Sunday, February 1, 2009

Dreesman Bison Ranch

Food Tour of Iowa: Dreesman Bison Ranch


As I packed my camera, sturdy boots and sunglasses into my car and plugged in the address to Dreesman’s Bison Ranch into the GPS, I reflected how much I have done with this blog. You see, Dreesman is only about 10 miles away from Hinegardner’s Orchard, my first entry in this blog.

As I revved my little Nissan Sentra up the hil;l that leads into the ranch, I felt like I was on a safari: the bison skulls and pelts on the fence gave it a definite sense of place. I pulled into the ranch just as Tom was getting some hay on the pickup to feed to the bison out in the field. I pulled on my boots, tugged my cap lower against the winter day (which wasn’t as bad as I had feared) and hopped into Tom’s pickup.


Above: Imagine going 30 mph with that bale of hay behind you. Now imagine doing it in a foot of snow, over fields. It was good times.

Tom uses his pickup like they are meant to be used. With a big bale of hay in a trailer behind, we blazed along at 30 miles an hour through snow covered fields to the entrance to one of the pastures where the bison graze. On the way out, Tom gave me a rundown of the history of his ranch. He started his in 1989, and maintains a steady herd size of about 200-250 bison, and tries to slaughter about 40-50 a year. He uses, as you might say, all parts of the buffalo. The meat is converted into jerky and burgers and sold to grocery stores all over the state. Tom sells the pelts to people, who use them as throws over couches or beds. I saw some of them in the shop; they looked warm! A full grown bull can weigh up to a ton- one of the most recently slaughtered netted 900 pounds of meat, although that is more than average.


In addition, Tom entertains hunters and horseback riders, who are welcome to use a small cabin he has added to the property. All in all, he owns 360 acres and rents a further 40, giving the bison quite enough space to roam.


Above: Iowa is actually quite picturesque. I would not mind camping out here when the weather gets warmer.


Above: Buffalo in their natural habitat
After dropping off the hay, the fun began. While Tom loaded up another bale of hay, I hopped on an ATV. Tom was going to give me a tour, and the snow had yet to melt enough to allow a pickup to get through most of the property. I was again transported back to my first visit to Hinegardner’s, when I also rode an ATV. This was, however, quite the other thing.


Above: This time, I was in the driver's seat. Watch out Iowa!

I revved along behind Tom at about 30 miles an hour, the cold wind whipping past my cheeks as I blazed along laughing beside the pickup. It was incredible! I barreled through thick snowdrifts and absorbed the scenery. After Tom dropped off the bale, I let him drive and hugged on to the frame of the ATV tight to keep from falling off as we went up and down hills, touring the extent of his property.


I hopped off the ATV, back at the ranch house, pretty happy. Bison really are majestic creature; I am glad there are people like Tom Dreesman who continue to raise them.

The jerky I had, by the way, is excellent. It had good chew at the beginning, which gradually gave way to a really complex, meaty flavor, the likes of which I have never had in jerky before. I also got some summer sausage and beef sticks- once I try them, I will report back!

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