A view of the Blue Gravel Ranch
Morning came quickly, and we were soon out in the truck, bouncing along snow-covered dirt roads. The first ranch we hit was the 50,000-acre Blue Gravel Ranch in Moffat County (Elkhorn owns two ranches, Blue Gravel and the 60,000-acre Big Gulch Ranch). Papierski explained that the hunting was so good here primarily because of the Ranching for Wildlife program that Dodds entered back in 1989, when he started outfitting. Ranching for Wildlife lets private landowners set their own seasons, in consultation with the state, in exchange for guaranteeing the public 10 percent of the tags for antlered animals. Antlerless tags are also set aside for public hunters; these help the ranch reach its management goals and quotas.
"We treat public hunters (residents only) just as we treat our paying customers at the lodge," Papierski told me. "It's a good deal for everyone. The public hunters have to draw the tags, but that isn't difficult. Then they have the chance to hunt our two ranches, which are loaded with animals."