To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society. -Theodore Roosevelt

A Living Laboratory: The Club’s Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch — B&C Impact Series

By PJ DelHomme 

To mark a century of conservation, Club members wanted a legacy project that would celebrate the Club’s accomplishments while providing a testing ground for big ideas and bold research. They could not have chosen a more dramatic—or appropriate—location.


Located along Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front, the 6,000-acre Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch (TRMR) abuts the Bob Marshall Wilderness, the Blackleaf Wildlife Management Area, and several private ranches. Other neighbors and residents include grizzly bears, wolves, elk, deer, cowboys, ranchers, educators, the Blackfeet Nation, and Glacier National Park.

Thrust Faults Along Rocky Mountain Front.
Photo taken by Bobak Ha'Eri, on June 3, 2009 
Originally uploaded in Integrating Research and Education:Montana Geoheritage Project:Montana Geoheritage Sites:Augusta Choteau.

Here, geologic and human history collide. The thrust faults of the Rocky Mountain Front (aka, the Front) run north to south on a dramatic scale. Roughly 125 million years ago (give or take), tectonic plates moved, collided, and crumbled like the hood of a wrecked truck. The bones and eggs of dinosaurs like Maiasaura and other hadrosaurs have been found in ravines after a gully washing downpour. Archaeological evidence has shown that humans have lived in Montana for at least 12,000 years. For thousands of years, Native Americans skirted the eastern flank of the Front on the Old North Trail that stretched from Yukon Territory to New Mexico. Remnants of the trail can be found on the ranch, along with long-abandoned teepee rings and homestead cabins.

During the summer, the ranch hosts between 450-700 cows depending on drought and range conditions. Those cows also roam roughly 14,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land through a grazing permit. They share space with dozens of grizzlies, elk, mule deer, whitetails, and a few packs of wolves. Upland birds like sharptails and pheasants hunker down to hide from opportunistic coyotes. This unique environment offers the perfect laboratory to study the coexistence of agricultural land uses and wildlife—and that’s why the Club bought this premier parcel of land four decades ago. It’s still a working cattle ranch, but one where researchers conduct habitat studies, ranchers demonstrate innovative land management practices, and educators run conservation education programs to train and inspire future wildlife professionals.

Origins of the Ranch

In celebration of the Boone and Crockett Club’s centennial anniversary in 1987, Club members sought a significant project to serve as testimony to a century of conservation of wildlife resources. Raising private funds, along with an easement purchase from The Nature Conservancy, Club members secured the ranch as a classroom, meeting place, and living laboratory. The mission of the TRMR intertwines research and teaching with demonstration to show how integrated livestock operations and wildlife conservation are integral to the economic viability of private and adjacent public lands. The Club is also interested in maintaining and enhancing the lifestyles of rural families who make their living off the land through shared uses and management of natural resources.

B&C Club Members stand below the newly erected sign at the TRM Ranch at their September 1985 meeting.

To be clear, Boone and Crockett Club members are not allowed to hunt the ranch, but members of the public are allowed to hunt there because the ranch is enrolled in Montana’s Block Management Program. In addition, the ranch has a couple of campsites open to the public and a road that provides access to the national forest and Bob Marshall Wilderness Area. “The way I see it, this ranch is meant to be enjoyed by the public as long as they leave the gates like they found them,” says Mike Briggs, TRMR manager. “I love to see the public use the ranch.”

Original long-range goals for the ranch included finding solutions to problems faced by land managers across the country—land erosion, water rights, overgrazing, and the intersection of private and government interests such as oil and gas exploration and road construction on private land. The lessons learned are then used to educate the public, private landowners, and agency personnel.

Watch a video from 1987 on the purchase and vison for the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch. 

Ranch Programs

When visiting the ranch, you first notice the jaw-dropping scenery as the Great Plains hit hard against the Rocky Mountains. And as soon as you open the truck door, the second thing you notice is the wind as it speeds up coming over the Continental Divide. Once that Chinook wind reaches the plains, it’s full throttle to all points east. But sometimes, on a rare calm early morning, you can stand on the back porch of the Elmer E. Rasmuson Wildlife Conservation Center and hear snow geese calling high above the clouds. Because of its idyllic setting and connections to conservation, the ranch serves as the backdrop for numerous retreats and agency workshops focused on wildife and natural resource management.

Conservation Education

Completed in 2001, the Elmer E. Rasmuson Wildlife Conservation Center serves as headquarters for the Club’s Lee and Penny Anderson Conservation Education Program, which offers education programs for people of all ages. It’s an ideal facility to conduct courses, workshops, presentations, and demonstrations about integrated natural resource management, natural resources education, and special topic seminars.

Luke Coccoli, director of conservation programs for the Boone and Crockett Club, grew up in nearby Choteau. One of his many jobs is to manage conservation and hunting education programs, overseeing roughly 2,500 students and teachers who participate in a number of programs at the ranch, including Outdoor Adventure Camps. Held each August, these camps immerse students in the great outdoors. They spend their days fishing, shooting, hiking, swimming, and learning.


Some of these students inevitably move on to become Scouts, and then they can participate in the action-packed Montana Outdoor High Adventure Base. Using the ranch as their base camp, Scouts spend a week learning about conservation, leadership, travel in the backcountry, and for some, packrafting in the nearby Bob Marshall Wilderness.

In addition, Luke and his team host numerous field trips with participants from kindergarteners to high school seniors from all over Montana and beyond. In 2023 alone, 16 field trips with more than 325 students and 100 teachers visited the ranch. And if students can’t make it to the ranch in person, they can learn about the ranch wherever they are thanks to Virtual Education Programs. Those virtual programs reach more than 15,000 students annually.

Luke Coccoli with students. 

Hunter Education

Over the years, the ranch has stayed true to its mission, but like any good willow in a creek bottom on the windswept Front, ranch managers and educators have adapted to the winds of change. There was a time when fish and wildlife professionals grew up hunting and fishing, but that’s changing. More and more students entering the fields of wildlife biology and management have no experience with hunting, nor do they realize that hunting licenses and fees pay their salaries in many states, especially in the West.

Since its inception, the ranch has been a partner with the University of Montana (UM). To recruit more hunters, the ranch and its staff participate in several hunter-education programs, including Wild Sustenance. Called Wild 491 at UM, this course takes students into the field to hunt birds and big game on the ranch. Under the watchful eyes of numerous instructors and guides, these first-time hunters learn first-hand what hunters bring to the conservation table—and how they put meat on that same table.


The ranch also hosts hunters with the First Hunt Foundation. The program began in 2019 with five first-time hunters, their parents, and First Hunt Foundation mentors for five days of family-focused, hunting camp-style instruction at the ranch. Participants learned about fair chase hunting, ethics, how to hunt in grizzly country, and firearm safety thanks to the on-site Palmer Shooting Sports Complex.

In collaboration with the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP), staff at the Club’s conservation education program created a unique, hands-on archery, hunter ethics, and conservation education module with the Boone and Crockett Archery Mobile. While NASP has been implemented in thousands of schools nationwide, most are located in urban areas where funds, students, and storage space are all readily available. In rural areas, however, many school districts may not have the funds to invest in archery equipment that will only be used a few times throughout the year. This is where the portable Archery Mobile helps to fill that gap. In 2023, the Archery Mobile reached more than 800 teachers and students.

Conservation and Habitat Research

TRMR Manager, Mike Briggs

When the Club bought the ranch in 1985, it was (and still is) a working cattle ranch, and it exemplified a lot of ranching’s challenges. Because of its unique location, the ranch is a place where researchers can look at the relationships between livestock and wildlife. In fact, in the early days, the ranch was also known as the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Research Station.

Just two years after purchasing the ranch, the Club collaborated with the University of Montana to establish and direct research programs at the ranch to demonstrate how the integration of wildlife conservation and livestock operations is integral to the economic viability of private and adjacent public lands. As a result of that collaboration, the Club endowed a professorship in the wildlife biology department at the University of Montana.

Staying true to the research mission, the ranch has hosted graduate students and professional scientists who have conducted numerous studies there. For instance, a 2001 study by Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, collected data to assess the impact of ungulates on browse plants. That study provided background information for other studies, like Scott Thompson’s 2002 graduate thesis that examined the impacts of ungulates on woody vegetation.

B&C's 2022 University Programs retreat was held at the TRMR. Fellows, Professors, and Club members from across the country gathered to discuss research and explore the ranch.

Fellows through the Clubs University Programs have also used the ranch for their research. For her master’s thesis, B&C Fellow Sonja Smith Andersen looked at winter habitat use by mule deer. Ground-breaking research by Boone and Crockett Fellow Chris Hansen brings the wildlife of the TRMR into homes across the country. His Ph.D. dissertation examined how different land uses affect plants and animals. He placed trail cameras in dozens of locations on the TRMR as part of his research. After sifting through tens of thousands of photos, he sends the absolute best of wolves, badgers, bears, deer, elk, and more to the Club. It’s posted in slideshows on the Club’s Caught on Camera web pages.

From Ph.D. researchers like Chris Hansen to packrafting Scouts to kindergarteners learning about grizzly bear dens, the ranch has something to offer every student and every visitor who makes the drive to northwest Montana. It’s one of the most wild and scenic classrooms in the country. And with any luck, it will stay that way for years to come.

Live views from B&C's Education Center on the Rocky Mountain Front.




 About the Impact Series

The Impact Series is dedicated to showing how sportsmen, members of the Boone and Crockett Club in particular, saved the wildlife and wild places of the United States. Early members of the Boone and Crockett Club comprised the movers, shakers, and initiators of the American conservation movement. They were hunters, anglers, explorers, lawmakers, soldiers, and above all conservationists. These members established laws that allowed our wildlife resources to flourish. They also protected landscape-scale geologic marvels and American icons like Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Denali, and many, many more. These members may no longer be with us, but their legacy remains. This series aims to honor their accomplishments and remind us of the good work still yet to do.

PJ DelHomme writes and edits content from his home in western Montana. He runs Crazy Canyon Media and Crazy Canyon Journal.  

Read more about TRMR Program in Fair Chase magazine.

If you are a member log in to the communities section to access the Fair Chase web editions.


Spring 2022 - Featured article about the First Hunt Foundation.


Winter 2022 - First hand account of a MOHAB pack raft trip.


Spring 2017 - Inception of the Hunting for Sustainabilty program.

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"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt