Insight From A Wild Cow Man

Jim Young, owner/operator of JY Livestock Gathering LLC, has been catching wild cows since he was 14 years old. He first learned the trade as a teenager in the Book Cliff region of Utah. Since then, he has cowboyed for a living in several states and on numerous historic ranches. Jim recently worked at the O RO Ranch in Arizona, where catching mavericks comprised a regular part of a camp man’s job. Wild stuff is so plentiful in that area that Kathy McCraine wrote a book about it, Orejana Outfit.

Roping and leading mavericks at the RO’s only fueled Jim’s enthusiasm for catching wild stuff. If it was up to him, he would catch and lead stuff all day every day, twice on Sundays. Here’s a glimpse inside the mind of a wild cow man, as revealed through an interview with his wife, Jolyn.

What is your favorite part about catching wild cows?

Probably…everything. It’s not like a bunch of gentle cows where you can just wander out there making a bunch of noise and gather them home. Sometimes you can gather them, sometimes you gotta lead them. And each one leads different. I like figuring out what it’s gonna take to get them where you need them.

Here, Jim leads a maverick cow from our black gelding Cuban Pete.

How many head of cattle can you lead at once?

You can lead one at a time, or tie them together off both sides of your saddle horse if you want. Once they mother up, you can lead ‘em like a pack train. Once they mother up, you’ve got ‘em. If you’ve done your homework and lead to a staging spot, it’s really easy to put a whole bunch together and go. Sometimes you don’t have that option. I think it’s almost easier to lead more than one, kind of use the buddy system. They’ll mother up to that lead horse, and also mother up to each other. They know each other and go willingly with each other.

Are bulls harder to lead than cows?

You’ll take more of an ass whipping from them. But they’re probably easier to lead than a cow. A cow will sull up. A bull might whip your ass quite a bit, but he’ll move. He’s strong enough to handle being led out of that rough country. But a truly rank one, he’s rank. He’ll manhandle you around. They’re stronger and more mature.

The majority of big maverick bulls are the biggest thing in their part of the world and they’ve done whatever they want their whole lives. So, you have that to deal with, too.

How do you find mavericks?

You go into the country that they’re in and start looking for tracks. Just start watching. They need feed and water, so you go to those sources and look for sign. You try to learn a piece of country as you go in there, and figure out how it lays and ties together and how you can get around something if it takes off. You just gotta slip around quietly and let your dogs work a little bit. Read the sign and see where they’re at.

What is the most dangerous incident you’ve had?

Oh, shoot, I don’t know. Bulls will get you down, cows will get up when they’re tied down. Murphy’s Law: What can go wrong, will. Definitely cattle getting up while they’re tied down [is one of the most dangerous situations]. When you’re afoot and tying another one down or getting ready to put another one on a tree, if one gets up, it’ll try to eat you. They’re a wild animal defending themselves. They’re like a mad woman: You can’t explain it to them rationally.

What?! I never get mad. I’m always sweet as sugar and twice as nice.

I know, but you’re basically the perfect woman. I’m a lucky man to have you for a caring, supportive wife and the mother of my children. Sometimes I have to pinch myself because I just can’t believe how lucky I am.

Author’s note: I totally made up that little exchange. That’s what Jim gets for having his wife write his blog posts.

What is the biggest adrenaline rush in leading cattle?

The biggest rush to the whole thing is when you first hook onto them, when you’re coming off a tree or up off the ground. That’s probably the part that keeps a lot of guys coming back. Or when you first see them, or when the dogs first see them. It’s like a hunter with buck fever.

Published by Jolyn Young

I live with my cowboy family near Fallon, Nevada. I write articles and take care of our 3 kids while my husband day works and gathers feral livestock. If you'd like a few laughs, check out my Real Life Ranch Wife blog on WesternHorseman.com.

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