Here’s your chance to hand-feed a bison

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Call it a compromise, if you will. You still shouldn’t try to pet the bison, but you can hand-feed them treats. That’s the deal that Neil and Teresa Fischer are offering to their customers at a new Pawhuska-area wildlife adventure business called the Old West Buffalo Company.

The Fischers, who have come to Oklahoma from Colorado, have been in bison-related commercial endeavors for more than 20 years. They have recently renovated an old commercial building several miles west of Pawhuska on Oklahoma 60, and planned to begin offering a combination of education about the history of the bison, entertainment, and direct exposure to their small herd of a couple dozen animals.

The renovated building has rustic charm and is large enough to be suitable as an event venue.

Neil Fischer said he and Teresa planned to offer their bison program Friday, Saturday and Sunday last weekend, and to begin offering it on a regular basis from Thursday through Sunday. Tickets are $32 for adults, $28.50 for seniors and $22 for kids. He suggested potential customers visit the website of the Old West Buffalo Company and plan ahead.

”I think there are some really good things ahead. We really have fallen in love with the community,” Neil Fischer said.

One element of what the Fischers have in mind is creating an annual event around National Bison Day, which has been the first Saturday in November since its inception about a decade ago. The observance will fall on Nov. 6 this year.

Neil Fischer spoke hopefully of a possible Bison Days weekend for Osage County. Fischer is a musician and writer of music. His wife is a writer. Together, they attempt to impart to customers and friends a sense of how very long the bison has been an important element of the North American ecosystem. They also share details about the near extinction of the bison in the 19th century due to the sheer slaughter of the animals for their hides, and for other purposes.

During a meet-and-greet event May 26, the Fischers showed a group of about 20 guests a film about the history of the bison, and arranged for guests to be able to feed bison from the rear porch of their building. They explained that the normal procedure would be for customers to ride in a hay wagon to a pasture where the bison would approach and seek treats.

May 26 was different because several days of rain had made the trip to the pasture an unwise option.

”We just don’t want anybody stuck out there in the mud,” Neil Fischer said.

He and Teresa also discussed the possibilities for entertainment involving the subject of bison, to include something they called “Buffalo Dinner Theater.”

”For us, it’s so much fun and that’s what we want to bring to it,” Teresa  Fischer said of the blend of education and entertainment that they offer. “It’s basically entertainment with a lot of historical education.”

”We brought our bison herd, and they’re pretty special because we’ve worked with them the past five or six years, so that they’re friendly,” Teresa Fischer said.

Neil explained that the Old West Buffalo Company bison herd is a little different in that a bull, who is called “Woody,” has demonstrated a desire to be the leader. Usually, females are the group leaders, he said.

”I’m not saying that’s good or bad, it’s just different,” Neil Fischer said.  “He does love people and he’s a bit of a showman himself.”

Neil cautioned his guests May 26 that the bison can tell the difference between an attempt to pet them and an attempt to feed them, and they don’t enjoy being petted.