Montana rancher relies on tourism to support century-old cattle operation



via The Fence Post - January 7, 2020


Montana’s majestic mountains and open rangelands are home to abundant wildlife and herds of cattle. Rancher Vic Anderson depends upon both to sustain Heaven on Earth, his family’s century-old ranch.


“Tourism diversifies our ranch. In the cattle business, as everyone knows, markets vary quite a bit. All ranchers I know have to have another source of income to keep the ranch going,” said the fourth-generation cattleman.


Located 50 miles south of Great Falls, Anderson’s great-uncles began raising cattle on the land, which borders the Lewis and Clark National Forest after prohibition put their Last Chance Saloon out of business. His dad, Gary, began guiding hunts when cattle markets dipped in the 1970s. Deep Creek Outfitters has been supplementing the ranch income ever since.


Today, along with a 325-head cow/calf herd, the land is home to nearly a year-round outfitter/outdoor recreation business. Surrounded by forest, with the Smith River running through it, the ranch’s scenic location welcomes visitors from across the nation who enjoy hunting, fishing, golfing and river rafting.


Growing up working on the ranch and helping his dad with the outfitter business, Anderson said guiding hunts and catering to visitors are what he knows, and the two have a great synergy. With 95 percent of Heaven on Earth guests returning each year, many have become close friends. As he’s guiding hunts or sharing the best place to cast a line, he often ends up answering questions about his cattle operation. “People come here from all over to ride horses and chase cattle, but they do not have any idea what it takes to ranch. So, I answer quite a few questions. I get to teach them and show them this way of life,” said Anderson, who even has guests join him during calving season...