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March 24, 2017

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Wild Means Wild

                                                                                    By, Colton Jones

In about a week we’ll start gathering the buffalo off their winter pasture on the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands and bring them back across the Cheyenne River to their summer pasture. It will also be the first time I’ll be among them since my accident.

Shortly before Valentine’s Day, I had an unfortunate encounter with one of our bison. Bison, as we know, are and always will be wild animals. I of all people should know this, but that didn’t stop me from vesting an unfortunate amount of faith into the animals I have become familiar with over the last 7 years.  I want to share my experience in hopes to shed light on the authenticity of Wild Idea Buffalo Company's product, and also our herd management. After all, the idea is to keep the wild, wild.

Buffalo Herd

As spring is now officially upon us, we have been preparing for the upcoming calving season over the last month or so. Our herd resides on some 20,000 acres throughout the fall and winter months prior to calving. If you’re thinking to yourself, “20,000 acres seems like a lot of land” you are right. Our fall and winter pasture is not only expansive, it is rough country with lots of draws, sloughs, wooded ravines and Badlands-type terrain. If a bison cow should have her calf prior to crossing the river onto spring and summer pastures, there is a good chance she will become reclusive within the landscape until her calf is mature enough to cross the river. This could potentially create a situation where bison are on two different sides of a fence, which of course is an unnatural setting for the bison and can cause stress to the herd. So, the goal is to keep the herd somewhat close to their spring and summer pasture in the last few remaining days leading up to calving season so that when the time comes, we can bring the whole herd in as one.

Badlands Landscape

One type of management we use to encourage the animals to stay near is to occasionally feed a bale or two of grass hay to the herd when they are in sight. Over the years, Dan has delegated such responsibilities to me as he knows I've gained adequate knowledge on what to do and more importantly, what not to do. He would stress things like “Be sure everyone gets a bite,” that way the whole herd has had a positive interaction with me, the tractor, the area they are feeding in. He also said and still says “I don’t care how long you have been around them, don’t ever trust them.  They are wild animals that have been shaped to live on this land over thousands of years of evolution." I know when Dan shares advice, especially in regard to bison, to not take any of it lightly. These words of wisdom were not absent the day of my accident, but I did give them a pass after some unexpected circumstances came about. This is where I screwed up.

Buffalo eat hay

I called Dan one frozen morning to see if he had caught sight of any bison near the river. He in fact had, which was the cue to fire up the tractor and grab some hay. I made my way down the trail from the hay yard to the river bottom, a bumpy 3-mile trek. The temperature was subzero and the snow had covered the ground for over a month filling in ravines and washouts so that the land looked like one smooth layer of powder.

Once on the river bottom, I maneuvered around familiar rough spots hidden under the snow. I made my way to the herd in a zig zag sort of way. They, on the other hand, took the crow’s route to me, crashing through snow drifts or sometimes jumping over them all together. I had cut the net wrap of the bale prior to entering the pasture that the bison were in so I wouldn't have to get out and do it while they were around. I began unrolling the bale with the tine on the front-end loader of the tractor. I got the 1,200-pound bale about halfway unrolled when I felt the tractor’s front wheels fall through the snow into a washout. The bale tine jabbed into the ground and broke. During this time, the bison had begun to line up along the hay I had rolled out. I slowly exited the tractor and picked up the broken tine in hope of repairing it later. Once I was back in the tractor, I tried different ways to get the bale unrolled without the tine. It wasn’t working. This is where I began to make bad decisions.

Colton Jones Instead of leaving the half bale and returning with the proper equipment to finish the job safely, I
 decided to get out on foot and unroll it by hand. It  
 was something I had done before, but typically, with
 much less hay left to roll out, and thus staying much
 closer to the tractor.

 I proceeded with caution, trying to keep an eye on
 the herd and looking for signs of agitation among
 the bison. Because so much of the bale remained, it was too heavy to maneuver and roll away from the herd, instead, it was rolling out parallel to them. I continued this process until I neared the end of the bale. It was at this moment, I noticed an 800-pound, 3-year-old heifer staring at me. She wasn’t showing any signs of aggression. Sometimes bison will raise their tails, make woofing noises, and paw the ground or even false charge when they feel threatened. She did none of that. But, there was something about the way she was looking at me. She made me feel as if I was an intruder, which I was of course, and that quite possibly she had never seen anything so foreign amongst her family members, or at least not for the last 5 months.

Bison Running

Within a couple of seconds, she started towards me. I looked for nearby safety and saw only the tractor which was at this point 50 or 60 yards away. I knew I didn’t stand a chance of beating her back to the tractor. I knew that if she wanted to protect her kin bad enough, she wasn’t going to let a two-legged upright-walking European get away unpunished to prevent future run-ins. I took off at a sprint toward the tractor anyway. Initially, she blew past as she came at me from the side, nearly hooking me in the hip. She disappeared out of sight behind me for a moment as she made an arch so that we were traveling in single file together. She closed on me fast this way and delivered a glancing blow to the back of my knee. I kept my footing for a short while and reached my hand back to put on her head as if for some dumb reason I was going to stiff arm my way back to the tractor. I felt her horns and then her wooly head with my hand. She must have felt my touch because she shook it off and went in for the final lesson, which was a right horn placed on the inside of my left thigh. As she finished her hook she hoisted all 220 pounds of me up into the air. I came back down on top of her head and somehow happened to slide off her and land on my feet. I kept running, except now she was done. She had carried on with her line right past me until she was halfway between the tractor and me. She stopped for a moment and looked at me. I still needed to get to the tractor and she was in the path. I raised my hands and hollered at her. She snorted and took a couple of defiant bounds back into the rest of herd that was busy snacking.

I crawled into the tractor and began to examine myself. It looked as if she had only ripped my pants. It wasn’t until I began driving that I felt the warm wet feeling pooling up in my jeans. At this point, I just figured I pissed myself, but after further examination, I noticed a puncture wound on the inside of my thigh. Knowing the femoral artery was in the neighborhood, I applied as much pressure as I could while I called Dan to let him know we were going to be taking a trip to the hospital. I still had a lot of pasture to cover before I got to Dan and Jill’s. Then, I saw Dan closing the gap. He was covering ground relatively fast in his Four Runner. He loaded me into the car and we made our way out of the pasture, leaving the tractor behind. We stopped at Dan and Jill’s to let Jill know what was going on. She looks very worried, but remained steady as she was watching my son, Lincoln. She gave me a “go get fixed quickly, I’ll take care of Lincoln” kind of look.

We covered the 45 miles to the hospital in record time while passing a couple state troopers. The ER doctor noted that the puncture was indeed near the femoral artery but luckily had missed it.

JILIAN & COLTON JONES

It wasn’t until my wife, Jilian came into the ER room, that I quickly realized how careless I had been. Her tears reminded me that I wasn’t just lucky to come out of the situation with 35 stitches and a bottle of painkillers, I was lucky that I didn’t shatter the one thing I go to work for every day, which is her and my son of course. It was at this moment that I came to the reckoning that over the years I had been slowly losing my fear of bison, and that fear may be a necessity no matter how long you have been around them. Nothing like this had ever occurred on the ranch before, and I will do everything in my power to make sure it doesn’t again. 

I want to make it very clear that none of this was in any way the bison’s fault. Looking back at it, there were a number of factors that played a role, my negligence being the lead. Our bison had not seen a human in 5 months. I (being a human) impinged upon their safety zone. Bison’s eyes are on the side of their head and have evolved to graze in massive mobs, thus having eyes all around their surroundings. Standing in a straight line side by side hinders the herd’s ability to see all of their surroundings. I have no doubt that encroaching on the heifer’s area in a way that didn’t allow her to see me until I was too close, triggered her instinct to protect. For this, among other things, I am at fault.

BISON CLOSE-UP

This story is a reminder that as we do our best to let bison be bison, as long as WE are involved, there’s a chance for error. The only way to avoid error is to fully RESPECT all things WILD.


Comments

Melissa

March 24, 2017

Wow, amazing story, thank you for sharing. I’m so glad you are a-okay. Family and respect are everything, wishing you the best.

Bob Mahoney

March 25, 2017

Colton welcome to the club of those who have been hooked by our wooly friends. I was hooked by a cow at the EBA SHOW AND SALE several years ago have a twelve inch scar on my right calf, only she cut a nerve in my right calf and I was a couple of years before the nerve grew back together. you know the old saying familiarity breeds contempt it applies to both situations. Take care my friend, but have fun

Ryan Pollock

March 25, 2017

Colton,
You’ve grown and learned so much over the years, and this is just one more I stance that life is a never-ending lesson! So proud of the man you’ve become!

Mr. Pollock

Rhonda

March 26, 2017

Glad you made it out! Scary stuff. Have a safe summer!

Sylvia

March 26, 2017

Stories from Wild Idea Buffalo are always good to read! This was more than a little scarey … but I was glad to find a happy ending.

Markus Erk

March 26, 2017

Glad things turned out as good as they did for you Colton. It could have been much worse….

Liz Aicher

March 26, 2017

glad you are OK, Colton. Scary situation – you got off light! Lessons learned, and a good reminder for all of us who travel in the wild.

Penny Gray

March 26, 2017

Just reading this got my adrenalin flowing. You took a “walk” on the wild side for sure. Glad you’re okay..
Linda Murray

March 26, 2017

Thank you for your honest story. My prayers are with you and your family so that you stay safe. Y’all do wonderful work taking care of the wild bison and keeping them wild. I’m just so sorry you briefly forgot that they are, indeed, wild. I help out a farmer now and again who has a cow pasture next to our home. I feed and water only 2 cows and a calf (bull) at various times during the winter and summer months and have to walk up the pasture with feed thrown over my shoulder. The cattle comes running when they hear the gate open and as they get close I am always amazed at how very big they are and that they can knock me over in a second if I’m not careful with them! Be careful!

Georgene Erickson

March 26, 2017

Hey Colton…………..next thing we know, you’ll be signing up for bull riding and doing the PCRA circuit. Just kidding, of course. Good story – good lesson – good to know that you’re okay.

Joyce Cross

March 26, 2017

Thank you for sharing your terrifying story. So glad you are OK.

john collier

March 26, 2017

Wonderful Story…!!! Too bad you got hurt, but you came out f your “walk On the wild side” Wiser for your next great adventure….!!!!

Lyle Branchflower

March 26, 2017

Yikes!

Mark Holloway

March 26, 2017

Wow, scary stuff there! Glad you are okay!!

Elizabeth

March 26, 2017

Thank you for sharing your story. Makes me appreciate the wonderful meat you guys make available to us all the more.
Be careful out there!

Hannah Specht

March 26, 2017

Thanks for sharing this story to remind us all of the humility required to do the incredible work you all do.

Mary Flaherty

March 26, 2017

I like to read any stories from you. This was scary.
I am glad you are OK. I got chased by a bull one time!
Managed to get in my vehicle, fast.

Cheves Leland

March 26, 2017

I’m so thankful you are ok. Thank you for sharing your story and for the respect and love you have for the bison. Im so glad I found Wild Idea Buffalo and hope I can see the land and bison one day. Take care.

Ann Reiling

March 26, 2017

Colton, so glad you are ok!!! What a well written story, one I’m sure you will always remember! Thx for sharing!

Adria Hagg

March 26, 2017

This is an amazing story and a great lesson. Thank you for sharing.

Adria Hagg

Shelley Morrison

March 26, 2017

SO glad you are OK. In the summer of 2015 my husband and I brought our grandchildren (ages 13 and 11 at the time) to tour the Wild Idea Ranch, and we met your little son and wife. We had an amazing time; we’ll remember it always. Sounds like you’ve learned your lesson and that you’ll be sure to keep yourself safe for your beautiful family.

Jon and Andrea

March 26, 2017

Glad you are ok and hopefully not too worse for
the wear. They are beautiful but truly wild beasts.
Be well!!

Michael Huwaldt

March 26, 2017

I so appreciate all you guys do to allow the buffalo to be the wild animals they are. It is admirable and comforting to hear how wise and committed your response to such a intense experience has been. Will always be grateful for Wild Idea.

Dennis Jewett

March 26, 2017

Thank you Colton for sharing your wild side story. It makes us realize just how real this life is and appreciate the hard work and dangers that are hidden to provide us with such healthy meat. I am so glad for you and your family that you are able to enlighten us with this adventure in your life. Take care friend and hope you heal quickly. Thanks for your hard work. It sounds like Dan and Jill are wonderful people as well. They really care.

Bronwyn Gundogdu

March 26, 2017

Thanks for sharing your experience and your lesson learned. So glad you are ok!

Bruce Green

March 26, 2017

Glad you will be around for the BiSonTennial celebration.?

Jill

March 26, 2017

Well, Colton, you helped me out. Western WA, where I live, has been deluged with rain for weeks. I walk and hike as much as I can, but some days are just too slippery and nasty to get my cardio rate up. You managed to raise my cardio rate with your story, while I was warm and dry by the wood stove.
Thank you!

Jim Rudolph

March 26, 2017

Thank you for reminding this hiker what the rules are; “never trust em.” My wife was pinned behind a tree in Estes Park by a big bull Elk. The standoff was over an hour. The picture of you, your sweet wife and son make me think the 35 stiches are a small price in exchange for a good outcome. I suspect at some point in time Dan will retire and you will have a young person helping to manage the bison. Your hard earned experience will get passed on! As a long time customer, I’m grateful to know all of you better thru this blog.

Tim Axley

March 26, 2017

Colton, I’m certainly glad you made it to safety and Dan was nearby to offer assistance. I know the day you took my wife, her friend and I with you and Dan I thought “these guys know what they’re doing.” I still feel that way. You just make a mistake that could have ended poorly for your family. Stay safe and follow your advice ALWAYS. Of course always listen to Dan!

Jeffrey Potent

March 27, 2017

A powerful story that reminds us about our place in the order of things. Thank you for sharing.
Jess

March 27, 2017

What an awesome recount of your encounter. Glad you made it away safely. A very wise lesson in there, especially as “tourist season” looms ahead. To all those heading to Custer State Park, Yellowstone and such – the animals are wild, respect their space.

Nancy Barker

March 27, 2017

Thank you for this account of your experience. I
I am so thankful you are alright and able to share your experience. What a scare! Hold your family tight and keep an eye on those magnificent bison!

Brent Schott

March 27, 2017

Colt, excellent job crafting the story. I’m just really glad it has a happy ending. Be safe and ride on!

Scott

March 27, 2017

As a side comment about farm equipment and tractors I wonder if one of these would be more reliable.
The Fordson Snow Machine.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AiD501frxNI

Paul

March 27, 2017

I occasionally hunt ducks on a SW Montana ranch that has a small herd of bison. One of the critters is a cow that, as a calf, was bottle-fed, so it associates people with food. She, appropriately named “Calamity,” led a bunch of her buddies towards me as I was retreating to my truck, and started hooking a horn on the rear view mirror. I set a backing-up speed record. Since that incident I avoid hunting there when I see the bison in the same area as the little creek.

Jane Sievert

March 27, 2017

Happy you are okay Colton!

Yes, those buffalo beautiful wild creatures. Hi to the family and we just got our latest box of from Wild Idea. best, jane

Christine

March 27, 2017

Holy shit! Just can’t mess with a woman like that, can you? Glad you’re Ok.

Carl Batha

March 27, 2017

Sure am glad your were repairable. Yes, we all can become lax over time. Lesson learned. Dad always said, “learn by the mistakes of others because you won’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”

Paul D. Butler

March 27, 2017

Much appreciate you writing about your story………it could well save someone from injury in the future.

Barbara Henry

March 27, 2017

Thank Heavens you came out OKAY!! What a scare! My grandfather had a Taxidermy Buffalo Head on the wall in his workshop in Anadarko, Oklahoma, given to him in a friendship gesture by one of the local Indian Chiefs. As a little girl, I was so scared of it, I wouldn’t go near but all the neighborhood kids got their fright just peering through the window to see the scary big glass eye staring at them. I used to think it could move its eye to watch us!! So happy you are alright and now even more mindful of the fact that these magnificent beasts are indeed wild!
Happy Trails!Thanks for the thrilling account of your story with a happy ending!

John Patterson

March 27, 2017

God Bless you, I know I never want to see our reflection in a charging buffs eye, seems they don’t care much for the pipes of a Harley. I was following a car in Yellowstone up a slight grade and the car just stopped next to a large bull. I didn’t know they stand on two legs and strike like a ram.

Kenneth James & Leslie Terrys

March 27, 2017

Great story and hard earned wisdom! That’s the kind that stays with ya! Glad ya didn’t “Cowboy” it up. The story that is!
All the best to you and yours. Glad you are involved with Wild Idea! At age 8 I broke my left leg in playground 15miles from the hospital. Those kind of pickup rides are a whole nother story.

carol

March 28, 2017

I’m, new to your website…really enjoyed your story as I lived one summer on a 4,000 acre cattle, ranch in Sundance Wyoming…so I had to quickly learn, about Bulls and Mommas and their calves I learned things I never dreamed of…how to tag,brand,casterate…. deliver a calf Casearan,.make butter….de-hair a hog… rescue baby calves on horseback in a blizzard. AND I was only 24. Memories I will cherish forever. But my real home was in South Dakota 40 miles from the BUFFALO in Custer State Park… Was camping, dawn came-woke up- crawled out of tent….. one night in the Badlands…. was face to face with a very large buffalo. Sounds crazy but I swear we had some sort of communication. we stared at each other(no movement for a long time , then he turned and calmly walked away. One of many animal experiences I,v been lucky to have. You are so lucky to live there and do what you LOVE. Thnx again. I need to come visit.P>S> I,m also a life long small animal rescuer, so have MANY animal stories. and of course am a HUGE animal advocate ….so very happy to see how your animals live and are treated I cant tell you how much I HATE factory farms. I,m glad I found your website

Larry

March 28, 2017

Colton, My wife Cathy and I toured the land with you early season in 2015 when heading back home to Alaska. It was a wonderful experience and while the buffs and country were spendid enough, what we also remember was your hospitality, knowledge, and engaging manner. You made us feel not only safe and welcome but like a member of your family during that short encounter. Reading this account and of your lesson reminder made us remember your warm and capable manner and we are very relieved to read of your recovery and reflections. As a regular “customer”, a fan of Dan’s books, and Jill’s recipes, I can see you writing a bit more in the future and possibly adding to the Wild Idea library!

Mick Harrison

March 28, 2017

Knew a fella that was killed by his son’s “pet” bison some years ago.

PC

March 28, 2017

Dood!

Margaret Moe Jagodzinske

March 28, 2017

Breathtaking story, Colton. We live in Colorado on a cattle ranch and know that they are just like the ocean – you never turn your back. You write so well that your adventure/lesson leaves one breathless. So glad you are a survivor. Eleanore sent me the link – she keeps track of all of you.

Norbert Sichterman

March 28, 2017

That must have been a well traveled buffalo. How did she know that you were a European?

Karen Filter

March 28, 2017

Oh my gosh…. I pray you are healing well and PRAISE GOD she didn’t hit your femoral artery! You write well. I was all tensed up and holding my breath….hahaha!

Paul Knowles

March 29, 2017

Great story Colton. Moments in life that one survives​ that get one’s​ adrenaline directing the flow of action help to develop the ability for clear thinking and instantaneous decision-making needed for the next one that comes along. It’s definitely wisdom that strengthens you. It’s all about surviving. Great job!

Billie

March 29, 2017

Glad you are healing well, neighbor! Be careful out there. Tim and Billie

Gary Parks

March 30, 2017

Thanks for sharing your story.I’m glad everything turned out okay.Just goes to prove the things we enjoy doing we must never take for granted .Ranching is hard work and weather plays a part we all deal with.Thanks for all you do to provide such a wonderful product.Believe me we all appreciate what goes into Wild Buffalo

Lewis (aka buffalo man) Dixon

March 30, 2017

Thank you for sharing, now it is more than a business, it is persinial, thank you

Warren Smith

March 31, 2017

Colton – Glad to hear you’re on the mend. After reading this account, I’m honored all the more the way you care well for my students when we bring them out west to visit the ranch and see the beautiful bison. I trust your continued recovery will go well.

lokee

March 31, 2017

they are wild…let them be…don’t turn them into cattle….we have way to many cattle four legged and two legged now

Melina Sempill Watts

April 01, 2017

Glad that you survived, that sounds so frightening. Much love to your wife and son. <3 I’m mpressed that you are ready to go back to work with the bison.

Sherry Morrison

April 02, 2017

So glad to hear you weren’t hurt worse or killed! I had the awesome experience of meeting a bull bison and two cows some years ago. My husband and I drove truck and we had to stop one night due to a blizzard at a small truck stop on Wyoming. While there, two men were there that after striking up a conversation with them, told us they were hauling some bison to their ranch. They even invited us to Thanksgiving dinner there. Unfortunately we couldn’t go. We came to find out they had a bison ranch and told us all about bison. Later they asked if we wanted to go a get a close up look at them, which of course I was all for it! They’re an amazing animal. I was really shocked and amazed just how huge they are! The Bull’s head was almost as big as me! It was something I will never forget! Take care!

Larissa Helbig

April 03, 2017

Reading your story I see flashbacks of the times I have done exactly what you did. Although I was fortunate not to have been injured in the process. However, I too have had an unfortunate incident with my bison that left me in the ICU/trauma unit at the hospital for six weeks. In my case the horn missed my heart my mere millimetres. My heart sack had scratches on it from the horn passing by on its way through my chest and blowing out my sternum. As you mentioned, we can never forget that these animals carry instincts that we need to respect but still things can happen with even more than 20 years of experience, in my case.
Thank you for sharing your story. All the best in your recovery.

Carl D Brown

April 03, 2017

Colton,
Nice write up on your buffalo encounter. Your Grandpa and I enjoyed a good laugh….remember that your Mom thought you might need to be careful about hanging out with a couple of ole characters like us…you might learn some bad habits. Imagine that?

Really glad you’re alright, and so that you are reminded to stay that way I’ve given you a address to grab your theme song:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skFWsc_-i14

Take care…

Carl

Big vetrono

April 03, 2017

Through you we are reminded that animals are just that…wild. As I’ve aged, I respect them better!

Michael Elias

April 03, 2017

Colton,
Glad you are able to come out of this OK. Experience in never easy and doesn’t come cheap. You are now “entitled” when working with less experienced colleagues to explain why “I had gotten complacent……..” at the start of a similar situation and make sure they understand the respect needed. Good luck!!

Regards,
Mike

Seth Ames

April 03, 2017

I guide trips into Yellowstone to see the buffalo. People do things alot pore dangerous than you did and get away with it. I was chased last year in Grand Teton National Park by a cow bison that was 40 yards away from me. It’s like playing Russian roulette if you don’t have an escape route. Thanks for sharing Colton.

Patrick Warren

April 24, 2017

dang

Linda Parkes

May 18, 2017

Thanks for writing this and I am happy that you survived the encounter. We must always remember that these are wild and powerful beasts.When I visited Yellowstone I actually witnessed people getting very close to them to snap a photo, despite all the warnings.

Mark Smith

May 23, 2017

It seems that anyone who has ever worked with these critters has similar stories to tell, Even me…. LOL, May I be so bold as to make a suggestion for your next close encounter. When working in the fields with my Bison I always took a hat or loose piece of clothing with me. When I was not paying attention enough and had to seek “higher ground” as you did, I would throw the hat or coat into the air and it always stopped them as it fell to the ground giving me the time I needed to make my hasty retreat…. I learned to do this after I got run over by a couple of heifers that I did not respect enough…. Glad you are safe and I am jealous of you Job!!!

Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor

June 14, 2017

I really enjoyed your story. In 1987 I was involved in a bison management project using our Australian Shepherds with the Department of Interior.

http://lasrocosa.com/lasrocosahistory5.html

All the best,
Jeanne joy

Marie Johns

June 18, 2017

This was such a well-written account. Thank you for sharing your story and the lesson learned.

Mary Kay Christensen

June 24, 2017

So glad you made it out of there safe.

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