Custer State Park Working Adventure: Buffalo Roundup 2018

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We worked our first buffalo roundup at Custer State Park. I’ve never been that close to a cow in my life, let alone buffalo! It was fun and exhilarating to say the least, especially that moment when I found myself eye to eye with a buffalo calf who wasn’t happy about being corralled, pushed through gates, and separated from mamma for the time.

[I’m working on including some video into our blog. We have created a YouTube Channel (NoKaOiLog) and I’ll be including some links. It’s a learning curve with a slippery slope, hope no one falls in with me, lol.]

This is how they move the buffalo into the work area, where they get (depending on age), inoculations for brucellosis and other diseases, branding and tagging, pregnancy tests and sterility checks. Also decisions about whether they return to the herd or head out to auction.

In the Chute video

The Custer State Park Roundup is a multi-day event. It draws over 20k visitors, although this year the numbers were only around 16k, probably because of the rain and snow which came in early that morning. Roundup festivities also include an awesome arts festival from Thursday to Saturday, with talented vendors, good food, and plenty of entertainment.

The day of the roundup the entrance fee into the park is waved, so it’s the perfect day to get up early, watch the roundup, catch a little buffalo branding at the corrals and then head over to the arts festival to fill your truck up with lots of cool stuff to take home with you!

The other way to get in for free is to be a park volunteer. But before you get too excited about this option, we had to meet at 3:45 A.M. to caravan out to the roundup area and be in place at our assigned positions. Russ and I both had parking duties. It was still snowing when we arrived, brrr from the Florida girl! I went through two pair of boots and countless socks, because my first ones, even with waterproofing, didn’t hold up to the wet slosh. Fortunately, the sun came up, the clouds passed on, and the ground dried up … well, the mud didn’t dry up for a couple of days.

The snow melted away pretty quick down where we were parking cars, but it stuck around a bit longer in the higher elevations.

Snow in the hills. Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup

Snow sure is pretty in photos, but I was cold. Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup

Picturesque morning for Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup

After all the cars were parked, we were free to find a great viewing location and wait for the Buffalo to come over the hills.

Fog and cold for the first glimpse of the buffalo. Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup

Here is a link to our YouTube video of the herd coming over the hills.

Buffalo coming over the hill video

Gathering into one large herd. Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup

This wasn’t exactly like Dances with Wolves, it was an orchestrated plan to get the buffalo to the corrals without stressing them out so bad that they hurt themselves or each other. So built into the round up are several resting/holding periods, which made for a great time to view the herd.

On the day of the roundup, they work a small portion of the herd so that those attending the roundup who wish to watch can see the how they bring the buffalo into the corrals for health checks and branding.  That many buffalo can’t be done in one day and this year there were three additional days set up (I believe it varies from year to year). We both worked one morning. Here are a couple of videos of our branding experience.

Russ branding

Jen branding #1

Jen branding #2

Branded. The 8 is for the year and the S is for Custer State Park

Blue ear tag, male heading to the auction

These gals made it back to the herd

We were amazed at how well the whole process was handled. We loved every minute of the hard work and long days (well I lie … I don’t like snow and wet feet, and Russ doesn’t like to get up that early), but it was worth it for the experience. We would highly recommend you add the Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup to your bucket list.

Stay tuned, there’s a few more blogs from Custer State Park to share with you, thanks for following along with our adventure.

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