When fans of the hit television series, Mantracker®, learned that their favourite prey stalking cowboy, Terry Grant, was leaving the show, they were shocked, some outraged, and some downright suspicious. There was talk of a conspiracy, wishful thinking perhaps that the announcement was a gag, a stunt to draw in ratings. No one could believe that the show would go on without him. But, according to Bonterra Productions, who started holding auditions for his replacement in February, it will.
The concept for the show is compelling, yes. Men, women and children of all ages, from all walks for life, watch Mantracker, and imagine themselves in the chase. But it’s hard to believe the producers will be able to find someone as intriguing as Grant to hunt them down. Grant brings a unique blend of skills and experience to the table, along with those steely blue eyes that strike fear in the hearts of his prey, and send the ladies all atwitter.
People are crazy for Grant. They will wait hundreds deep, for hours, to meet him. They will wage Facebook campaigns in his honour, vowing never to watch another episode after season six, his last. They will even drive around High River, Alberta, looking for Mantracker’s house.
Grant’s response to his unceremonious retirement from the show (the result of failed contract negotiations) is candid. “That’s the thing about being a cowboy. You work at a place for a few years and then the next job comes along and you move on.
“I’m disappointed that the show is not going to continue with me, but I had a great life before I did the show, and I’ve got a great life to step back into.”
Grant was born in Creemore, Ontario, but headed out west to Alberta in 1976 when he got his first car because he “wanted to see the mountains.” And that’s where Grant’s 25-year career as a cowboy began. He worked for some of the largest ranches in the province, and got his first tracking experience herding cattle.
In the early 1990’s an opportunity arose to put his skills as an outdoorsman to the test. “I heard about some people who were starting up a group of search and rescue volunteers, and they only had four members at the time,” said Grant. “I was one of the founding six members of Foothills Search and Rescue.”
Grant explained that search and rescue (SAR) groups are called in by the RCMP once they’ve exhausted their own search. “How quickly that happens,” he said, “depends on factors such as the weather and the age or condition of the missing person.
“If a person was to get lost while camping, for example, first the RCMP would do a basic search of the campground, surrounding area and roads, the local homes, bars, and places like that.”
Grant said he’s rescued all sorts of people, young and old, including hikers, hunters and mountain bikers, who get lost taking short cuts or who venture too far out into the woods and get turned around. He said weather plays a big role in it, with people getting lost in the fog or snow. “Most often we search on foot, but we also use quads, which can cover more ground during trail sweeps (quick searches that are useful, but not likely to detect small clues).”
Grant said that while he has not been a member of the FSAR for the past six years, due to his shooting schedule, that he is still affiliated with the group that is based in Turner Valley, near Calgary, Alberta, and now includes 75 members.
Grant put his experience to work while he served as Mantracker, in locations all over Canada and the United States. He had an average successful capture rate of 70 per cent over six seasons. An impressive statistic considering the challenging terrain, and tricky prey, who often tried to mislead him on the show.
When asked how much acting was involved, Grant replied, “None. When I got mad, it was because I was mad. When I laughed it was because something was funny. The things I said just fell out of my face.
“Everything I said and did on the show was exactly what I needed to do in those situations,” he added, regarding his tracking methods. “There was no script.”
Grant said the addition of a horse to the tracking game is a definite bonus. Not only can you perform trail sweeps at a gallop, but “the horse is a great tool.” But, he pointed out, “interpretation of the horse is the key. You have to know what the horse is communicating by his reactions” in order to benefit from his contribution.
According to Grant, a good tracker is “patient, and has good attention to detail – the ability to see the little things. It just takes practice.” Grant said people of all ages are interested in tracking, especially those who spend a great deal of time outdoors and pay attention to what’s going on around them. To that end, Grant has established Tracking with Terry, a business based on appearances, presentations and lectures, in which he can share his knowledge with others…and greet his fans. He is currently working on creating a tracking course, in fact.
When he’s not on the road, Grant can be found at home, on his 10-acre spread, which he shares with his wife and collection of pets including Nickel, his Appaloosa gelding. And, said the professional carpenter, “if there’s nothing to work on in the shop, and I’ve got an afternoon to myself, you could probably find me golfing.”
Hard to picture Mantracker on the green? According to Grant, he’s still recognized, even without the hat. There’s no getting around it, he will always be Mantracker.
For those of you living under a rock (he could still find you), Mantracker airs on the Outdoor Life Network, and is currently auditioning prey for its seventh season. The format of the show sees two people set loose in the wilderness on a quest for a finish line 40 kilometres away, that they must reach within 36 hours, without being caught, and sometimes lassoed, by an eagle-eyed cowboy.
The prey have just a map, compass and whatever they can carry on their backs – the bare minimum to survive. Mantracker has a guide, or sidekick, familiar with the land, but with no tracking experience.
Terry Grant, the original Mantracker, commented on the challenging Canadian terrain he and the contestants faced on the show, saying, “Northern Ontario is a little grumpy to get through and Newfoundland was tough. Any open places like the Prairies, they are still are hilly, and the buggers can get in there and hide. Mountains are the most difficult terrain to track on though, because of all the rock.”
Grant said he never met any of his prey beforehand, and received limited information about them. Before the show, he was told just their name, age, hobbies, occupation and any medical concerns. Which, he said, is the same type of information provided in actual search and rescue operations. “This helps me to know how they might think. If the guy is a marathon runner, for example, he’ll likely want to stay on the road a lot and go fast.”
A common question about the show is how does Mantracker know he’s following the right tracks? Grant explained, “In real life, we would get an imprint of the person’s boot, make a drawing of it, have it printed and copied and handed out to all the searchers. I didn’t do that on the show, obviously because it takes too long. Instead, I’d just memorize the prey’s tracks.”
Perhaps the most popular question, however, is about the cameramen. Grant declared, “I hate that question!” The fact is, with more or less the same crew since the beginning, the cameramen have six years’ experience being a part of the chase. “The cameramen have been doing it for a long time. They are not always right beside the prey, sometimes they are below or above them. They know how to stay out of the way,” he said.
He explained that in order to ‘enhance the episodes,’ the crew spends two days after each chase, shooting ‘beauty shots,’ which gives them a chance to take footage of the prey and of Mantracker from multiple angles. “Otherwise,” said Grant, “the camera crew just has a lot of shots of my horse’s ass running in the other direction.”