Outfitter Profile: North Park’s Buffalo Creek Ranch

Ranch manager John Ziegman maintains that Buffalo Creek Ranch in North Park of Jackson County is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

“It can only be experienced,” says Ziegman, who’s worked on the 20,000-acre ranch for nearly 30 years. “Nearly every guest comments on how great it is.”

With four to six guides and a two-to-one client-to-guide ratio, Buffalo Creek hosts up to 35 hunters a year, divided into about five archery hunters and 30 rifle. The most at any one time, says Ziegman, is eight, all of whom stay in the ranch’s well-appointed, six-bedroom lodge.

“About 80 percent of our guests are repeat clients,” he says. “We have a high success rate, a beautiful lodge, great meals and great guides.”

It’s these guides, as well as the terrain, which keeps guests coming back. They’re all local, live on the ranch and know the area better than anyone. “They’re the main reason people have such a great experience here,” says Ziegman.

His clients agree. “The elk habitat is great; it’s not over-hunted and feels like the animals’ natural environment,” says Edwards, Colo., hunter Dwight Merriman, who will return this season for his ninth year hunting with Buffalo Creek. “They’re not spooked and are pretty settled in. And the staff, guides, food and lodging are great.”

Another key, adds Ziegman, is that it’s a working cattle ranch, which fosters great wildlife habitat. Owned for more than 20 years by the MacLeod family from Michigan, which has strived to improve the ranch’s Western heritage, the 20,000-acre ranch harbors evidence of early settlers everywhere — including log cabins, antique equipment and water ditches. Hunters find reminders of the area’s early pioneers at such landmarks as Chambers Meadow, House Reservoir, Ridings Field, Friends Draw, the Slack Ditch, Brennan Pasture and Whiskey Bill’s Draw.

“We realize the good fortune and responsibility bestowed upon us as caretakers of this special place,” Ziegman says. “We believe sharing it with others will help protect it and keep the memories of these early settlers alive.”

At the end of the day, hunters return to such meals as steak, prime rib, barbecue, smoked meats and more, as well as the cozy confines of the lodge to tell their tales and rest up for the next day.

“It’s all about service,” Ziegman says, adding the hunts are all on foot, with fully enclosed blinds also available. “We can’t guarantee you’ll get an elk, but we can control the service we provide. We focus on the whole hunting experience. We can’t control wildlife movements, densities and behavior, but we can perfect the various aspects of the business we can control.”

That, and a 90 percent success rate harvesting bulls, is what keep clients coming back. “The whole operation is great,” says nine-year returning hunter Mike Travis of Tennessee. “I love everything about it.”

Amenities such as guides, food and lodging aside, as with real estate it boils down to location — which spells limited hunting pressure and a prime experience. “As soon as you step out of the lodge, you’re in prime hunting habitat,” Ziegman says. “Elk feel pretty comfortable here.” Info: www.buffalocreek.com