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During an evening reception on July 19, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission (WGFC) recognized seven landowners who have displayed excellence in their partnership with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD). One landowner was recognized from each WGFD region across the state.

Over the next 14 weeks, the Roundup will provide a brief summary of each ranch receiving the WGFD Landowner of the Year Award. For more information on the award, visit wgfd.wyo.gov.

From the Green River Region, Robert and Maggie Taylor, Zac Schofield and Melissa Taylor of Lonetree Ranch received the 2017 Landowner of the Year Award.

“The Taylors own the Lonetree Ranch in southern Uinta County,” WGFD says, “Robert Taylor, his wife Maggie Taylor, along with their daughter-in-law Marrisa Taylor and son-in-law and ranch manager Zac Shofield, run the day-to-day operations on the ranch.”

The family works to maintain an economically viable working ranch while also enhancing the land and water quality.

WGFD says, “The ranch sits in the Henrys Fork River Valley and is home to hundreds of acres of lush, productive bottomlands, providing high-quality habitat for moose, sage grouse, pronghorn, mule deer, elk, aquatic wildlife and a multitude of non-game species.”

Beginning in 2011, the Lonetree Ranch obtained USDA National Organic Program certification.

“As comprehensive as that program is, no single certification considers every aspect of the ranch’s process,” WGFD says. “The Taylors are constantly assembling their own mix of best practices using both progressive and age-old conservation practices – from weed-eating cashmere goats to a highly detailed Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Plan.”

The family also engages with their community and lives by the “good neighbor” policy.

“They have worked cooperatively with many neighboring landowners, organizations and agencies,” WGFD says.

They continue, “Due to the Taylors ranching techniques that help sustain quality wildlife and fisheries habitat, cooperation with the WGFD and their overall love of wildlife, they are well deserving of this award.”

Saige Albert compiled this article from the 2017 WGFD Landowner of the Year Award program. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Local wine, local flavors 

Riverton – Forget California, local wine enthusiasts  need only travel to Fremont County to treat their pallets to homegrown vino flavors.
    Riverton vineyard owners Kathy and Terry Irvin have expanded into a wine-tasting cellar with wines made from locally-grown produce. The Irvins began their expedition into the grape-growing business after learning that the University of Wyoming was interested in testing grapes at higher altitudes. After a lot of experimenting with different varieties, Kathy and Terry ended up with a vineyard where few thought a vineyard would survive.
    The next challenge was deciding what to do with the grapes once they were ready to pick. The answer was to open a winery. Everything at the Irvin Cellar is a product of Kathy and Terry’s commitment to their wine business. From the buildings to the product in the bottles, Kathy and Terry have built everything from scratch.
    “Neither one of us knew how to build a building until we got started,” says Kathy. “But here they are.”
    A big part of the development of the wine factory had to do with Kathy’s ingenuity. She is constantly thinking of inexpensive and creative ways to ease the wine-making process. She has designed a cradle to hold bottles for labeling and she is currently developing an easier way to transport the wine to the barrels.
    The process to crafting the Irvin Cellar wines is an involved one. The grapes are cleaned and weighed before the fruit is crushed. After sugar, water and other ingredients are added, the mixture sets for seven days and is stirred periodically. The liquid is then siphoned into barrels several times, acting as the filtering system to clear the wine. Finally, the wine is siphoned into bottles and the cork is set with a tool called the “Red Ferrari.”
    “It’s the only Ferrari my husband will ever own,” Kathy jokes.
    After a seal and label are in place, the bottles make their way to the shelves of the Irvin Cellar.
    Aside from establishing the highly labor-intensive grape plants in the Riverton climate, the biggest obstacle for Kathy and Terry has been getting through the red tape and learning the rules and regulations associated with grape wine making.
    “We are constantly and slowly learning,” says Kathy. “We are even our own broker now so we can sell to restaurants and bars.”
    Kathy treats her customers to a wine-tasting experience only Wyoming could offer. In their log wine cellar, she has set up a counter with seasonal wine flavors ranging from sweet to dry. To get the full effect Kathy starts the tasting with a sweet variety like apricot. She works her way down to the dryer wines and ends with the ultra-unique jalapeno wine. This surprising flavor, Kathy says, has a hot bite initially and moves to a more subtle pepper taste. Another unique wine flavor is their bullberry wine, a cousin of the Russian Olive.
    With other flavors like currant, chokecherry, peach, plum, raspberry and white grape; the Irvin Cellar wine varieties are unique in their own right but Kathy says each batch has it’s own distinctive flavors.
    “From one batch to the next, they will never taste the same,” Kathy says. “The altitude also makes a lot of difference in the way our wines taste.”
    The Irvins started offering the wine-tasting to attract customers, but Kathy has other plans for expanding the wine business. Kathy hopes to increase her fruit supply by offering to pay for grape plants for others to establish and grow. She also says she would pay or trade wine for local fruit.
    Kathy says she enjoys learning as she delves deeper into the grape and wine industries and she welcomes the challenges coupled with the business. Whether it’s helping others establish a vineyard, tending to the vineyard or offering a taste of local wine, Kathy says she is happy to be the owner of a unique Wyoming business.
    Liz LeSatz is the Summer 2008 intern for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be e-mailed at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Laramie - The only national champion men’s rodeo team in UW history will be inducted into the University of Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame Sept. 4.
    The 1961 Cowboys rodeo team was composed of Leon Cook, Jerry Kaufman, Jim Moore, Frank Shepperson, Al Smith and Fred Wilson, all of whom will be present to accept the recognition and all of whom grew up in Wyoming.
    “I think it’s a great honor to be inducted into the Hall of Fame,” says Jim Moore, who was born and raised and still resides at Midwest. “We were the first team from Wyoming to officially win the championship.”
    In 1959 the UW men’s rodeo team won the championship, but were later disqualified because of lacking member eligibility.
    In the 1961 regional championships Jim Moore finished fifth in bareback riding, Fred Wilson was first in bareback riding and second in saddle bronc riding, Frank Shepperson was fifth in saddle bronc riding, Jerry Kaufmann was third in ribbon roping, Al Smith finished sixth in ribbon roping and Leon Cook was fourth in steer wrestling and fourth in saddle bronc riding.
    As a team, the Cowboys ranked in the top two at the Regional Championships and earned a slot in the 1961 College National Finals Rodeo in Sacramento, Calif. There Moore finished third in bareback riding, Wilson was fourth in saddle bronc riding, Shepperson competed in five events, Smith was second in calf roping and fourth in ribbon roping and Cook placed in the steer wrestling, earning enough points to give Wyoming the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association team title.
    Wilson went on to win the NIRA bareback riding championship in 1962, and Shepperson won the NIRA steer wrestling championship in 1964. All except for Cook went on to rodeo professionally. Shepperson won the PRCA World Champion Steer Wrestler in 1975. Kaufman won the Cheyenne Frontier Days steer roping championship in 1971.
    “I really enjoyed rodeo in college, and it was a lot of fun,” says Moore. “We met a lot of good people and had a good time.”
    Although organized high school rodeo didn’t come until later years, each of the team members was involved in rodeo during their high school years, whether it was through family members who were involved or, as in Jerry Kaufmann’s case, through his own motivation.
    “I always wanted to be a team roper, that’s all I ever wanted to do and my family was not very supportive,” says Kaufmann of his entry into rodeo. “When I was 15 I started roping calves and I built an arena and had two or three calves and just kept going.”
    “Rodeo’s what kept me in school,” says Moore. “I really didn’t care for school, and I went to a one-room school so I never did football or basketball. I come from a rodeo family where my father and uncles rodeoed, so I grew up around it.”
    Wilson says he began to tag along with his brother – a bareback rider – as soon as he was old enough to drive. “I started riding a few, and got to the time where I could ride one,” he says. “I just got on everything they turned out that nobody else wanted, and that’s how I learned how.”
    Wilson says the rodeos would pay mount money for someone to get on those horses, just to keep the performances going. “They’d usually pay about five dollars, and I got on a whole lot of them and finally learned how to do it,” he says.
    “The best part of college rodeo was the people I met, more than anything,” says Kaufmann. “I met a lot of kids from different schools, and I’m still friends with a lot of those I went to school with.”
    “We traveled more than they do now,” says Moore. “Most of the time we didn’t leave until Friday afternoon and we’d rodeo Saturday and Sunday and drive all night Sunday to get back for class Monday morning.”
    Following college Moore roped steers and traveled extensively with teammate Kaufmann, who also roped steers. “We ran into Frank Shepperson a lot because he was bulldogging during the same era, and Fred Wilson was around riding bareback,” he says.
    “It’s great to be inducted into the Hall of Fame,” says Kaufmann of the recognition. “I didn’t figure we’d every make it. A lot of college athletic programs don’t recognize rodeo as a sport, and it’s actually a pretty big professional sport.”
    Christy Hemken is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Freedom – In an area where settlers and explorers alike depended on guns for their very survival is the modern day Freedom Arms firearm factory. Inside this Freedom business, workers craft precision firearms for a new generation of adventurers, from handgun enthusiasts to big game hunters.

Founded in 1978 by Wayne Baker and Dick Casull, Freedom Arms is a Wyoming based firearm manufacturing company, known across the country for powerful, precision revolvers. The company is just one of a few manufacturers in the world to offer hand crafted revolvers. 

Freedom Arms President Bob Baker is a second-generation manager of the business. His father, Wayne, started Freedom Arms more than 30 years ago, in part to give Star Valley youth employment options beyond traditional production agriculture. 

Today, the Freedom Arms factory has 15 employees and sells handguns around the world.

Quality products

Baker says what sets his company apart from other manufacturers is their dedication to a quality product.

“We focus on quality, not quantity. Freedom Arms revolvers are very refined versions of what you can get from a large manufacturer. We emphasize accuracy, power and durability,” explains Baker. “When a customer’s abilities develop beyond what other guns can handle, that’s when they come to us.”

Freedom Arms specializes in single-action revolvers. The hammer on each revolver must be cocked before it can be shot. Freedom Arms makes revolvers for small rimfire rounds suitable for target shooting up to the larger cartridges designed for killing big game.

Making revolvers

A Freedom Arms revolver begins as a block of stainless steel, machined at the factory. Baker says parts are machined in batches, with more complicated parts being made in smaller batches. Once all the batches come together and the all the parts for a model are ready, the revolvers are put together by hand by Freedom Arms employees. Then, the revolver is assembled and tested for accuracy and finally sent to the finishing room to be hand finished. 

The finished product has virtually invisible joints and incredible precision. For example, per the company’s standards, grips are fitted so that a feeler gauge less than the thickness of a man’s hair can’t be forced between the grips and the metal frame. 

Customers can find a few dozen guns available for immediate purchase on the Freedom Arms website. But most opt to have a revolver custom crafted to their exact wants, specifying caliber, grip material or barrel shape and length. Precision and customization take time, however.

“It takes us anywhere from six to seven months to produce a revolver,” explains Baker. “But our customers are willing to wait to get just what they want.”

Handgun options

Freedom Arms also sells a full line of accessories, including scope mounts, holsters, gun totes, bullets and reloading supplies. The Bear Track case is a protective case designed for Freedom Arms firearms. Like the revolvers, it’s handcrafted directly at the Wyoming facility.

Revolvers start at around $2,000, depending on the model and customization options selected. That’s almost three times the cost of one from a big firearm manufacturer. But if you’re after big game and your life is on the line, the accuracy and power are well worth the price.

“I enjoy the challenge of hunting with a handgun, but you’re also taking a risk,” says big game hunter Todd Grady, an owner of two Freedom Arms pieces. “The accuracy and ballistics of the Freedom Arms product is unmatched by anything else I’ve ever shot.”

The Freedom Arms website displays photos and testimonials from other big game hunters. Baker himself has killed a grizzly bear with his company’s revolver. Moose, mountain lions, wildebeest, water buffalo and even a hippo have all been harvested with the Wyoming product.

Marketing Freedom Arms

Freedom Arms markets revolvers to hunters, competitive shooters and even collectors. Baker says he attends numerous trade shows across the country, but most of their marketing and advertising is done through word of mouth.

“Competitive shooters look to see what the shooters winning the competitions are shooting, then look to buy the same gun. Many times, that’s a Freedom Arms revolver,” says Baker.

In fact, about 80 percent of competitors in the International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association shoot Freedom Arms revolvers, according to Baker.

“Our customers are our best salespeople,” he says. “Positive comments and recommendations from a fellow competitor or hunter sell more guns than a brochure could.”

Unexpected fame

Advertising for the company has also come from an unexpected source, Wyoming author C.J. Box. Box writes a series of fictional novels about a Wyoming game warden. One of the main characters in the book, Nate Romanowski, carries a .454 Casull, a Freedom Arms revolver.

The .454 Casull is named for Freedom Arms co-founder Dick Casull. It was designed as a more powerful version of the .45 Colt and .44 Remington Magnum, to be used for big game hunting. It, along with the Model 83, is the most popular revolver in the Freedom Arms line.

Baker says he was surprised when customers started commenting about the revolver’s role in the books.

“When I first had someone come up to me and ask about the .454 Casull and the book, I hadn’t read them yet, so I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. We get comments about that revolver from customers, even in Europe,” he notes.

Even former Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal has his own Freedom Arms gun. Make that two famous Wyoming characters that carry the .454 revolver.

For more information, customers can visit the company’s Web site at freedomarms.com or call them at 307-883-2468. The factory does not offer tours, but Baker says experienced sales staff is always ready to help customer’s custom build a revolver to fit any need. Teresa Milner is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Casper – Growing up on a cattle ranch 22 miles east of Sturgis, S.D., Nikki Steffes made the decision to attend college in Laramie, where she now stands first in Women’s All-Around heading into next week’s College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) in Casper.
    Contributing to that All-Around ranking are her standings first in barrel racing, first in goat tying and third in breakaway roping.
    As a high school sophomore in Sturgis, Steffes was the reserve national champion barrel racer and finished three times among the top 10 at the national high school rodeo. Three times she made it to the finals in two different events and in her sophomore year qualified in four. She won the South Dakota all-around title her final year of eligibility.
    Steffes is set to graduate May 2010 with degrees in biology and medical microbiology. Of college rodeo, she says, “I really love college rodeo. I always knew when I got done with high school rodeo that I wanted to go on and compete at the college level.”
    Two horses will accompany Steffes to the 2009 CNFR. “My barrel horse is Doc, and I’ve ridden him in the CNFR for the last two years in barrel racing and goat tying,” she says, adding he was Women’s Horse of the Year in 2008. “I’ve ridden him all four years of college, and to four total all-around titles and four barrel racing titles.”
    She says she’s had Doc for 10 years and used him throughout high school. Her second horse this year is Handy, who she’ll use in breakaway roping and goat tying.
    “College rodeo is a unique organization, and it’s different than high school because parents aren’t there. Contestants learn to rely on each other, and the friends we make are life-long,” she says. “Even though it’s really competitive, everyone depends on each other.”
    Although the University of Wyoming Rodeo Team doesn’t travel as one unit, she says they organize to drive in groups.
    With five rodeos in the fall and five in the spring, Steffes says team members are gone most of the weekend, with practice Monday through Friday lasting at least four hours.  “The other athletes are all there during practice, and we help each other and give advice,” she says. “In college rodeo you practice with your competition every day.”
    “We’re always trying to catch up on schoolwork, but most of my professors have been flexible,” she notes. “They hold us responsible for our work, but they’re understanding and willing to help us out.”
    Calling UW a strong academic school, she says staying on top of schoolwork while still being prepared for competition is what she thinks is the hardest part of college rodeo.
    Following graduation, Steffes says she’d like to try her hand at professional rodeo for a few years, with the possibility of dental school after that. The rest of summer 2009 she plans to attend amateur rodeos around South Dakota, but she admits she hasn’t yet thought much past the CNFR.
    “This year I think we’ll have a lot of fun in Casper,” she comments. “We’ve got a great women’s team, and the men’s team qualified.”
    She says the 2008 rodeo was more stressful following a fourth national title for UW in 2007. “There was a lot more pressure on me and the women’s team as the defending national champions, and we don’t have that this year. The most we have is the pressure we put on ourselves, but I want to enjoy the CNFR and have fun.”
    The 2010 CNFR will be Steffes’ fifth, with eligibility granted through her service as Student Regional Director for the Central Rocky Mountain Region, although her points will no longer contribute to team standings.
    Christy Hemken is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..