Guests and cows, Red Reflet takes unique approach to agriculture
Ten Sleep – South of Ten Sleep, Bob and Laurence Kaplan purchased a ranching operation with the intent of finding a place they could enjoy during their retirement.
“We came from Jackson,” Bob says. “In Jackson, we saw a great deal of bustle, helter-skelter growth and frenetic tourists trying to squeeze a month’s worth of sight seeing into three days.”
The negative atmosphere led the couple to begin a search for a ranch.
“We undertook a ranch search with the idea that we would be on the ranch in the summer and go ski in the winter,” Bob continues. “My skiing enthusiasm faded, and after the five years it took to find this place, we also had a home in Arizona.”
When they closed the sale, Bob and Laurence decided they should spend their time on the ranch, so they sold their Arizona home and moved to Wyoming.
“Laurence and I did not spend our adult lives together,” says Bob. “This was a joint venture that was new, exciting and different for us. It was an opportunity completely unlike our past experience.”
The new opportunity didn’t start with the idea of creating a guest ranch, either.
“Our general contractor was so proficient and so resourceful that I told Laurence I thought we could make this into a guest ranch if we wanted to,” he continues. “She thought that would be a lot of fun and a really nice adventure.”
After deciding to move forward with a guest ranch, Bob designed four chalets and a lodge, as well as a number of other facilities that have been constructed through the years.
“We have had 26 or 28 projects that ranged from moving the cattle center a mile from the ranch house to building facilities and a small airstrip,” Bob says.
He also notes that they appreciated the landscape and hoped to incorporate it into the ranch’s appeal.
“The landscape here is really quite special,” Bob explains. “We found this ranch had a diversity of landscape like none of the others we looked at.”
“When I asked Laurence, ‘Do you know how many guest ranches we looked at before we decided to buy this place?’ She answered, ‘I do. None.’ It has been a great adventure,” he continues.
The guest ranch provides a wide variety of activities for guests at an all-inclusive rate.
“We designed our format to reflect what we would want to find when we arrived as guests,” Bob says. “We include everything from shooting and full-time use of an ATV to pick up at the Worland airport, the opportunity to ride horses and the chance to work cattle. It includes everything a guest can eat, drink, or do.”
The format allows families to be at ease knowing their vacation is covered and to enjoy time in an intimate setting.
“We set the rates high and limit the number of guests, so everyone can do what they want in their own schedule,” Bob says.
‘A series of delightful surprises’
“This business has been very interesting and very satisfying,” Bob notes.
Each morning, guests are provided with all the necessary supplies to prepare their own breakfast in a fully equipped chalet kitchen. The ranch’s full-time culinary trained chef and pastry chef prepare the remaining meals each day.
“No meals are served the same,” he comments. “We try to utilize the ranch butcher shop, ranch eggs, large garden and greenhouse as much as we can.”
“The whole intent of the operation is to give our guests a series of delightful surprises,” he continues.
Bob says that right now, Red Reflet doesn’t look to increase the number of guests that it is serving.
Rather he says he hopes to serve current guests at the highest level possible.
“There are so many new things that are fun to do together here,” Bob says. “From dad to the youngest of the kids, families are experiencing something new, and that is what builds memories and experiences.”
Working cattle ranch
While hosting guests during the spring, summer, fall and winter months, Red Reflet also serves as a full-time working Black Angus cattle ranch.
Harry Mills, cattle operations manager, says, “We run mother cows and replacement heifers, and we have about 50 guest horses.”
With a small crew, including wranglers Clay and Tammy Trollinger, Harry says they keep themselves busy with the cattle and raising hay.
To hit their target markets, calving dates have been moved. Rather than February and March calving, heifers are calved in April and cows calve in May.
“We used to artificially inseminate the cows, as well as the heifers, but because the herd is all natural, we moved calving later into spring. The only place to AI would be on the mountain, and that would be too difficult,” he comments. “We are looking at phasing out AI’ing the heifers, as well.”
Harry continues, “Our cows are run here on the ranch during the spring and winter, and they run in the Big Horn Mountains in the summer.”
The cows graze up to 7,500 feet, and Harry says that larkspur can be a challenge.
When steers are shipped in the fall, Harry notes that Bob retains ownership on the calves but sends them to a feedlot in Nebraska that finishes them for Whole Foods.
That same time, the cows are taken to a farm in Worland or the badlands until early January, when they are trucked and trailed, respectively, back to the ranch to be fed until calving.
Red Reflet also irrigates enough hay to feed to their cattle during the winter months.
“We have artesian wells that feed these pivots,” Harry says. “The wells start in the spring with an incredible amount of pressure, but by the end of the summer, the pressure backs off.”
One of the differences between Red Reflet and other working ranches is that Harry works to incorporate guests into the activities of the ranch.
“I try to incorporate moving cows and branding with when guests are here,” he says. “Some of them aren’t crazy about it, but some of them really enjoy it and want to be involved.”
Harry notes that guests interested in the agriculture operations of Red Reflet Ranch have the opportunity to see what happens on a Wyoming ranch.
“We do things a little differently here to accommodate guests,” he comments. “When we brand, we do small numbers and shorter days. We bring in lunch for the guests and provide them a whole experience.”
Ten Sleep benefits
Red Reflet’s cattle and guest operations continue to be successful, and Harry says he appreciates his job.
“I think ranching is in my blood,” says Harry. “I’ve worked on this place since before Bob bought it, and I enjoy working here.”
Bob says that Ten Sleep has been a great community to move into, and they enjoy Red Reflet Ranch.
“Ten Sleep is a lovely community that is very welcoming,” he explains. “It is very western in so many ways, and they embrace a, ‘Mean what we say, do what we say we are going to do,’ motto.”
Though he says they were hesitant in moving to the area because their background is substantially different than many community members, Bob adds, “It didn’t make any difference to the people here.”
Bob also comments that he feels the ability to enjoy life during his retirement is important.
“We have learned so much, and this has been a really great experience in a community that is so supportive and nice,” he comments. “Life is not about what we have, it is about how we enjoy life and how we put into life those things that are savory and enjoyable.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.