Western Horseman 2004
his childhood in rural Iowa, Tim Doud never imagined that he'd
one day lead clients on unforgettable horseback excursions into
all he explains, horses weren't among his favorite animals when
growing up. A neighbor kid's
vicious pony created an early prejudice against all things equine. In
1979, then 19-year-old Doud enrolled in a Colorado guide school, thinking
the experience would be good preparation for an upcoming elk hunt. He
nearly backed out when he learned that working with horses and
mules was part of the school's curriculum.
Doud signed on as a student of Grand Junction-based guide Dick
the end of the course, Doud had discovered not only an affinity
for horses and
mules, but a career in guiding and outfitting.
"After I'd been through outfitting
school, I knew I wanted to be in the mountains and working with livestock," Doud
says, "and not working in a building or factory."
a 3-month stint working for Pennington, Doud worked as an outfitter
in Colorado and
Idaho, guiding hunting
trips, until 1983, when he accepted job with a hunting-guide service
based in the Diamond Basin, a few miles south of Cody, Wyo. Within
3 years, Doud was running his own operation, based at the at the
remote Bliss Creek Camp in the basin.
led pack trips into the mountains and guided hunters, but also
budding guides and
camp cooks. The U.S. Forest Service named Bliss Creek Outfitters
the Shoshone National Forest's Outfitter of the Year in 1993.
Outfitting has become a part of the hardworking
"It's given me the opportunity to
work with horses and mules in the mountains," Doud says, "and
earn an income."
"You go into the mountains and you
don't have telephones and other pressures," she says. "People
come here to relax. And, I can set my own hours. They're
intense hours, but they're my hours, even if I'm working 20 a day. My
real paycheck is the freedom of doing what I want to do, when I
want to do it."
Doud admits that ever-changing government
regulations present one of the few identifiable drawbacks to his profession.
"The government personnel always changes," he
says, "so the interpretation of the rules is always changing with
them. You're not always aware of it until after the fact."
Doud guides clients-typically groups of six - on weeklong backcountry
the Rocky Mountains each
July and August. The couple also guides hunts for bear, elk,
moose and bighorn sheep.
The Bliss Creek base camp is located at an elevation of 8.400 feet, in the
Shoshone National Forest's Washakie Wilderness. The camp rests in a picturesque,
meadow 3 miles long and 1/2 mile wide, and in the middle of elk, moose and
bighorn sheep habitat. Moose sightings are a daily occurrence in
to camp requires a daylong horseback trek, Clients ride 10 hours from Bliss Creek headquarters Cody,
covering 22 miles of some of North American's most scenic wilderness. Riders
follow a single-track trail along the South Fork of the Shoshone
River, starting out beneath canyon cliffs and steadily progressing
in camp, guests stay in tents, but luxury isn't compromised. Each tent comes equipped with log beds
(with real mattresses), a wood stove and propane lanterns. There's
even a heated shower tent available.
The South Fork rushes nearby, its trout
population beckoning to campers.
"You can walk out of your tent and
catch a fish in 5 minutes," Doud says. "They aren't
always big fish, but there are a lot of them."
and four crew members supervise and assist the guests, usually
small groups allow each guest, or each couple, to have personalized,
guided outings during
"It's rare we see anybody else here," Doud says. "Guests
from the city come up here and marvel at the things we see every day. It
makes us appreciate what we have."
pay $300 pr person, per day, for summer excursions. Guided
hunts run from $1,800 to $6,000 depending on the type and duration
of the hunt.
Their instructional programs allow Doud to share his knowledge of the outfitting
business, and their love of it, with new generations of guides.
"Most of the students have hunting
experience, but have never been on horses or mules," Doud explains. "They
come to learn about horsemanship and mulemanship. We start with
first step: catching them." Students also learn about
shoeing, packing and, of course, riding. First-aid coursework,
and instruction on government regulations, round out the curriculum.
guide school runs from late June to later July. Students
pay tuition of $3,500 for the 4 weeks of instruction.
camp-cook school, also operates from late June to late July, and
per 2-week session. Tuition
is $1,750. Instruction covers the fundamentals and logistics
of camp cooking.
"It's important to understand high-altitude
cooking," Doud says. "In the summer, you have trouble
keeping things fresh, and in the winter, you have to keep things from
freezing. The amount of food you bring to camp is important,
too, because you pack it in, and it has to keep."
Doud's stint in guide school helped him overcome his childhood fear of horses. It
has also awakened an appreciation for mules. In his early outfitting
jobs, he sys, "there was one mule and 20 horses in the sting, and the
outfitter rode the mule. I thought that was pretty cool."
Doud keeps a string of horses and mules
- saddle and pack animals - and 25 broodmares, and stand two jacks
and two stallions, Bonnington Willido, a 17-year old Paint Horse and
former performance horse, and King Saaw, a 3-year-old Arabian. King
Saaw is by Wiking, the all time leading money-earner in Arabian racing.
The Bliss Creek mares, mostly Quarter Horses
and Paint Horses, reflect Doud's preferences for conformation and disposition
- good heads, big hips and a good attitude.
"We rarely look for breeding," Doud
the winter months, Doud, a board member of the North American
Saddle Mule Association,
mules under saddle, using them lightly in the string in the summer. As
4-year-olds, the mules take on a full workload.
horses and mules become too old to work in the saddle or pack strings,
to a community-riding
program. Local kids visit Bliss Creek headquarters each week
during the winter and spring for riding lessons on the old campaigners,
receiving instruction in an indoor arena during the winter and
on the trail during the spring.
Ty Wyant is the Quarter Horse columnist for the Daily Racing Form,
and a writer for Boulder Magazine. He lives in Colorado. For
more information on Bliss Creek Outfitters, call 307-527-6103, or visit