Lee Pitts: Mining The Miners
The big thing in ranching currently is in discovering profit centers on your ranch that were previously lying dormant. I’m talking recreational ranching where you charge dudes who want to be western for a week. Ranching dudes is nothing new, Howard Eaton started the first one in 1881 and Oscar Wilde later came up with the term by combining the word “dud” with “attitude.”
You may think that because you’re ranching in Freezeout, Mud Flats or Suckertown that you have nothing to offer, no world class fishing stream, rustic cabin, or herd of elk for the gunsels to shoot at. But just because your ranch isn’t near Jackson Hole doesn’t mean you can’t cash in; simply turn your negatives into positives.
You may not have a lake full of rainbow trout but you have a pond or even a water trough the tenderfeet can cast into with their Orvis® rods while wearing neoprene from head to toe. And there will be no time-consuming snags or fish to clean afterwards. Guests won’t even have to bait their hooks or make decisions about whether they got a bite or not, or waste a lot of effort fighting big fish into the boat. That can all be very stressful and these folks need rest, not stress.
Sell the sizzle! Your guests can fish without even getting their feet wet!
Same with hunting. The dudes won’t have to buy lots of ammunition, or get dirty skinning any exotic game because there hasn’t been as much as a forked horn on your place in a hundred years. Guests probably don’t even need a license because they’re just going to get skunked. And do you know how expensive taxidermy can be? Dudes won’t have to get up early either because no matter what time they go hunting they aren’t going to find anything. So sleep in.
You can still promise that you offer “great hunting.” Just no finding. Send guests home with a set of sheds and 20 pounds of beef that came from an old cancer-eyed cow, call it elk meat and they’ll have something good to eat to show for their $500 a night experience.
There’s no need to hire a cowboy to break the broncs or get the kinks out of your mares that have been running wild. Kill two birds with one stone and let the dudes do it. (Perhaps that’s a poor choice of words.) Let them wear their hats on backwards and their angora chaps in the middle of summer. Who cares if your guests couldn’t ride a mountain without holding on to a tree, or have never been closer to a cow than a Big Mac?
You don’t need an Olympic size pool either, your guests can go skinny dipping in your pond. Who needs to be wrapped in seaweed when they can be wrapped in pond scum? The dudes will want an “authentic western experience” so let them pick up rocks, grub mesquite, feed the cows, re-roof the barn and string wire. Instead of massages and hot rocks on their backs let them lay naked on your rock pile when it’s 109 outside. Who needs a chemical peel when they’ll be scabbed from head to toe after trying to ride your renegades.
You don’t need some five star resort, just let your guests sleep outside under the stars. When it gets 20 below and they’re banging on your door, let them sleep on your couch for a small upcharge. It’s called “mining the miners.” If you live in Douglas or El Paso you can charge extra for eco-tours to the border where your guests can pick up the trash left by your previous guests… the illegal ones. Let the dudes drink cheap rotgut around a bonfire of old railroad ties and listen to you chirp cowboy songs off key. And don’t forget the seminars like, How to Saddle Soap Your Saddle, Grooming Your Horses, Chopping Firewood 101, and Proper Technique in Mucking Out Your Stalls.
Top it off with a wienie roast where dudes can upgrade to hamburgers for a nominal fee. Dude ranchers could learn a lot from the folks running the one and only cruise ship we were on 30 years ago. It cost only $1,200 to get on the boat but if you wanted toilet paper, clean sheets or a window it was $3,500 each!