How To Catch Wild Cows

There are many methods a person can use to catch wild cows. All involve ropes, sure-footed horses, gritty cowboys, baying hound dogs, and good ol’ fashioned hard-headed determination. At JY Livestock Gathering, our methods have been learned and developed by Owner/Operator Jim Young throughout his 20+ year career as a professional cowboy. With his experience and knowledge, we can create and implement a custom wild cow catching plan to fit any situation. We furnish a pack of catch dogs out of necessity, and daily creative cussing clinics are provided at no extra charge.

Here are the standard options for gathering wild cows.

Option A: Gather cattle

A regular cattle gather is the first method we employ. This method often doesn’t work for catching wild cattle, though, because these animals have learned to evade standard gather approaches. Wild cattle typically run and look for a place to hide when they first spot a human being, much like like wild deer in the brush or a rough country camp man on his first trip to Costco. This doesn’t faze us; we just move onto Option B, which can usually be completed the same day the original gather was planned.

Option B: Rope cattle individually

If wild cattle are unwilling to be gathered (which they usually are, or else their owners wouldn’t call us), we just rope them one at a time. Jim has tie ropes on his chaps, his saddle, the back of the trailer gate, hanging from the side mirrors of the pickup, stashed in the glove box, and crammed into his lunch box. Just kidding – cowboys don’t pack a lunch! Jim can tie down as many animals as necessary until a pickup and stock trailer can be driven to the area. He and his crew then load the cattle onto the trailer using their horses and ropes (no panels or further equipment necessary), and then transport the livestock to a corral.

The animal shown below wasn’t wild, but it was a big yearling that had been previously missed during a gather on a ranch in northern Nevada. The cowboy crew roped it and tied it down by the side of the road. Here, Jim waits on the left with two other cowboys until the ground crew is ready with the trailer located just out of the frame on the left.

Option C: Catch and lead cattle

If the feral cattle plaguing a certain area are exceptionally difficult to find, Jim locates them evaluating their tracks, identifying forage and water locations, and reading sign to determine what passed through a certain area and when. We also use specially bred cur dogs to track, locate, and hold up cattle in exceptionally brushy country where a cowboy can hardly see or travel horseback.

Leading wild cows out on horseback can be dangerous unless a person knows what he is doing. Like our good friend and fellow wild cow man Jason Kirby said, “It ain’t scary, but it hurts.” It takes a special horse to tolerate a large, nearly wild bovine being led by the cowboy on its back for several miles.

Here’s Jason and O RO Ranch horse “Hollywood” leading a wild cow on the historic northern Arizona ranch.

It also takes a certain kind of cowboy to want to do this job day in and day out. Jim is one of those cowboys. Here, he stands on the hill in front of the Mahon Camp on the O RO Ranch in northern Arizona. He worked as a camp man on the RO’s from 2016-2018 and caught plenty of mavericks during his time there.

Option D: Hand-to-hoof combat

If the first three options yield no results, then we aren’t scared to wade off into combat mano-a-mano with a cow brute. (“We” as in “Jim.”) The contest continues until one party emerges victoriously from the pile of cow hide, horseflesh, saddle leather, and catch ropes. If no obvious winner is apparent after one hour has elapsed (or two hours if the audience is really enjoying the spectacle), then the catch dogs shall draw lots to determine the winner. We only hope the dogs can be easily located to put an end to the battle, because they are known to strike a scent and relentlessly pursue the trail until they find yet another bunch of cows.

This is the trophy for winning the battle is a wild cow tied to a tree with her horns tipped, ready to be led back to the ranch.

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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