Real Life Ranch Wife

Wild Cow Catcher Q & A

Wild Cow Catching

I get all kinds of questions about the “profession” of catching feral cows in rugged country. Here are some of the most common ones, along with my answers.

When I tell people that my husband catches wild cattle for a living, they often ask a predictable set of questions. It’s not a job you hear of very often, so I understand the curiosity. Here are a few of the most common questions, along with my answers.

We have wild cows in America?

Technically, they’re not wild. They’re feral cattle whose ancestors evaded gathers and lived in the wild country with the wildlife, hence becoming like wild animals themselves. Then they picked a favorite canyon and water hole, where they reproduced until their unmanaged numbers put enough pressure on the natural resources to prompt someone to call a wild cow catcher. If you’re in need of these services, please give Jim Young of JY Livestock Gathering LLC a call today at 775—oh, wait, this isn’t the class-ad section?

So, you just gather the cattle and get to keep them for FREE?

What I want to say: Yes, you just drive into wild cattle territory, open the trailer door, stand back a ways and say, “Here cattle, cattle, cattle,” and they jump right in. They’re all fat, gentle, and not at all inbred. You’ll get top dollar at the sale yard, too.

The other thing I want to say: GATHER? You mean we can GATHER these wild cattle? Why in the Sam Hill have we been tracking, roping and leading these wily bulls and ornery cows mile after painful mile down the canyons, through the rocks, across the river, and into the trailer one by one?!

Catching wild cattle
Jim Young leads a feral cow and her calf out of a remote location.
Photo by Jolyn Young

What I actually say: Well, they don’t gather worth a darn, otherwise they wouldn’t be feral. And they’re not free; we pay for them with blood, sweat, bruises from hell, the constant threat of broken bones and the maintenance expenses of a pack of catch dogs and a string of lead horses. Also, we buy hay and pay for brand inspections and the sale yard commission. So, yeah, it’s about as free and easy as one of the hardest things you can do horseback while swinging a rope. 

So the cows I see out the window while I’m driving somewhere, are they feral?

If you can see cattle from the road while doing 80 miles per hour with the radio blasting and your kid screaming in the backseat, they’re not wild. Unless that’s how you drive over remote mountain roads way beyond power lines and cell phone service. If that’s the case, you should probably call your mechanic.

Does a wild cow catcher get in a lot of wrecks?

A wild cow man gets into a steady stream of wrecks at the beginning of his career, then he learns to adjust his definition of “wreck” and thereafter refer to those incidents as “events that happen in the course of a typical day’s work.” Hooky cow tries to climb up in his saddle? Standard operating procedure. Bull tips his horse over? Par for the course. Rank bull runs up the rope and tries to tickle his chin with a sharp and well-aimed horn? It happened, but he probably shouldn’t emphasize its regular occurrence to the wife. 

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