Outdoor adventures: Madsen’s serve outdoor needs in Lincoln County
Afton – Helping people experience the best of what the West has to offer to customers and guests is a thriving business for the owners of Yellowstone Outfitters and its related operations Teton Village Trail Rides, Yellowstone Horse Rentals and Wagons West.
Started more than sixty years ago as Petersons Hunting and Fishing Camps, Yellowstone Outfitters is now a full-service guide business, owned and operated by Lynn and Marcene Madsen and their son Chad Madsen. The Afton based family also runs several related business, offering services like horse rentals, wagon rides and trail rides in Lincoln and Teton counties.
The focus during fall for Yellowstone Outfitters is, of course, hunting. Occasionally, a hunter will fill a moose, sheep or deer tag, but the main focus of Yellowstone Outfitters is elk. Camp is located in the Teton Wilderness northeast of Jackson. It sits off the southeast corner of Yellowstone National Park, between the Yellowstone and Thorofare rivers. The hunting is so good and the scenery so spectacular, guests usually have to book two years in advance to reserve a spot.
“The Hawks Rest camp is one of the most remote camps in the lower 48 states. It’s a one day, 28-mile pack in from the Turpin Meadows base camp,” says Yellowstone Outfitters office manager Marilyn Dahle.
Marilyn is also the business’s public contact when everyone else is up hunting, which is most of the fall.
“It’s a comfortable, fully equipped camp, complete with showers, tents and great food,” she says.
Like other outdoor recreation businesses, Yellowstone Outfitters has faced several challenges from Mother Nature, including wildfires. This summer’s fire in the Teton Wilderness hasn’t harmed the Yellowstone Outfitters camp or the hunting grounds, but it has affected how guides and guests are able to access the hunting camp. Several extra hours have been added onto the pack-in trip to bypass the active fire areas.
Large predators like wolves and bears have also affected how Yellowstone Outfitters does business in the backcountry.
“Grizzly bears are a concern for our guides and hunters,” says Marilyn. “There are a lot of bears up there. We haven’t had any mishaps, but we take all the precautions.”
Guides are trained on how to keep guests safe and employ a number of bear-wise strategies, including keeping dogs in camp as a bear deterrent, using electric fence around the perimeter of the camp and proper food storage.
As busy as fall is for Yellowstone Outfitters, summer is even more involved. The Madsen’s offer guided trout fishing trips to the Yellowstone and Thorofare rivers, where the Yellowstone cutthroat trout is an angler’s primary quarry.
They are an Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing guide service, but guests can also choose to fish with spinning tackle. Anglers can choose a six-day trip on horseback, or anglers can customize a trip of a different length.
Guests can also choose to leave the fishing gear at home and take a weeklong pack trip or a half-day trail ride. All trips offer trustworthy horses and spectacular scenery.
The Madsen’s have also diversified their business to increase their viability and stability. Teton Village Trail Rides began offering guided horseback rides in May 2008. Based out of the Snake River Ranch in Teton Village, the business offers one, two and four hour rides along the ranch’s property. Sleigh rides are also offered in the winter.
Marilyn says the trail ride business has seen ongoing success, even in a tough economy.
“True, people are cutting back on expenses, but families still want to take vacations, enjoy themselves and escape from their everyday lives,” she explains. “A family might not be able to justify the cost of an overnight, extended pack trip, but they can come up with the funds for smaller, fun events, like a one-day trail ride. Teton Village Trail Rides helps people enjoy their western vacation on a budget.”
Horses and more
Horses for Yellowstone Outfitters and Teton Village Trail Rides are supplied by yet another Madsen family business, Yellowstone Horse Rentals.
Yellowstone Horse Rentals rents horses to other hunting outfitters, guide services and even individual hunters and anglers. Marilyn says they have a herd of more than 1,000 horses, with customers from Glacier National Park in Montana to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Yellowstone Horse Rentals also provides riding tack, packing gear and transportation for the horses if needed.
“There are two ways to get into the wilderness, on foot or on a horse. We can supply the horses,” says Marilyn. “All the horses available for rent are in good shape, well-mannered and guest-worthy. Many of the horses rented in the fall spend their summers packing kids or other novices around, so they can be trusted with people of all skill levels.”
For those seeking a more authentic trip across Wyoming, there’s also Yellowstone Outfitter’s Wagons West, a covered wagon excursion service.
Guests ride in authentic covered wagons through the Bridger-Teton National Forest and Mount Leidy Highlands, taking in Wyoming’s scenery and wildlife. Once camp is reached, the wagons circle and chuckwagon meals are served. Guests can sleep in their wagons, in a tent or under the stars.
Though Wagons West didn’t operate in 2012, Marilyn says they will soon begin booking trips for 2013.
“It can be a great family trip with all the western flair— horseback riding, wagons and meals cooked in Dutch ovens,” she says, adding, it’s like going on safari in the West.
Between all the businesses, Yellowstone Outfitters employs around 25 people in its peak season, including members of the Madsen family. Marilyn says that’s what sets Yellowstone Outfitters apart from other outfitters.
“At its core, Yellowstone Outfitters is a family owned and operated business. We offer three generations of experience in the outfitting and guiding business,” she explains. “The Madsen’s have also done an excellent job of rolling with the punches the economy throws at them by recognizing the changing needs of their customers. That’s what makes Yellowstone Outfitters a thriving business today and down the road.”