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Monday, June 20, 2016

Review of the Blackfish Bison Ranch Tours

 photo 20160528_095500_zpsxmt0ilbd.jpgBlackfish Bison Ranch is located east of Lexington on 242 acres in Winchester, Kentucky. The co-owner and manager, Brandeon Hampton, lives on the farm year-round and does pretty much everything for the buffalo herd from naming them, to vaccinating them, to driving them across the river to Memphis Meats in Indiana when that time comes.

Our tour spent about an hour in the log cabin listening and looking at all things buffalo. My kids were well educated and entertained. Brandeon talks about the buffalo, land, history, and the spiritual relationship between buffalo, man, and God. Did you know that buffalo have no top teeth, can out run the fastest thoroughbred, and can jump a 7 foot fence with ease? After the talk (which Brandeon said was unique depending on each group), we headed to the wagon.

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Brandeon drives a beat up truck (beat up by buffalo of course!) that pulls the tour wagon. The wagon has rails on all four sides, and no bench or seats. My kids loved standing for the whole ride (Brandeon was able to put a chair on the wagon for one of our tour members that couldn't stand for the trip). Brandeon drives out into the field where the buffalo are lounging. They are used to the routine, so as soon as we pulled up, they came over for some treats.

 photo 20160528_111036_zps3bo6naqz.jpgBrandeon says the buffalo control the tour - they may stay at the wagon for 15 minutes or an hour. Every tour is unique. They lumber up and gently reach their noses in between the rails, and expect you to push a treat into their mouths. If you don't, they will start to lick you to get it. It can get very slimy. Don't wear good clothes and shoes - there's no washroom out there. All visitors must stay in the wagon, but Brandeon sat or stood on the truck, as well as standing down on the ground to feed and talk about the bulls, heifers, and calves.
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The day we arrived, a baby calf had been born hours before we got there. Brandeon drove the wagon over toward the mom and her new calf. Since it was a different tour route than the buffaloes were used to seeing, they all came along too to see what we were up to. The baby walked very closely to her mom with her wobbly walk, but was still easily viewed from about 100 feet away.

 photo 20160528_113443_zps5a9dsgyh.jpgThe tours at Blackfish Bison Ranch are all different. Our group was mainly adults, with only my two kids, so we didn't do the tomahawk throwing, hay lassoing, or feather ceremony mentioned in the description. Our tour spent a ton of time feeding the buffalo and viewing the new baby.

After the tour, you may also have the chance to sample the pure, grass-fed buffalo meat, however our tour was the first weekend of the season, so none of the buffalo meat had been harvested yet (usually meat selling starts in June). Call for their schedule of meat sales throughout the year, as well as special events (the first weekend in November will be a big celebration for National Bison Day in 2016).

You need to make reservations for a tour, and times are limited depending on the time of year (859-808-1285). I suggest asking if they have buffalo meat available to sample and buy, as well as how many will be on the tour, and what type of tour yours will focus on (kids versus adults). Also, in 2016, it cost $9 per person and they only excepted cash which Brandeon only asks for at the end of the tour.

It was a great value, very educational, entertaining, an amazing experience. There are a lot of things to see and do around Winchester (Beech Spring Farm Market, Lower Howard's Creek Nature Preserve, the Civil War Fort at Boonesville, and the Ale-8-One bottling plant to name a few), but I would recommend going to Blackfish first, before it gets too hot). Wear sunscreen, bring a camera, and prepare to get a slimy. We can't wait to go back!

By guest contributor,
Caryn

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