Independent Record
Bison enthusiasts gather at Ted Turner’s ranch to celebrate success, consider challenges
July 12, 2017
By Brett French

FLYING D RANCH — Tom Pierson may earn his living as a Bristol, Wisconsin, roofing contractor, but his heart is with a small herd of bison he’s raising.

“They’re just majestic,” he said. “I like coming down the driveway and seeing my herd. And they are very low maintenance. I have no handling facility and no veterinarian bills.”

Pierson was standing on the banks of a chattering Cherry Creek on Ted Turner’s Flying D Ranch at the base of the Spanish Peaks, just southwest of Bozeman, last Friday. Across the creek a small group of domestic bison and a nearby herd of wild elk grazed in belly-deep grass. Behind Pierson were old cabins, outbuildings and a cook shack used by the ranch as a hunting camp. On this hot summer day, though, it was host to about 600 people visiting as part of the International Bison Conference.

Ted Turner is optimistic that the bison industry is destined for bigger things. A pioneer in the field, his ranchers are now the leading producers of bison in the United States.

BRETT FRENCH, Gazette Staff

The other NBA

With more than 1,100 members, the National Bison Association — which organized the five-day conference at nearby Big Sky Resort — is a group of ranchers, processors and bison enthusiasts spread across all 50 states and 10 foreign countries. Some are small producers like Pierson with 10 bison on a 60-acre farm.

“If you only have a few it’s called yard art,” he joked.

On the other end of the spectrum is Ted Turner’s collection of ranches. Altogether Turner’s outfit manages 53,000 bison, said Mark Kossler, vice president of ranch operations for Turner Enterprises Inc. On the 75 square miles of the Flying D alone are 1,800 bison calves this summer.

“We do have more bison under ownership than anyone,” Kossler said.

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