Although the pandemic brought unexpected changes for many, life on a ranch hasn’t changed much. Ranchers work outside, live in small communities and are usually far more self-sufficient than the general population.

“They’ve been practicing social distancing for 100 years,” ranch broker and LiveJacksonHole, LLC co-owner Chopper Grassell said. Ranching isn’t for everyone. It takes dedication to the land, years of experience and a profound stubbornness, traits that have come to be associated with the proverbial western cowboy. But, with the increasing opportunities for remote work, more and more urbanites are able to migrate to the country without making a career shift.

During this time of unprecedented isolation, open outdoor spaces can provide recreation, natural beauty and a place to socialize safely. As such, the allure of rural life has captured the minds and ambitions of homebuyers from New York to L.A.

Living remote

A year ago, city dwellers were already toying with the idea of moving to the country. “As of March 23, the seven-day average year-over-year change in pageviews of homes in rural areas and small towns were up 115% and 88% respectively,” Redfin, a national real estate brokerage, reported last April.

In addition to the benefits of living in less densely populated areas during a pandemic, a second factor has had a marked impact on American real estate. During the past year, remote work has been adopted by organizations from National Forest offices to Wall Street firms. According to Upwork’s December “Future of Workforce Pulse Report,” one in four Americans will work remotely in 2021.

The trend isn’t expected to end when the pandemic subsides. The study also projected that 36.2 million Americans will be working remotely by 2025, an 87% increase from pre-COVID levels.

Of course, not every remote worker will see their newfound freedom as an opportunity to buy a historic ranch estate in Wyoming or build a log cabin in the Alaskan wilderness. But, the bottom line is that remote work has allowed millions of Americans to consider where they want to live irrespective of their career.

According to a late 2020 Redfin survey of recent and prospective homebuyers, “one-third of respondents—34%—have already moved to a different city or area, and just as many—33%—would like to.”

What does it mean for ranches?

Chopper Grassell sells two kinds of ranches: agricultural production ranches and “recreational” ranches. While the market for the former tends to remain relatively unaffected by macroeconomic forces, the market for the latter has seen a boom during the pandemic.

“Things really changed during the year of COVID,” Grassell said. “All of the sudden people are saying, ‘Hey, I can’t do this any longer in Chicago or New York or San Francisco. I want to make a permanent move for tax reasons, cultural reasons or safety reasons. I want to be in a more rural area.’”

The evidence is in the numbers. Grassell and his partner, Richard Lewis, have been hard-pressed to find luxury properties for prospective buyers. “There are maybe tenfold more options for that recreational ranch last March as compared to now,” he said.

According to the Redfin survey, the wealthiest strata of Americans are also the most eager to move to a new area. 44% of recent and prospective homebuyers earning more than $150,000 a year have already moved to a different city or town in the past year.

The impact of this migration has yet to be seen, but it is sure to be complex. Although property values in aesthetic locations will most likely continue to rise, wealthy migrants may also bring economic value to rural communities.

Newcomers to the west are often drawn by the iconic heritage of self-sufficiency and a life lived close to nature. Right now, these ideas appeal to a broader range of Americans than ever before.

To find your own piece of the west, contact Chopper and Richard.

* View more from Redfin’s article “Interest in Rural Areas and Small Towns Spikes During the Coronavirus Outbreak” cited in this post. 

ranching in pandemic

ranching in pandemic

Almost overnight the Coronavirus pandemic upended daily life throughout the United States and across the world. In response people from all walks of life have embraced wholesale cultural changes, creating a new normalcy that is likely to persist long after the disease itself. From Wall Street to Main Street, the impact has reshaped industries and behaviors.

Ranching, a way of life celebrated for its traditions and independence, has adapted to the circumstances with equal solemnity. The impact has been at turns pronounced and nuanced. Perhaps not surprising, it has created a return to the heritage that has long defined the American West.

Like many sectors of the economy, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a significant toll on the country’s ranchers. Outbreaks at meat processing facilities, like the JBS USA plant in Greeley, Colorado, drew attention to the fragility of the nation’s food supply chain. For ranchers, that often meant bottlenecks that prevented livestock from getting to consumer markets. Which, at its worst, forced hard decisions about herd euthanasia.

“The thought of euthanizing animals and those animals going to waste goes against every grain of our being,” one rancher told ABC News in May. Cattle ranchers stand to lose more than $13 billion because of disruptions, the article notes.

At the height of the pandemic as much as 40 percent of the nation’s meat processing capacity was shut down. That reality reignited a dormant debate over regulation and decentralizing the food supply chain. About 80 percent of U.S. processing plants are owned by four corporations, all of which experienced closures and labor shortages because of the pandemic.

As a result, smaller processing plants that often specialize in local, grass-fed beef, quickly backed up. Many are now booked four years in advance, which has pushed the bottleneck problem down to local ranchers.

“All these custom slaughter facilities, those are the organizations that we should be propping up and giving them the tools and opportunities to be able to supply directly to their little local communities,” says Tyler Lindholm, a Wyoming state representative and rancher.

The pandemic has forced changes closer to home, too, not just down the supply chain. Like nearly every industry, ranchers are embracing preventative measures—social distancing, face masks and sanitation practices. Livestock auctions have gone virtual. County fairs, once community-wide celebrations, have pared down their programs to only those that can operate within new health guidelines.

“We are paying close attention to our industry associations regionally, nationally, and internationally to learn what they are doing,” Teton County Fair manager Rachel Grimes said ahead of our area’s 64th annual county fair. “All we can do right now is plan for the worst and hope for the best.”

Ultimately, the event was trimmed down to the 4-H livestock shows, open horse classes and exhibit hall. Which welcomed community arts and crafts projects. While the week-long event looked different than years past, turnout remained strong. The livestock sale saw a 25 percent increase in total volume.

“If these young people are going to put in the work, I’m going to support it,” said Zia Yasrobi, a buyer at the sale.

The westward movement phenomenon accelerated, if not brought about, by the COVID-19 pandemic. In growing numbers, discerning real estate buyers have begun seeking properties that provide, in a word, space. And it seems none combine the considerations of privacy, solitude and conversation more than ranch properties.

In the immediate wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, real estate markets cratered nationally by and large. But as panics subsided, markets quickly rebounded. The spring and summer have recorded many record transactions, both across the country and here in Wyoming.

“The situation has lit a fire under buyers,” says Chopper Grassell. “Even before the pandemic, there was a growing demand from people looking to escape the cities in favor of properties that offer greater space and privacy. COVID didn’t start that trend, but it has accelerated it. And it’s likely to continue, especially as remote working becomes the new normal and people are putting a higher value on quality of life.”

Here in Teton County, the luxury market (above $3 million) saw a 164 percent increase year-over-year through the mid-year point, while the average days-on-market fell seven percent. Vacant land prices increased more than 50 percent, helping to drive up the average sale price above $2.5 million. That was compelled largely by a flurry of activity through June, which continued to through the third quarter.

Across the country, the Coronavirus pandemic has reshaped daily life. It is no different on the country’s ranches. Yet, in this new era, the beckon of the West that has long captivated society’s hearts and minds is alive and well and as strong as ever.

To find your own Western paradise, contact Richard and Chopper.

*Article brought you by Western Ranches.

elk hunting wyoming

As the fall season descends over the Mountain West there is a certain mystique in the air. The dog days of summer slowly give way to crisp autumn mornings and nights, which bring with them a bounty of color. In this, nature’s final curtain call before winter, the region’s wildlife is at its most remarkable. The peak rut for most large game, the area’s vast wildernesses are alive with a chorus of bugles.

A bull elk during the fall hunting season

This is one of the most active seasons for wildlife, particularly ungulates. Annual ruts, or mating seasons, coincide with the beginnings of migration, when elk, moose and deer move from the high country to lower elevations, where winter foliage is generally more accessible.

For elk, the annual rut reaches its peak in mid-September. Sociable most of the year, in August bull elk begin to separate and gather cows. Within weeks, the males reach a near frenzy. Bulls will challenge each other, by bluffing or outright locking antlers, for rights to a herd’s cows. A herd bull seldom eats or sleeps, dutifully guarding his precious harem, which requires fending off satellite bulls vying for the same rights.

This scene of large elk herds flanked by spectacular mountain scenery and colorful foliage is hard to resist, and it has become the allure of casual spectators and hunters alike. For the latter, the Mountain West is a destination unto itself. Home to some of the largest native big game populations, the Rocky Mountain West offers a diversity of hunting grounds whose bounty is matched by their challenge.

An elk hunter blows on an elk bugle against a sunset.

Indeed, each year the region’s wilds become a testing grounds of sorts—not only for mating wildlife, but for sportsmen and women. Tens of thousands of individuals from around the world travel here to hunt. A time-honored tradition, the competition between man and nature holds a certain fascination. For some, it is the sport. For others, an opportunity to put food on the table. For others still, a rare entry into nature’s enclaves. Whatever one’s motivation, there is a code, both explicit and unwritten, meant to honor and protect the integrity of the land and the life it sustains.

While the sport is not without controversy, overwhelmingly hunters consider themselves environmental stewards. As human development has impacted migration routes and predator-prey patterns, wildlife populations require management to regulate density, which would otherwise overrun feed supplies and invite disease outbreaks. And, contrary to popular conception, trophy hunters are a small minority of the demographic. Most hunters utilize nearly all of what they kill.

As the popularity of hunting has grown, the West has become North America’s premier destination. And within the Rocky Mountain region, certain areas are known for both their challenge and their abundance animals.

In Montana, about 50 percent of the state’s elk harvest comes from Region 3, an area that encompasses the southwest part of the state, including Bozeman, Butte and Dillion. Old-growth forests afford wildlife natural cover, while numerous access points provide hunters entry into the backcountry.

To the west, Idaho’s southern panhandle and the Clearwater National Forest are popular bow-hunting destinations. The thick woods require expertise to navigate, but the reward can be worth the struggle. Some of the country’s largest recorded game have been tagged in the area.

The Bridger-Teton National Forest, which surrounds Jackson Hole, Wyoming, boasts remarkable hunting in striking alpine basin terrain—which attracts a wealth of wildlife throughout the seasons. To the east, the Beartooth Mountains offer classic wilderness elk hunting along the North Fork of the Shoshone River and Sunlight Basin.


Before embarking into the wilderness, it is imperative that hunters be equipped with the right tools and information. They should know the area, including private and public boundaries; understand local rules and regulations; have proper permits; be equipped for the elements, which can change quickly; prepare a plan and notify others; carry the right equipment; and always be bear aware. Guide services can be hugely beneficial, especially for those unfamiliar with an area.

For avid hunters and those seeking a quiet escape, hunting properties—which provide turnkey access to public lands—have become some of the region’s most sought-after real estate. Western Ranches represents the most hunting and ranch properties of any brokerage in the Mountain West, with more listings than our nearest competitors combined. Our agents have a unique understanding of the area, because they too call it home, and all are devoted hunters, fishers and outdoorsmen and women themselves.

To learn more about this remarkable region, contact our dedicated team. We look forward to sharing more about what makes this place such an extraordinary destination.