Thursday, September 11, 2014

Get Your Camo On! 4 Popular Types of Camouflage for the Upcoming Hunting Season

If you are familiar with hunting at all, chances are you know that hunters wear camouflage. 'Camouflage,' by definition, means 1. "the disguising of military personnel, equipment, and installations by painting or covering them to make them blend in with their surroundings" and 2. "to hide or disguise the presence of (a person, animal, or object) by means of camouflage." While the military and the hunting industry have perfected camouflage as a useful tool, the patterns known as camo have become popular fashion statements as well. You see it everywhere - on clothing, on vehicles, backpacks, OtterBoxes; you name it, it probably comes in camo. I myself am guilty of the camo craze, and I have the sweatshirt, bedspread and seat covers to prove it! So with all this camo out there, what should you be wearing for the upcoming hunting season? Here are a few of the most popular choices.

Realtree Xtra: Realtree Xtra Camo is a 3D pattern that is designed to effectivley blend into forested surroundings in fall, winter, and early spring. With 12 natural colors integrated into the pattern, the deer won't be able to see you coming! Your hunting gear will be studded with large trees, small twigs and an assortment of leaves to help you blend in.

Realtree Xtra Camo Photo credit:

Realtree Hardwoods HD: Realtree Hardwoods HD Camo is a versatile season and region camo. This pattern is designed to effectively make the visible edges of the hunter disappear into the woods. You will be outfitted with perfectly colored timber to disguise your hunting spot even in the dead of winter!

Realtree Hardwoods HD Camo Photo Credit:

Mossy Oak Break-Up Infinity: Using real images from the woods, Mossy Oak Break-Up Infinity is a camo with true depth to really break up (hence the name) the outline of the hunter wearing it.  This pattern features realism and contrast, and you will certainly match the woods when you wear Mossy Oak's acorns, leaves and tree limbs!

Mossy Oak Break-Up Infinity Camo Photo Credit:

Mossy Oak Bottomland: Mossy Oak Bottomland is the company's first and original camo pattern - they call it 'The Foundation of Concealment.'  This subtle pattern, still featuring the original look but with newer technology, it helps a hunter blend into darker environments. Your outfit will have some nice tones of dirt and bark added to it with this pattern!

Mossy Oak Bottomland Camo Photo Credit:

This is a very small glimpse at all of the different camo patterns out there - you won't have any trouble finding one that suits your hunting style - or your fashion flair!  Happy hiding!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ferdinand and Eeyore: New additions to the Miller Bison at Elkhead Ranch family!

Ferdinand and Eeyore are the newest additions to the Miller Bison at Elkhead Ranch livestock family. They are yearling Brahman bulls and currently are weighing in at 1200 lbs. and 1150 lbs., respectively. They are going to be BIG boys! These big boys are full brothers and come to the us from the England Brahman Ranch in Mercedes, TX. (Thank goodness they are used to the hot weather because since they have arrived, we have been in a heatwave!)

Even though Ferdinand and Eeyore are full brothers, each bull has his own distinct personality. Ferdinand was named by my grandsons because one of their favorite books is Ferdinand the Bull. Ferdinand will let you stand and scratch his poll, rub his ears and wiggle the many folds of skin under his chin. He was hauled around the US going to Brahman Shows and is halter broke, so he is very tame and easy to handle. He has the 'England Brahman Bulls' brand on his right hip, and #307 on his left hip. He is so gentle, I wouldn't even hesitate letting our grandchildren pet him!


Eeyore also has his own unique personality. He is much like the Winnie the Pooh character he is named after; a bit shy with long, drooping ears. When he first arrived at the ranch, he would stand away from me when I fed Ferdinand from my bucket. But, slowly, he has begun to trust me. Today, I can scratch his poll and pet him on the head. He is still a bit shy around new people, however. He is much more comfortable with only 1 person in the corral at a time. He, too, has the England brand on his right hip, with his #306 on his left hip. I think he is going to be a darker gray color than Ferdinand.  He has already become darker around his hump and neck, since he has been here.


You might be wondering why these Brahman bulls were purchased. 

Well, it is simple. They are going to be the 'husbands' to our Hereford cows. The cross between a Brahman bull and a Hereford cow produces what is called an F-1 Tiger Stripe. These Tiger Stripes (we have 6 cows on the ranch- see pictures below) are easy 'calvers', easy keepers, and don't mind the heat. There is a good market for the Tiger Striped calves, especially the heifers.

The Tiger Striped phenotype is recessive. Therefore, the 'tiger-striped' look will not be produced from F-1 Tiger Stripes. In other words, the Tiger Striped cows you see below will NEVER produce a Tiger Striped calf. That is why we have chosen to cross the Registered Hereford cows (our choice for the cows) x Registered Brahman bull. The cow in the first picture below has the phenotype we are striving to produce in our calves from the Hereford and Brahman bull cross. 

F-1 Tiger Striped cows on the ranch, currently.

The latest pictures of Ferdinand and Eeyore enjoying their breakfast.  

I can't wait to see the first calves that these big boys produce. They will be turned out with a few open Hereford cows very soon. So, the first babies F-1 Tiger Striped babies should arrive sometime in June, 2015.  The female calves will be Golden Certified with the American Brahman Breeders Association.   I will be anxious to share pictures of these new babies when they arrive!!! 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Deluxe Hunting Blinds and 10 Point Bucks are ready for Deer Season

September is almost here - I’m not certain what that means to you, but here it means deer season is on the horizon. September 15th opens up Missouri Archery whitetail season which lasts till January 15th with only a 10 day break for rifle season (which runs from November 15-25). With just under a month to go until the first big deer season of the year, we have been doing everything we can to make your odds of getting big buck that much better here on our ranch! We are a fair chase hunting retreat when it comes to deer and turkey, so there are no guarantees but that’s what makes it fun!

A soybean food plot just outside one of our hunting blinds.
Here on the ranch we have planted acre after acre of soybean and clover food plots to grow our deer as big as we can and some of these guys on our trail cams are showing it! We have over 50 acres of dedicated wildlife food plots that we manage and plant to up your odds of bringing down your very own Ozarks trophy with either a bow, rifle, or crossbow. We also set out mineral blocks to guarantee that those guys are getting all that they need to grow those big ole racks you’ll be looking for on your hunt here.

We have 7 cameras out facing our mineral blocks in the food plots so that we can place you right where the big guys are at this season. No matter which stand you sit in, every one of the cameras promises the potential for an awesome harvest. Even with several deer in velvet and still growing, we are getting pictures of 8s and 10s out there. Our stand options include two deluxe hunting blinds about 10 feet in the air with sliding windows and swivel barber chairs, or one of several two seater ladder stands. Whichever you hunt out of is completely up to your preference.

One of our deluxe hunting blinds
To book a deer, turkey or even a bison hunt with us, visit our website, shoot us an email or simply give us a call at 1-417-683-6888.  We would love to hear from you- or even better, set you up with a great trophy this season!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Book Review: Portraits of the Bison

During the National Bison Association Conference earlier this summer, Caleb and I purchased a book that was written by Canada's leading bison expert, Wes Olson, called Portraits of the Bison. As the summer went on, we found ourselves frequently referring to this book, since it contained lots of pictures and information on the animals we care for on a daily basis. It's a great book for bison and nature enthusiasts alike! Check out my review below.

Portraits of the Bison: An Illustrated Guide to Bison Society, 2nd Edition
Written by Wes Olson, Photographs by Johane Janelle

This beautiful book about the North American Bison features one of the biggest bison photo collections in print. The full color photos by Johane Janelle of these amazing animals, accompanied by Wes Olson's eloquent writing style, really draw you into the world of bison societies.

Chapter 1 tells the story of the bison saga: from plentiful roaming herds to near extinction to the conservation of bison in today's world.

Chapter 2 goes into detail about safety and awareness when being around bison – whether you own a herd, or just happen to stumble upon a lone bull while hiking through Yellowstone. Olson offers sound wisdom on being aware of a bison's 'bubble,' and how to look for signs like pawing and head tossing to tell when an agitated animal might charge.

Chapter 3 discusses the seasonal structure of bison herds and provides the reader with a glimpse of what it's like to be a bison in the spring when bison cows abandon their yearlings to attend to new calves, or during the summer, when breeding season can draw hundreds of bison together.

Chapter 4 features photos and drawings of male and female bison at different stages in their lives so that the reader can learn to identify the age and gender of bison at a glance.

Bison lovers and naturalists of all kinds are sure to enjoy this informative book! It is written in such a way that people who may not be very familiar with bison can understand the material, through drawings, diagrams, descriptive language, and of course, plenty of photographs, while still being entertaining and enjoyable for the more seasoned bison folks out there.

The part of the book that engaged me the most were the drawings by Wes Olson. The details of them, along with the descriptive captions and diagrams indicating each part of the animal, were fascinating to someone who can't draw! Wes has a way of bringing the animals on the pages to life with each stroke of the pen.

Being fairly new to the bison industry, I found Portraits of the Bison to be a wealth of information, especially when it came to telling the gender of our summer calf crop. The book taught me to look for a smooth underbelly on heifer calves, and to look closely for little round buttons that indicate a calf is a bull. With the drawings from the book as a guide, I'm now fairly confident in my observation skills!

 Portraits of the Bison can be purchased through the National Bison Association for $39.95.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

3 Reasons you should be eating Responsibly Ranch Raised Bison Meat

If you read our blog, you know that we raise bison here at Miller Bison at Elkhead Ranch.  You probably also know that we are affiliated with the National Bison Association (NBA), that we sell bison meat products at the Farmers Market of the Ozarks in Springfield, MO and that we offer tours, cabin rentals and hunting opportunities all at our Southern Missouri bison ranch.  But what you may be wondering is: why eat bison?  Allow me to shed some light on the subject:

Bison tastes good.

Really, really, good.  Before coming to work at Miller Bison at Elkhead Ranch, I had little to no experience with eating bison meat. In fact, I just assumed it was an elitist Montana tourist food. But then I ate some. And I haven't eaten beef since.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Welcome to the Market: Selling Bison Meat at Farmers Market of the Ozarks

Caleb and I have always loved farmers markets. We love to shop local, and to meet like minded farmer folk - plus we always end up finding some really cool vegetable, tasty baked good or awesome smelling homemade soap. So when it came time to start selling bison meat from our ranch at Farmers Market of the Ozarks in Springfield, Missouri, we were SUPER excited. We would finally get to see what it was like to be on the other side of the vendor booth...

Jane and Caleb ready to sell some bison meat!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Bison Ranch Life: Eating Local Foods

Local food is a blessing to have and here on the ranch we have it in abundance - but I'm not just talking about the several hundred bison that roam our hills, woods and pastures. Local food cuts down the miles your food travels, increases your awareness of the local climate, flora and fauna and can help you to stick to a healthier diet. Which really isn't a challenge to stick to when you can put on a meal of Catfish Parmesan with asparagus and morels as a side dish. Or perhaps you're more of a red meat lover and want to go with a deer roast served with young potatoes, onions, and carrots. Perhaps for breakfast you're a steak and eggs kind of person; well Miller Bison at Elkhead Ranch has that to. Personally I love to cook and these are the sort of meals I make with the food from the ranch and with the fully equipped kitchen at the guest cabin you too can make these meals (in the right season of course). Join us at our cabin and see all that we have to offer in whatever season you chose to join us. Here I'll just give you a brief overview of the local foods we have when you come to stay with us (just to get your appetite going).

The Pond:

Catfish from Elkhead Lake right here on the ranch.
Our pond, which to me seems more like a small lake, runs just over 30 feet deep and covers 10 acres. The waters are teeming with 17-19 inch catfish (at the current time), some really nice sized bass, and of course plenty of bluegill. If the amazing fishing that the pond offered wasn't enough the pond sits on top of the ranch and has in my opinion the second best view of the sunset and sunrise (the best being the guest cabin's front porch). On three sides the pond is bordered by bison pastures so at the moment when I go fishing I can look over from the dock and see our newborn bison calves playing around with their mothers on the other side of their fence.

The Wildlife:

Everywhere you look there seems to be something, I am constantly spooking up quail, rabbits, and squirrels, being stared at by gorgeous deer, or simply being put in awe at the numerous flocks of turkey I see on a daily basis. These are some of the more common game animals that I see on the ranch but it not uncommon to also find many species of ducks and geese, and even this morning I found a nice sized snapping turtle in the creek. Now folks, I know you may have read that and thought "eww who wants to eat snapping turtle," but trust me, don’t knock it till you try it, those armored tanks can make an amazing meal. While not quite your red-blooded kind of wild life the ranch also sits on some amazing morel ground that is ripe for the picking in the spring and could easily be found on a hike through the forested hillsides and bottoms.


The Chicken Coop
One of the hens with a new baby chick!
We currently have 11 laying hens here, I say currently not because we are going to expand our flock but because one hen just hatched 5 little chicks to add to the flock. We don’t have a rooster because contrary to popular belief they do not crow only first thing in the morning but instead all day and I even once had one that loved crowing right at 1 am every morning.

The fertilized eggs she hatched, if you were wondering, came from Klaires’ parents flock - she went broody and I swapped the eggs out. Our hens are definitely not battery hens, I can promise that, they have a very spacious hen house built by a small local company in Seymour, Missouri and a fenced in yard that is around 250 feet long and about 75 feet wide, as you can see above. These are about as close as you can get to free range chickens without them having to get out of the way of the tractor. We get several eggs a day, more so then we can seem to eat, but they are an amazing variety with white, brown and green eggs. For those curious we have primarily Rhode Island reds, Americana’s, and Barred Rocks.

The Garden:

This year I have started a rather large garden here at the ranch, probably too large for my first year, but it stretches 175 foot long and 25 foot wide. We are growing radishes, onions, carrots, beets, tomatoes, Australian squash, zucchini, several types of peppers, green beans, shell beans, potatoes and I am trying wheat. All of our plants in the garden are heirloom varieties, and I try to grow them as naturally as I can which means a lot of manual weed pulling, hand picking pest insects, mulching, and companion planting. Next to the garden we also grow three beds of sweet corn.

The Bison:

Well last but not least, and the very reason I am here, BISON. Our primary goal here is to raise the highest possible quality of bison. The herd fluctuates, especially right now with calves being born, but our numbers run about 300 head of yearling calves, around 20 cows and so long as no one jumps a fence, 5 bulls. To ensure that we do what's best for the bison, the land, and in the end, your health, we follow a set of grazing principles known as Management Intensive Grazing. I'll do another blog article soon on exactly what that entails, what it means to us, and ultimately the health of the land and the quality of our meat. The short and sweet of it right now is that this allows us to keep our bison happy and on green grass for as much of the year as the grass stays green while building the quality of our soil. And when your bison are happy, you get an amazing result... some of the best meat in the world–available online and on select days at the Farmers Market of the Ozarks in Springfield, MO!  

Honestly sitting here typing all of this is making me rather hungry, and I’m really looking forward to my dinner of a Bison burger on homemade sourdough buns with pan fried zucchini and young onions. Come join us and see where your food does or can come from. Remember folks, eat local when you can but above all eat responsibly and healthily.

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