natural water resources with perennial Sand Creek passing through for four miles plus at least nine dependable developed natural springs. It also has five wells (three solar powered and two electric). Most of the ranch is steep to rolling pine covered foothills divided by riparian corridors where springs and Sand Creek create a lusher environment and by huge dryland hay meadows on the plateaus. It has been an elk ranch for 30 years and livestock are only utilized as a tool to manage the grasses for the wildlife. The buildings are located at the lower end of Sand Creek and include a comfortable lodge, manager’s house, an outdoor arena, a large multipurpose building, and cattle working facilities. In addition to being an extraordinary wildlife ranch, Wagon Box Spring is an outstanding horse ranch in some of the best year-round riding country to be found in the state. There is extensive potential to develop upland bird and waterfowl hunting as well as to even further improve the big game hunting.

Just the Facts

  • Location: 30 miles east of Billings south of Pompeys Pillar.
  • Acreage: 9,000± acres of which 8,455± is deeded. (640± state)
  • Improvements: Comfortable lodge, manager’s house and staff house plus spacious shop/barn/stable complex, large steel pipe arena, cattle facilities and 2,000 foot grass strip with hangar. 
  • Operation: 300± acres dryland hay, 150 cows plus yearlings as needed. Primary activities: horses and trophy quality elk.
  • Wildlife: Large resident elk up to 380 class, mule deer, turkey and upland birds.  
  • Water: 4 miles of perennial Sand Creek plus 10 strong springs, 5 wells. 
  • Summary: Very private, nicely improved elk hunting retreat with modest-sized livestock operation. Arguably the best private elk hunting in Montana for its size. 

General Description

The main ranch begins about two miles south of I90. However, there is a separate 4.7 acre parcel that contains a small employee housing unit. It lies at the beginning of the private road just as it passes under the Interstate. One then proceeds south to an electronic gate which marks the entry to the neighbor’s property. This gate is a shared private entrance to two ranches that lie on Sand Creek. One proceeds on this private road for about a mile before coming onto the Wagon Box Spring Ranch. The central feature of Wagon Box Spring is Sand Creek which flows year around through the ranch for about four miles. Kaiser Creek, further to the east, is also a significant drainage that passes through the ranch. As one moves southerly on Sand Creek, the ranch buildings soon come into view nestled into the valley floor. The ranch rises over 800 vertical feet over three to four miles and includes a series of valleys and draws that culminate in higher basins all of which would be described as open to timbered foothill country. The big plateau hay meadows lie at the lower or northerly end of the ranch. Many of the draws contain substantial springs which provide year around water for livestock and wildlife. The ranch lies in classic looking Montana ranch country – pretty much what a Montana ranch should look like with rolling grassy hills and significant ponderosa pine cover. More importantly it offers the kind of feed, water and cover that is ideal for elk.

Broker's Comments

An extraordinary elk hunting retreat within minutes of Billings, Montana’s largest city, yet totally private behind a security gate. Beautiful timbered hills with multiple live springs and four miles of a perennially flowing stream passing through. Complete comfortable, well-conceived improvements, including a thoughtfully designed log lodge. 

Learn about the locale

Location

The ranch is located 30 miles east of Billings just south of Pompeys Pillar. While Billings is an easy drive and offers the most extensive menu of social and cultural amenities to be found in the entire region, the small town of Worden is just 13 miles away and, along with nearby Huntley, offer bars, churches, restaurants, a grocery store, and other services that allow one to avoid the trip into the “big city” of Billings. Billings, of course, offers extensive commercial air service and two major hospitals, as well as a full array of shops, galleries, museums, major theaters and event centers, and services at every level imaginable. Proximity to Billings and all it offers is a significant value add for the Wagon Box Springs Ranch. 

Locale

The immediate neighbors to Wagon Box Spring are large range cattle operations, many of which are owned by families that have passed them down over multiple generations. It has only been in the last few decades that the elk have reclaimed their natural habitat and have moved onto some of these ranches where they have flourished. The Yellowstone River flows just north of the ranch and its expansive corridor is home to some of the most productive irrigated farms in the state. These are primarily highly sophisticated family farms and most of the local communities are dominated by a farming culture. This offers a huge benefit to the extensive grass ranches that border the river corridor by offering cheap and easily accessible feed to supplement the livestock during the winter months. From a recreational point of view, it creates a sportsman’s mecca by combining world-class deer and elk hunting with upland bird, pheasant, duck, and geese hunting of equal caliber. AND, as mentioned above, easy access to Billings and all it has to offer is another unique asset of Wagon Box Spring Ranch. 

Climate

Anchored by the riparian corridor of Sand Creek, which is lined with cottonwood trees, the main ranch rises over 800 feet in elevation through a series of valleys and coulees – many of which have big springs and vegetation associated with the water. The upper reaches of the ranch open up into big basins. There is light to heavy timber throughout which provides cover for wildlife together with plenty of open grazing. The ranch is generally accessible by ATV, by foot or horseback. In fact, the current manager operates a horse training and breaking business. He reckons this is some of the most appealing riding country in the state.

The climate is typical for eastern Montana. Annual precipitation is estimated at 14 inches and, with elevations in the 3,000 foot range, there is a long growing season in the range of 125 days. On balance spring, summer and fall days are comfortable, but can be impacted by extremes of heat and cold. Winters can be open, but generally, there is some snow cover. Most days are around freezing or above and nights drop into the 20s. Again, eastern Montana is characterized by occasional extremes in either direction. 

Learn more about the property

Acreage (Deeded & Leased)

The ranch is comprised primarily of open to timbered grazing land with about 300± acres currently devoted to an alfalfa grass mix, which is cut for hay, producing an average of 300± tons per annum.

Deeded Acres: 8,455±
State Leased Acres: 640±
Total Leased Acres: 640±
Total Acres: 9,095±

Additional Information

CONSERVATION EASEMENT

A significant portion of the ranch (7,229± out of 8,455± total acres) is encumbered by a conservation easement. This is primarily in the upper parts of the ranch and is not considered to be a material restriction on any anticipated use of the ranch. Any additional buildings would likely be situated on the uneased portion of the ranch and the easement does allow for the construction of three additional homes in the easement area.  

Improvements

The ranch offers an ideal set of improvements to take advantage of its key attributes. The lodge works well for owner and guests and there is adequate staff housing for any essential employees. The outbuildings and facilities are well suited for the cattle and horse operation. They can be briefly described as follows:

LODGE: Situated in the headquarters compound, this expansive 4,600± square foot log residence is unique in that it includes two master suites and a separate “bunkhouse” area with its own 800± square foot recreation area and two bunk rooms, each with its own bathroom. The main part of the house includes the two master suites and a large great room with vaulted ceiling and river rock stone fireplace that is welcoming on a cool evening. There is also a dining room, wet bar, and huge kitchen set up to cook for a full house. It is well thought out for entertaining larger groups of friends or family and, at the same time, comfortable for an owner and his or her immediate family. The extensive covered porches give it that classic look of an old ranch house. 

MANAGER’S HOUSE: Originally built in 1912, this shake sided house with steel roof has a real sense of place in the compound. It has been remodeled many times over the years and contains around 1,850 square feet. It has a master bedroom with bathroom plus a walk-in closet and two bedrooms which share a bathroom. There is a large living room, kitchen, breakfast nook, laundry room and mudroom on the main floor along with a utility room and pantry in the basement. 

CARETAKER’S HOUSE: Located on a separate four-acre parcel just below where the main ranch begins, is a 1,925± square foot two story, two-bedroom, one-bathroom residence. It is an older home that would be well suited for a second employee or seasonal employee. 

BARN/SHOP: This 80’X22’ multi-purpose building includes four stalls for horses, tack room, feed storage area, vet room, and shop with concrete floor. 

SHOP: This 80’X50’ heated and insulated structure with steel roof is also a multi-purpose building that includes a workout room, ammunition reloading room, woodworking shop, and a mechanical shop. It has two roll up doors, one of which is 14’X14’ and the other is 12’X10’. 

STORAGE SHED : This 24’X36’ structure with a concrete floor is open-faced and used for equipment storage. 

CORRALS AND ARENA: The working corrals are steel and tie into the barn. They include a squeeze chute and incorporate a 5,000 pound beam scale for weighing livestock.

The working arena is set up for roping and working horses. It is 200 feet long and is built of pipe and sucker rod with an elevated viewing stand. 

AIRPORT: The ranch has a 2,000 foot long grass strip that is well suited for small propeller driven aircraft. There is also a 1,200 square foot metal hangar with large sliding doors and concrete floor. 

Water Resources

The main ranch has nine dependable developed springs and five wells - three of which are solar and two are electric. Four miles of Sand Creek passes through the property. 

Mineral Rights

Seller will transfer all the mineral rights that it owns.  

Taxes

Annual real estate taxes are estimated at $10,000 per annum based upon past year’s taxes.

Learn about the recreational amenities

Wildlife Resources

Acre for acre Wagon Box Spring Ranch represents what is arguably the finest trophy quality elk hunting ranch in Montana. Obviously, much larger ranches in the 25,000 and up acre size are going to offer more - but certainly not larger - elk. Wagon Box Spring excels because nearly 100 percent of the ranch offers prime habitat. Also, the nature of the ranch is such that, rather than concentrating in large herds, the elk tend to break into multiple smaller herds each with its own trophy bull and some satellite bulls. This allows hunting of one herd without disturbing the other herds. The ranch has been hunted very lightly for almost 30 years now by owners who care deeply about the quality of the herd. They have limited the offtake to one or two trophy bulls each year.  According to the long time ranch manager, there have been sheds found on the ranch that would score close to 400 on the Boone and Crockett scale, so the potential to produce trophy quality animals is well established.

The ranch also offers good hunting for mule deer and turkeys. Upland bird hunting has taken a back seat to the big game hunting, but it has huge potential on the ranch. The many spring fed coulees, combined with the possibility of planting some grain crops in the large plateau meadows, could lead to major growth in upland bird populations. If combined with predator control, the improvement would be dramatic. 

One of the important attributes of Wagon Box Spring Ranch is that it is surrounded by very large private ranches. This means that there is little encroachment from public land hunters and work done to enhance game populations is handsomely rewarded. 

In addition, this is a hunting district (590) that is predominantly owned by Montana residents. This means that tags for nonresident owners are in good supply, particularly for archery hunters. Non-resident rifle tags are more difficult to obtain but certainly are in better supply on Wagon Box Spring than in the Bull Mountain area.  

Learn about the general operations

General Operations

The primary focus of the livestock operations over the last 30 years has been to maintain and enhance habitat for the trophy quality elk herd that has called the ranch home. Nevertheless, this is a quality grass ranch that has significant grazing capacity for livestock. Under the current ownership, the ranch can run about 150 mother cows while taking in additional cattle as needed to manage the grazing resource for wildlife. They put up around 300 tons of hay which is adequate for the cow herd. The ranch manager also operates a breaking and training facility for roping horses. As mentioned earlier, the ranch is ideally suited for working and riding horses. The ranch also has the ability to generate significant income from hunting of deer and elk, although this has been primarily reserved for the owners. As is often the case, income streams from these various sources is rarely optimized. It is clear however, that this is a ranch with diverse assets and resources and the ability to optimize any of these is considerably enhanced by the ranch’s ideal location within a short drive of Montana’s major population center. 150

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