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. 

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.