Black Otter Guide Service is a family business that has been operating in southwest Montana for over 50 years. It all started in the small village of Red Lodge, Montana when, while attending a rodeo, Duane Neal saw a cowboy leading a packstring across the horizon and declared, “That’s what I want to do some day.” His wife, Ruth, agreed that was a good idea. So they took their dream back home to Paradise Valley, Montana, and purchased the Black Otter Guide Service in 1968 with a motto of
“You come as strangers and leave as friends.”
Cooke City, Montana, became the family’s summer home during the early Seventies where they took aspiring cowboys on hourly or daily horseback rides or, for the more adventurous, summer pack trips. During the fall they guided hunters seeking to harvest an elk, mountain goat, deer, moose, bear, fish, or simply a glittery rock to take home to their family. The solitude gained by this experience in the woods is a major factor for our returning guests, not to mention the breathtaking photos they bring home to share with their family and friends.
Gary Francis started working with Duane and Ruth in 1992, first as a guide, then became a partner in the business in 1994. He got his outfitter license in 2006 (#1115). He and his wife, Nika Stoop, currently operate the business, keeping it all in the family. They are a very good team and have an outstanding string of horses and mules; their tools of the trade. With a great group of guides and cooks to work with, they have a great time sharing the beautiful backcountry of Montana with guests from all over the world.