Frequently Asked Questions
What rifle should I bring?
Before the introduction of the horse and firearms, the American Indians
drove buffalo herds over a cliff or into corrals and box canyons to kill
them with lance and arrow. Chugwater, WY is the site of one such famous
buffalo jump. On horseback, they became very skillful in controlling the
horse with their legs and shooting the buffalo with a bow and arrow or
a rifle. Quite a feat! We do not encourage this method of harvesting your
trophy bull. We do recommend you bring a rifle and shoot from afoot. After
all, how many Indians do you see buffalo hunting today?
Bison are extremely tough animals to bring down. George
W. Brown hunted buffalo from 1870-1874 and recorded the following: "I
used a big fifty caliber Sharps rifle. It shot a hundred and twenty grains
of powder, and the bullets were an inch and a quarter long. When one of
these big (slugs) would hit a buffalo, whether it hit the right place
or not, it would make him sick. It wouldn't be long until I put another
into him. I have often shot a buffalo ten or fifteen times before I got
him down." Rifle selection is very important. This rifle question has
no absolute answer, just opinions. My opinion comes from harvesting numerous
North American and African large game animals as well as many trophy bison.
One must always remember that the primary objective in hunting is to harvest
the game in the most humane and efficient manner possible. Bison are extremely
difficult to bring down. They are easily excited and quickly generate
adrenaline. A wounded bull will charge with the intent of doing the hunter
lethal harm. With this said, let's look at selecting a good rifle to bring
on your trophy hunt. The first choice to be made is that of black powder
or center fire. Black powder rifles have certainly harvested more bison
than any other rifle. A .50 caliber Thompson Black Diamond will do a great
a doubt, the Sharps rifle has killed more bison than any other black powder
rifle. My personal choice here is the 45-70 Sharps. This bullet seems
to really hit them hard and do tremendous damage. Just ask John LaRue,
a high school chemistry teacher from Longmont, CO who took his record
book bull with only one shot. He did use one additional insurance shot
at my request. The 45-70 Shilo Sharps did a great job that day! Hunter
safety and compassionate harvesting are primary considerations at Thousand
Hills Bison Ranch and our rule is "If they're standing, you're shooting".
development of center-fire rifles has, I believe, misled some hunters
into some ungrounded thinking. It seems that a good number of modern day
riflemen think that faster is better. So, they naturally load for maximum
velocity. And in certain hunting situations (prairie dog hunting for example)
they may be correct. But any African professional hunter will quickly
tell you that knockdown power is the most critical consideration when
bagging an elephant. The same is true for the American Bison. My belief
is that bigger is better and the greater the energy coefficient the better.
No matter how hard you throw a Ping-Pong ball at someone, it is not going
to inflict serious damage. But throw a baseball one hundred miles an hour
and it becomes a dangerous weapon. I have seen many a 2,000 pound bull
receive five shots from a .300 Win Mag to just stand there and say "is
that all you have?" and then proceed to walk off. Although mortally wounded,
he continues to lumber about just as his brother the Cape Buffalo does
when shot. Even a hot .375 can just go right through a big bull's lungs
without doing a great deal of damage. Ryan Benassi of Littleton, CO will
attest to this. Ryan made 5 nice shots…all landing in a pie-pan size area
in the bull's lungs. We saw them exit the bull and land in the hillside
behind our quarry. With his gun empty and the bull starting to go over
a distant hilltop, I quickly handed Ryan my Sako .375 H&H Magnum. After
several more rounds, the bull finally went down. In another forty yards,
he would have reached an extremely rugged area that would have required
our taking him out in small pieces--over the next six or eight hours!
The moral of the story is: heavy, slow bullets, which have a lot of knock
down power (energy), are the best! As far as the caliber is concerned,
anything in the .30 caliber range or bigger is good. A .416 or .458 will
do a great job, but it will be important for you to know the drop at 300
yards if you sight in at 200 yards. We try to keep most of our shots at
100 yards or less, however, there is always the bull who takes off at
a dead run when he spots us and we end up with a 200-300 yard shot. A
.375 H&H Mag is probably the best-suited center fire rifle and you will
find it excellent on game of every continent.
What bullet should I use?
the best of both worlds: penetration and controlled expansion. Bison have
tough, thick hides. A .44 magnum will bounce off of their foreheads. This
recently happened at a packinghouse with the bullet ricocheting through
the stock trailer. Fortunately, no one was injured. Mike Goodart, of Alamosa,
CO, saw his .338 bullet deflect off of his bull's skull plate. Nosler
partitions seem to be good, although Swift and Barnes also make comparable
bullets that perform well. Solids (or full metal jacketed) bullets should
be used for the brain or shoulder shots described below. Remember, however,
no caliber or bullet can supercede proper shot placement. Solids are unnecessary
unless you go for the shoulder shot first to slow him down and them follow
with a soft point. 175 grain is the minimum recommended bullet weight.
A good round for the .375 H&H Mag is the PMC 270-grain Barnes X bullet
which produces 2,690 fps muzzle velocity with 4,337 ft. pounds of muzzle
There are four primary targets: brain, shoulder, lung and
heart. The brain shot is certainly the most difficult. Here you would
aim two inches below and two inches behind the ear. A full-metal-jacketed
bullet is used for this shot due to the tough skull. I believe this to
be a difficult shot because bison seldom stand still. It is a small bulls-eye,
but when hit, they drop like a one ton safe from twenty floors up.
shoulder shot can be used to slow the bull down. A solid bullet (or full
metal jacket) is frequently used here to get as much penetration as possible.
A soft-nosed bullet in the lungs generally follows up this shot. This
is not a bad choice, although my favorite follows.
The lung shot is certainly the easiest and surest. A bison's
large lungs make for an easy target. One good shot in the lungs will kill
a bull, certainly not instantly, but death is inevitable. As most animals
hit in the lungs, they will leave a good blood trail, which is easy to
follow. Another advantage of this shot is that there is no damage to edible
meat. This is the choice of most modern day hunters as they follow the
example of the old-time buffalo hunters. Use a soft-nosed, controlled-expansion
bullet for this and the heart shot.
The heart is located low in the chest cavity. It is large
but well protected by the shoulder and leg. In order to hit the heart,
the hunter must wait for the animal to take a step forward, thus exposing
the vital organ. Even when well hit in the heart, a big bull can run quite
a way -- pumping massive amounts of blood in the process. I once heart
shot a zebra in Zimbabwe only to watch him run over 150 yards before expiring.
As I said earlier, there can be no substitute for accurate shot placement.
is what Joe S. McCombs from Randolf County, Alabama brought on his buffalo
hunt: a span of mules, a wagon, 800 pounds of lead, five kegs of powder,
a 16 pound Sharps sporting rifle and a reloading outfit. Of course this
was in the fall of 1875 as he and his three skinners set out for a six-month
hunt near Sweetwater, TX. He killed a little over 2,000 buffalo on this
Fortunately, you will not need to bring everything Joe
McCombs took on his buffalo hunt! Rather, I suggest you bring whatever
you would normally bring on an elk or deer hunt. You'll find your accommodations
at lodge to be excellent. This Orvis Endorsed resort is famous for its
culinary delights and hospitality. This eliminates your bringing a lot
of unnecessary camping and cooking gear.
Proper clothing is vital. Camouflage which blends with
sage and rabbit brush is a must. Bison do not see as well as antelope,
but they do see about as well as cattle. Comfortable hiking boots and
layered clothing are important. Your hunting season of November through
January can be quite cold since we are at 8,000 feet above sea level.
These cold winter temperatures make for an excellent winter robe. Hunter
orange is not required. Most days are sunny and surprisingly, 15-25 degrees
is not uncomfortable if you are in the sun. Twenty rounds of ammunition
should be sufficient unless you think you might encounter a problem zeroing
your rifle. Binoculars and a camera are must items.
Bison meat is great tasting and great for you! Most people
say bison is the most flavorful meat they have ever tasted, with a sweeter
and richer flavor than beef. It is not 'gamey' or wild tasting. Bison
meat is naturally flavorful and tender.
On a cost comparison, bison falls into the gourmet category
at your supermarket or meat market. The value of bison is what you get,
not what you pay. Nutritionally, you are getting more--more protein, more
nutrients, for less--less fat, less calories and less cholesterol.
Our bison have not received any growth stimulating hormones
or sub-therapeutic antibiotics -- the meat is considered organic. As you
can see from this chart, bison meat is lower in fat, calories and cholesterol
than beef, chicken or pork! You get the best of both worlds -- taste and
after your harvesting the bull and all the photos are taken, we promptly
transport the carcass to our local, State inspected, meat-packing house.
Your trophy bull will yield a hanging carcass of approximately 850 to
950 pounds. After boning, you can expect to get about 500 pounds of meat.
He will fill a 30 cubic foot freezer! The steaks on these old bulls are
flavorful and tender, if you marinade and utilize a little Adolph's Meat
Tenderizer. The balance is burger, which can be turned into a variety
of smoked meat products such a jerky, hot sticks or salami. At the supermarket
price of $5.00 a pound for bison burger, you can see that your hunt is
really just shopping (try this line on your wife).
Since the animal has not been slaughtered at an USDA plant,
it may not be sold for commercial purposes. UPS shipping of the meat is
commonplace for our packinghouse. Another idea for those travelling by
pickup truck is to put a chest freezer in the bed and plug it in. If the
meat is put in cold and you don't open the lid, everything should be cool
when you arrive home. Overnight stops allow you to plug in the freezer.
Any meat you are unable to transport home will be given away under through
a program such as Sportsmen against Hunger. No meat is ever wasted!
Do I need a hunting license?
No, a Colorado hunting license is not required. A Thousand
Hills Bison Ranch Bison Harvest Permit will be issued to you and is included
in your trophy fee.
have three choices here: a life-size mount, a full shoulder mount or a
robe with a European skull mount. Life-size is not for everyone because
of the space required and costs. A shoulder mount is breathtaking! It
takes up about 44" vertically, 30" horizontally and protrudes out from
the wall about 36". Our local taxidermist does an outstanding job on shoulder
mounts . He does many bison each year and I personally think he is as
good on buffalo as I have seen. Beginning with a standard mannequin, he
builds up the form to match your bull. This alone can require several
hours. By turning the head down and to the right or left, he puts life
into the animal! Even with the full shoulder mount, you will have a nice
back skin to tan. It will finish approximately 3' by 9' and tanning runs
$10 per square foot. Back skins look great draped over your favorite easy
The European skull mount along with a buffalo robe is another
good choice. Skull mounts don't take up as much space in your trophy room
and the robe is gorgeous! Allow about $900 for tanning. Most robes will
finish about 9' by 8'.
How many days should I allow?
Three days is generally sufficient. The first and last
days are for travel with the middle day devoted to the trophy hunt. Should
time permit, we heartily encourage you to take a couple of extra days
to enjoy the local sightseeing attractions.
Is there a hunting season?
Bison may be hunted anytime during the year. The hot, summer
months make for a problem in keeping the meat from spoiling. Capes are
best from Nov. 1 through the end of January, so this is when most of our
hunting occurs. Booking early assures you of the best time for you and