Dan Humphries finds joy where the buffalo roam—specifically on his Grimes County ranch where, with his wife, Susan, he raises a herd of North American bison. It’s a passion that ignited some years ago with a trip to Denver.
“I have always loved the animal, the North American bison,” Humphries said. “I began dreaming about owning a bison ranch after going on an elk hunting trip to Colorado. That is when my good friend Jim ‘Doc’ Brick took me to the Buckhorn Exchange restaurant and museum. Teddy Roosevelt used to eat there with the Rough Riders when they were in Denver.”
Fascinated by the history and the legends that accompanied this large species, Humphries soon commenced planning for what would become Bull Dancer Bison Ranch.
“Honestly it all began just for the love of this magnificent animal and wanting to share my life with them,” he said. “Once I tried the meat in Colorado and started dreaming about bison being part of my life, I had to figure out how to make it happen. I sold my paid-off Harley-Davidson, and we put my wife’s dream house up for sale, and we found our property in beautiful Grimes County.”
Today, some 15 years later, that property is home to a herd that averages about 14–18 bison representing three to four generations, Humphries said. “These are very social animals with strong family connections, and the herd will be happy and do well when they exist in a large family unit.”
As with cattle, proper feed and well-maintained pastures are important factors in supporting a strong bison herd. Every 10 days Humphries rotates his buffalo—or “ ’lo” as he calls them—across the ranch’s five pastures, each ranging from 5 to 6 acres. “This gives each pasture 40 days to rest and recover after intense grazing,” he said. “We keep excellent hay from the Lone Wolf Ranch in each pasture, which gives the ’lo a free choice of diet. For treats we feed range cubes, and many of the ’lo will eat them right from my hand.”
As a member of the National Bison Association and former vice president and president of the Texas Bison Association, Humphries feels it is vital that his operation produce a top-quality animal, and thus top-quality products, which include hides, skulls, horn caps, live animals and meat. And as a small operation, the Humphrieses themselves handle nearly every aspect of the business, except for processing and packaging the meat.
“Business is always growing, and customers are very happy with the products,” Humphries said. “The sweet thing is my customers come looking for me—I don’t need to go looking for them.” Those customers include individuals as well as restaurants, wineries, special events planners and others.
Though bison meat tends to be pricier than most beef—often two to three times the cost of beef, according to Humphries—it also provides a leaner, potentially healthier alternative to beef. “It has a little sweeter taste compared to other red meats,” Humphries said, “and only about 25%–30% of the fat content of select or choice beef.” Plus the bison industry does not use growth hormones.
“We are thankful for every sunrise and sunset that we are so blessed to be stewards of these amazing animals and to share our lives with them here on the [ranch],” Humphries said.
Bison Nacho Dip
1 pound ground bison
2 cans Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies
1 loaf Velveeta cheese
1. Brown ground bison in skillet.
2. Cook Rotel, if desired, and add to ground bison.
3. Slice Velveeta for faster melting in microwave or slow cooker. Combine melted Velveeta with bison-Rotel mixture and enjoy.
Dan’s Better-Than-Good Bison Goulash
1 pound lean ground bison
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 box Kraft macaroni and cheese
1 10-ounce can Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies (retain liquid)
1 15-ounce can whole kernel sweet corn (retain liquid)
2 pinches red cayenne pepper
1 pinch garlic salt
2 pinches black pepper
1 pinch paprika
1. In a large skillet, slowly cook the ground bison over medium-low heat, until medium rare. Break up meat while cooking. Add the onion to the skillet.
2. In a separate saucepan, prepare the macaroni and cheese according to directions, then add it to the bison and onions. Add Rotel, sweet corn and seasonings to the skillet and let simmer on low heat 25–30 minutes with no lid. Stir occasionally.
Serves 6 (under 100 calories each).
Eat this dish hot off the stove or cold the next day—it’s up to you.