About Blacktail Ranch

Explore Our Montana Guest Ranch History and Meet the Owners

With the rush for gold and the westward expansion of the railroad, Gustav Rittel came to Montana in 1885. He arrived in Helena where he learned the brewery trade first at the Herman Rister Brewery, and later worked at the the more famous Kessler Brewery. In 1889 Montana became a state and Gustav married Augusta Klause. They soon had three sons and moved to a small cabin left vacant by a French trapper north of their Helena home, in then Dearborn River Valley. On this land they began their homestead and soon had two more children, a daughter and son.

This youngest son, John Frank Rittel, grew up on the homestead and in 1928 married the neighbors’ daughter, Minnie Moren. The ranch continued to grow and soon John and Minnie started their own family with a son named after his father, John Frank, nicknamed Tag.

First Steps Toward Becoming a Montana Guest Ranch

Tag loved growing up on the ranch and spent his childhood days exploring and learning about the land. In the early days the ranch hosted a few guests, mostly fisherman and back-country big game hunters. In 1948 Tag built six small cabins for the hunters and fisherman and started his own outfitting business. He married Lyla Carlson and had four children: Eric, Jeri, Lori and John. Lyla passed away in 1982.

Tag & Sandra, a Hard-Working Team Dedicated to Creating Great Montana Guest Ranch Vacations

As luck would have it, Tag fell in love again and married, Sandra Renner, a hard working woman who loved Tag and shared his vision for the Blacktail Ranch. Together they began the renovations to the ranch to accommodate more guests. They converted the large barn into a lodge, which included a commercial kitchen and dining area. They moved the cabins built in the 1940’s down the river closer to the lodge and completely refurbished them. They remodeled Gustav and Augusta’s cabin into a “Blacktail Ranch Museum” and filled it with artifacts from the ranch, the surrounding area, and the archeological treasures from the Blacktail Cave.


With time, commitment and great fortitude, the Blacktail Ranch is now a premier Montana guest ranch; simple, authentic and offering a genuine Big Sky experience.

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