The Hideout At Flitner Ranch
A Premier Cattle Ranch and Resort
Having traveled extensively throughout the west visiting various guest and dude ranches over the years, I’ve come to know what to expect at just about any ranch I go to. Almost all of them offer very good packages, which include good food, accommodations and interesting riding adventures. I guess that’s why when I got to the Flinter Ranch they really knocked my socks off. It’s like no other ranch I’ve ever visited. It starts when you pull into the ranch area. There are lush green lawns, surrounding various ponds and streams tumbling over rocks, which look like hammered silver and everything looks so manicured. The roads and walking trails are all paved in the lodge and cabin area, so there isn’t any dust. There are enormous trees providing shade in different areas. It has a tranquil park like setting. You don’t have the feeling of a hideout, but it is a place to escape.
When you pull up to the main lodge building, you feel like you arrived at a brand new national park lodge log structure. It’s large and pretty impressive. The main floor contains the dinning room, offices, reading area, restrooms, a small gift shop and kitchen along with a small refreshment area that is always available to you twenty-four hours a day. The basement contains the laundry rooms, rest rooms, a large TV in a room, which also has a nice sound system, and then a billiard room. The upper floor has a cocktail lounge and a nice reading area with a great view as does the dinning room. All the main rooms have a nice warm ambiance because of all the wood and western décor. It’s easy to slide into one of the nice overstuffed chairs with a good book or magazine while you wait for dinner or lunch to be served. It’s a very relaxing atmosphere that is created by the building, décor and the owner’s personal touch.
There are several new large log cabins, which are spread out around the main lodge building, and each one of them has two separate sleeping units in them with private baths. The units are very roomy and have a variety of sleeping arrangements. All are equipped with comfortable furniture and beds along with dish TV and western décor. You feel at home as soon as you set foot into them.
The dinner on the evening of your arrival sort of sets the stage for all the rest of the meals. It’s one of the three ranches out of dozens I’ve visited that really offers gourmet dinning. Prior to dinner, all the guests meet up in the cocktail lounge for free beer or wine and delicious hors d’oeuvres and canapés. If you want hard liquor, you have to purchase that. It’s sometimes hard not to eat to many of the appetizers because they are so good. After everyone has had a chance to get to know each other we all head down to dinner.
There is always a variety of fine wine flowing around the table at dinnertime; there is one that will go well the entrée for the evening. There is always an eclectic salad with delicious and fresh made dressings and plenty of homemade bread. The entrée will vary from sesame-encrusted salmon to tender filet mignon or maybe medallions of buffalo or elk with a special glaze as well as pork or chicken. Every dinner is a delectable revelation that is a delight to the taste buds. Deserts are the Coup De Grace to grand meals. Believe me, you don’t want to miss any of the three meals a day at the ranch.
Of course the reason for being at any ranch is the riding and outdoors adventure along with the beautiful scenery you encounter during your rides. You won’t be disappointed by anything in the area either. After your riding/horse orientation, which takes place the first morning at the arena and then is followed by a short ride, you have the afternoon available for a short half-day ride. One of the options is to ride to Devil’s Leap. Now, the name is a little misleading. I think it should be called Rover’s Thrown, but I’ll let them tell you the story. The other option is riding in the painted hills. Both rides take you into some interesting geology with a lot of color. You should always keep you eyes peeled for anything that looks out of place, because you could find something from the period of dinosaurs, the cretaceous, or something from the paleogene in the form of mammals. There are some dinosaur dig sites in the area you have an opportunity to visit if you’re so inclined. Always have a camera with plenty of film in your saddlebags, as there are many beautiful vistas.
The ranch has a nice string of their own horses and a very able wrangler staff who are always there for your assistance. One of the wranglers is also an excellent cowboy singer who can hold his own with the best of them. He entertains on one of the evenings after dinner in the cocktail lounge. The staff overall is excellent.
After the first day, you have opportunity for a lot of different options in riding. Most of the rides take you up into the Big Horn Mountains, which is one of my favorite areas for horseback riding because of the beauty, geology and terrain. Some people opted for pushing cattle for a day or two, while others could just go on an enjoyable half or all day ride into the mountains. You also have the opportunity to do an overnight trip into the high camp Hideout. Now, you might think of an austere or Spartan accommodation in a high remote location, but nothing could be farther from the truth. The cabins at the upper Hideout are the same comfortable accommodations as you have at the ranch headquarters. The food and libations are just about the same as well. There is a main lodge log building at the upper Hideout as well where you take all your meals or just relax. If you’re having a family get together, either the upper Hideout or the main ranch are perfect places to have such a function.
But there is even more. There is a third place at 8,600’ on the 250,000-acre ranch even more remote than the upper Hideout called The Snowshoe Lodge. It is open year round and is manned by a staff of congenial Belgian folks who are all related. They call themselves, “The Belgian Slaves”. They make you feel like you’re in some cozy remote European mountain setting. And shortly, they will make it seem even more European because you’ll be able to get real Belgian beer up there, aside from the great food. During the summer months you can go up there and just relax or you can go mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking or fishing. During the winter months you can snowmobile, snowshoe, hike and go dogsledding, cross-country skiing or randonee. You can spend a day, a week or just a meal with the folks at the Snowshoe. It’s a beautiful setting, probably even more so during the winter months.
They have three small log cabins, each of them is different, and they are cozy and romantic and would be a great place to spend a week in the high country with your significant other. They also have a hot tub and sauna you can enjoy year round. If you really wanted to get away from it all and really relax, this is the place to do it. A great place to write a book or rethink your lifestyle.
Now this great place happened for a reason. Dave and Paula Flitner have spent a lot of time, money and heart & soul to make this ranch/hideout the unique and grand place that it is. Dave, who is a third or fourth generation rancher in the area and Paula, who is from Belgium decided they wanted to do something really unique and offer people an experience found nowhere else. They have succeeded in their endeavor. Once you’ve spent a week here, all the other places will pale in comparison. There have been guests that came for a week that ended up spending two or three weeks here because they didn’t want to leave. I can understand that, I didn’t want to leave either.
Currently, the main ranch is open from April 1st through Nov. 15th. They are looking at having the main ranch open year round starting next year. The Snowshoe Lodge is open all year.
For a memorable vacation all you have to do is contact:
The Hideout at Flitner Ranch
P.O. Box 206
Shell, WY 82441
307-899-8995 for Snowshoe Lodge
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5045 Brennan Bend
Idaho Falls, ID 83401
History at the TA Ranch
The Historic TA Ranch south of Buffalo, WY, where the Johnson County War took place in 1892, which changed the way cattle ranching was conducted, is doing more than it’s share at preserving the west and the history of the west. The ranch offers all the standard ranch experiences such as riding lessons, trail rides which are either fast or slow, cook-outs, cattle drives and remudas, fence mending and the like. But they have embarked on a program of offering seminars on all aspects of the development and history of the west, as well as then latest information and technology to operate a profitable ranch in today’s market. The ranch is dedicated to preserving the history, heritage, and culture of the West, Wyoming and the Cowboy.
This past summer, they held their first three-day seminar on the Gunfighters of the West, which was completely sold out. The two guest speakers were Leon Metz and Bill O’Neal. Both are well known authors of many books on the gunfighters and the west. Bob Edwards, a military historian from the Buffalo area, gave a talk and live fire demonstrations on many of the weapons used in the development of the west from the 1860’s onward. We also had the chance to fire all the same weapons. Many of the attendees were attired in period clothing from the 1880’s in keeping with the theme of the seminar. Discussions covered topics such as; Gunfighter Origins, Gunfighters Art & Gear, The Best Gunfighters, Gunfighters in the Movies, Social Banditry, Outlaws as Gunfighters, Best Gunfight of all Time and other related topics. We toured the ranch where one of the largest and longest gunfights of all time took place, as well as The Hole In The Wall made famous by Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch. On one of the evenings we watched some of the classic old western films. There were cowboy cocktail hours, cowboy music and dancing in period clothing in the evenings which everyone enjoyed.
During the seminar, the Frank Canton house was dedicated at the ranch. Frank Canton was one of the figures involved in the Johnson County War who worked for the cattle barons. His homestead log cabin, which was quite large, was falling apart and almost in complete ruin. The descendents of Frank Canton decided to do something about it. They donated the building to the TA Ranch, which then took the structure apart log by log and then reassembled it at the new location on the ranch and completely refurbished the interior in period decor. The dissembling, moving and reconstruction and decoration cost the TA Ranch over $100,000.00 to preserve the structure. Everyone felt it was worth it to preserve a piece of history as important as it was.
This summer, on July 12th a three-day SASS gunfight took place. For those of you who don’t know what SASS is, it stands for Single Action Shooting Society. They have a shooting competition where you have to shoot a single action pistol, level action rifle and an old time shotgun at different targets at various distances to simulate a gunfight. They had five stages or fields of fire to shoot each day, each being a different scenario or gunfight that took place in that part of Wyoming. There were 15 stages at this event, five each day, and each stage represented a part of the three-day siege at the TA Ranch in 1892 and/or related events. And of course, all the participants are dressed in old time clothing to fit the persona or period they were active in. It’s a great event to participant in but to watch as well. In the future, there will also be mounted shooting as well. Plan to attend.
Following the SASS extravaganza, Craig Cameron, a well-known Texas gentle horse trainer conducted two seminars at the ranch starting on July 16th. The first was a three-day seminar and the second was a five-day seminar, which included a ride to the Hole in the Wall hideout. We broke three colts in the first seminar in addition to gaining a wealth of information on horsemanship which enabled us to ride better and to function better with our horses in a variety of things which they were not used to, including jumping over large objects.
Later this summer, the Western Heritage Institute at the TA Ranch will present, “General Crook’s Campaign Against the Sioux in 1876”. This is truly a unique program taught by author and lecturer John D. McDermott. It will include three tours to the sites of the Reynolds Fight, the Rosebud Battle and Dull Knife Fight. Members of the Crow, Sioux and Cheyenne tribes and seminar participants will dramatically present eyewitness accounts of each battle. Noted firearms authority and collector Bob Edwards will demonstrate the weapons used by the military. The registration is limited to 20 guests and all will stay at the TA Ranch. The cost for the 4-night seminar is $995 and includes all accommodations, food, battlefield tours, lecturers and entertainment.
Future seminars covering the history and development of the west to be held at the ranch will cover topics like; Cowboy Music and it’s Origins, Cowboy Poetry, Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch, The Johnson County War, Cavalry Fights and Indian Wars, The Battle of the Little Big Horn, The Mountain Man Era, and other related topics. Seminars covering; ranch profitability, ranch management, range management, horse breeding and training and cow breeding programs will be covered along with other current topics of interest to the ranching community.
Now where else can you ride the trails of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Crazy Horse, Buffalo Bill Cody and other figures of our history and at the same time have a learning experience like no other. It’s like taking a step back in time. They have a great selection of horses and very able waddie’s. The terrain is ever changing and you have the opportunity for some fast riding. You’ll probably come across some magnificent big game animals as we did on our rides along with finding ancient Indian camping sites and the remains of the buffalo protruding from the washes after the last thunderstorm passed. The Indian and the buffalo were there long before the ranch was established, and you’ll find traces of both as you ride the hills. The big game that we saw were as surprised to see us, as we were to see them. As a matter of fact, this enabled me to get some great photographs of them. You really have to keep your eyes open as to what you’re passing through as you ride, because we were always finding something exciting as we rode. I enjoyed riding slow most of the time because the artifacts we were coming across always surprised us. There are plenty of areas that are safe, and you can let your horse run like the wind. You have the opportunity of doing half or all day rides and at a pace of your choice. The staff was always ready to help if there was something special you wanted to do, and there is plenty to see and do in the area.
The ranch is rich in history, and has most all the original buildings. The lodging facilities, which have been recently remodeled, are still in keeping with the feel of the 1890's. The rooms are well appointed, roomy and comfortable. The kitchen, lounge and dining area are all comfortable. Delightful Mexican fare, traditional steaks, and a variety of food dishes left nothing to be desired while dinning at the ranch. The portions were ample, excellently prepared, and a delight to the taste buds. It would be easy to put on some weight if you spent too much time at the ranch. Also this summer, Jane Butel, internationally known Southwestern Chef with her own TV show will be conducting a cooking school at the ranch sometime this summer. For dates contact either the ranch or the Jane Butel Cooking School in Albuquerque, NM.
The ranch was the site of the Johnson County Wars that took place there in 1892. All the hired killers that were employed by the cattle barons, were holed up in the barn when the citizens of the town of Buffalo surrounded them; small ranchers, squatters and rustlers who they were sent to kill. A gunfight ensued that lasted three days. The bullet holes are still in the barn as are the gun ports cut out by the besieged and the gun skirmish pits dug by the townspeople. Research is still being done, artifacts are still being found at the site. There are now plans in the works about doing a three-hour outdoor reenactment of the event, which would be a great show to experience either as a spectator or a participant. Hopefully the script will be completed by the end of the year 2002. Two great movies were made about the war: “Shane” and Michael Cimino’s “Heaven’s Gate”. There are a dozen good books also available about all the events that led up to the war and the war itself.
In the area around the ranch there are also many things to see and do. The Hole in the Wall which Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid made famous is nearby, as is the site where Nate Champion was killed by the hired guns that were on their way to the TA Ranch and Buffalo to kill the townspeople. That is a story in itself. Nate has been immortalized in, “The Ballad of Nate Champion”, as recorded by “David Wilkie and Cowboy Celtic”. The CD also has many other great cowboy songs and music on it as they were played long ago. The group was the 1999 winner of the Cowboy Hall of Fame “Western Heritage Wrangler” Award. They have two CD’s out, and their music is outstanding. Brenn Hill, a young and upcoming cowboy songwriter and singer also has several songs out about the area around the TA Ranch. “Powder River Queen” is just one of the many wonderful songs he’s written and sung on the area. There are several other interesting sites in the area that would keep you busy for a week. The staff can help you on deciding where to go. On the ranch there is fishing available in streams and a man made lake. The also have a great library of books you can borrow, many of them dealing with the history of the area. There is also a great museum in the town of Buffalo, The Gatchell Museum; you’ll want to check out. The town of Buffalo also has many historic buildings in it including the Occidental Hotel where many famous people of our early western history stayed when in the town. After the three day gunfight at the ranch on the final evening, we all went into town and spent the night partying at the Occidental attired in our period gear and packing iron, with the permission of the town sheriff. It was quite a night, and no one got shot. You’re also not that far from the site of The Battle of the Little Big Horn or the many Indian battle sites or cavalry forts. You can also visit the outlaw caves and find Indian petroglyphs and pictographs in the area. You’ll never find yourself wanting for something to do if your so inclined, but at the same time you can lay back with some good reading material or wet a line in one of the streams, or do absolutely nothing.
For information on the ranch, their seminars, the area or events, the following numbers will be of help.
T-A Guest Ranch 800-368-7398, 307-684-5833
P.O. Box 313
Buffalo, WY 82834
www.taranch.com web site
Buffalo Tourism Area 800-227-5122
Wyoming Tourism 800-225-5996
SASS HQ. In Buffalo 307-684-7058 Ron Faircloth
Craig Cameron 800-274-0077
Jane Butel 505-243-2622
Cowboy Celtic CD’s 403-933-2210 Direct or 800-695-4687 from Red House Distributing or from Western Jubilee at 800-707-2353
Brenn Hill CD’s Four Winds Dist. 800-456-5444 or direct at 801-721-1400
Author: Jerry Sinkovec
A Gathering of Buffalo
5045 Brennan Bend
Idaho Falls, ID 83401
Every now and then an opportunity to experience something few people have done presents itself, and I naturally jump at the chance to experience it. Bob Lantis, a cowboy I met at Festival of the West in Scottsdale recently, told me about a project he’s involved with annually. It’s a gather and drive of over 1500 head of Buffalo up at Custer State Park in South Dakota. Every fall they round up all the Buffalo in the park and push them cross-country to the corrals where they are sorted for sale, inoculated, and generally checked over as to their health. I had visions of Dances with Wolves; riding along side a huge heard of Buffalo over rolling grassy hills at a gallop. And that vision wasn’t wrong.
Bob is one of four cowboys that is allowed to lead a group of riders in the annual roundup. Each group is comprised of about 12 to 15 seasoned riders. No novice riders need apply. The riding can be at a trot to a full gallop over rugged terrain, and dangerous if a Buffalo decides to charge you. You definitely need a good horse and one you can trust and feel comfortable with. Bob supplies the horses for the riders in his group, which have experienced the Buffalo gather previously, which is very important. One older fellow from another group who had done the gather and drive for several years came out with a new and younger horse this year. When his horse saw several hundred head of buffalo come running over the near grassy ridge at their line of riders, his horse took off to bucking his owner right off and into a boulder field. That rider was taken away in an ambulance with several back and head injuries.
The way you get to have a chance to ride in this once in a lifetime experience is to request an application from the Custer State Park officials. You have to give them your mailing address via e-mail or telephone so they can mail you an application. It’s an application that asks all the usual questions, but also asks a lot of questions about your riding ability. Before they even consider you, you have to show you’ve had enough riding experience in different environments and really know how to handle a horse. They don’t want to be rescuing people in the middle of the drive. From all the hundreds of applications they receive, only around twenty will be chosen to ride in the annual event. And what an event it is.
It was an anxious two months while I waited to see if I had been chosen to ride. When the letter finally did arrive from Custer State Park, I was reluctant to open it for fear of finding out I wasn’t chosen. Slowly, I let my Equestrian model Swiss Army knife slide through the flap of the envelope and opened the letter. As I read, a smile came to my face and then I let out a loud Yaa Hooo. I was in.
A few months later in October, I found myself breezing northward along Interstate 25 to Wyoming and then to park to meet Bob Lantis, his crew and the other riders in the group. The park has a wonderful separate area for equestrian campers where they can camp in privacy along a steam, which holds trout. They have a heated building that holds the toilet facilities and hot showers, which was enjoyed by all every day during the cool fall weather. They had areas for tent camping as well as for RV’s and large trailers. Everything was first class including the food cooked and served by Bob’s crew. In the evenings, Bob would entertain with some of his cowboy songs or stories. Some of the others with talent would join him in song or with a guitar.
We all arrived a few days prior to the actual gather and drive so we would have time to become acquainted with our horses, the countryside and for Bob to see how we could handle our horses in different situations. It was some pleasant riding over sometimes-difficult terrain for a few days. Everyone in our group seemed pleased with our horses, and Bob seemed pleased with all the riders riding ability.
On the morning of the gather, we all got up extra early so as to have time for breakfast and then attend the safety meeting and get our assignments. The safety meeting covered all the things we were allowed to do and the things we weren’t to do. Things to look out for, and what to do if there is an accident or injury. Who was allowed to carry guns in case they were needed to change the mind set a charging buffalo, etc. Each group was issued a different colored bandana so they could find their own group more easily, and allowed them to remain a cohesive unit in turning, controlling and directing the buffalo. After the meeting we all headed back to camp to saddle up and get our horses to the staging area.
Once all the riders were assembled, we were given our final instructions and told which areas of the park we were to sweep to gather up the buffalo. We ended up making a sweep to the north over several sections of land that included some very steep rocky terrain, and heavily wooded areas divided by a high rocky ridge. We found buffalo in a variety of different environments, and not all of them agreed with our plan to push them east to Hay Flat, the holding area. Sometimes we were in timber so thick a rider atop a horse could barley squeeze between the trees. At other times we’d be picking our way through a steep rocky cliff area, and never knowing if we’d get to the top of the ridge. We were sometimes by ourselves, and at other times with one or two other riders making a sweep through an area. Somehow, we all managed to bring all the buffalo in our area to the right staging area without anyone getting lost. That was an accomplishment in itself. We then proceeded to push the buffalo to Hay Flat where they would be kept for the night.
But not everything went as smooth as we hoped it would. Every now and then a small group of 20 or 50 buffalo would get it in their mind that they didn’t want to go where we were pushing them, and take off at a run in some other direction. That’s when you needed to know what you and your horse could do, because you would have to get along side them or out in the front side of them to turn them. These happened quite frequently, because buffalo aren’t as cooperative as cattle. And if you saw a buffalo in front of you, giving you the eye with it’s tail up in the air and it wasn’t doing it’s thing, you were about to be charged. So you had better high tail it out of there and give him a little breathing space. The first day was full of fun, unique experiences and excitement. It was like Dances With Wolves after all. It was a long full day, full of memories.
The next morning it was a quick breakfast, boots and saddles and another safety meeting. These are dangerous animals, and the park tries to insure that no one gets hurt. If you went down on your horse in front of some stampeding buffalo, you would probably come out looking like some dirty ground up hamburger.
It was an awesome site with the sun still low on the horizon. It was a huge dark brown mat rolling slowly over the lush hilly terrain. Over fifteen hundred head of buffalo, grazing and moving slowly across the grassy hills of the park. I had never seen anything like it before, and probably never will again. It was a site to behold. A bit of the old west as it once was.
The four groups of riders had positioned themselves at different parts of Hay Flat, as instructed, to begin the final drive to the corral area some distance away. It would be another full day of riding at a trot or a gallop. There was some hooping and hollering in the distance and the drive was on. What an experience. The problem today was when a group of buffalo decided they didn’t want to go the direction we were pushing them, it wasn’t just 20 or 50 we had to turn, it was a couple of hundred buffalo we had to turn. It took more riders to turn such a large mass of animals, and it got a little more dangerous. We sometimes found ourselves riding up a 30 or 40-degree rocky slope at a full gallop to turn the buffalo. It wasn’t all easy. But it was exciting.
One of the things that really blew me away was near the end of the drive. As we came out between two hills with the buffalo, there, in the distance, on two hills about a half a mile apart stood over 6,000 spectators with all kinds of video and still cameras to capture the scene before me with 1500 buffalo and the riders all around them. To me, it was as much a breath-taking spectacle as seeing all the buffalo together for the first time. I found it hard to believe my eyes. That so many people would be interested in seeing this annual gather and drive of an animal that was almost exterminated by us. People come from around the world to see this annual event, for they know they are seeing something few people have the opportunity to see and experience in this day and age.
After the final push into the corral area, the spectators and the riders put on the feedbag. There was a large area with huge dinning tents, and cowboy entertainment where everyone could relax and enjoy some good BBQ. There were vendors selling all kinds of western and cowboy gear that were willing to lighten your load, if you get my meaning pard. It was a grand time.
If you’re not into camping, and want to experience the event as a spectator, the park has a variety of lodges located in different parts of the park that offer grand rustic accommodations and delicious food. There are also art shows and other events going on at the same time in another part of the park that are all part of the annual event. So there is plenty to see and do while your there.
Bob Lantis also offers guided trail rides in various parts of the west including Yellowstone National Park, The Badlands of South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and other interesting areas.
For more information on this event contact the following:
Gunsel Horse Adventures
Attn: Bob Lantis
P.O. Box 1575
Rapid City, SD 57709
Custer State Park Resort Lodging Co.
Attn: Phil Lambert
HC 83 Box 74
Custer, SD 57730
Custer State Park
Custer, SD 57730
State Game Lodge
Highway # 16a
Custer, SD 57730
Sylvan Lake Resort
Highway 87 & # 89
Custer, SD 57730
Blue Bell Lodge & Resort
Custer State Park
Custer, SD 57730
South Dakota Tourism Dept.
711 E Wells Ave.
Pierre, SD 57501-3335
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