I was a Mantracker junkie and I have watched every episode at least once. When I still had my health, I was an avid hiker and camper and I love to be outside with nature.
Mantracker is a Canadian reality television series that premiered in Canada in April 2006 on the Outdoor Life Network. In the United States, the show currently airs on the Science Channel and Discovery Family. The episodes of the first six seasons feature Terry Grant, an expert tracker called the “Mantracker”, who pursues two individuals in the remote Canadian or American wilderness. The pursuit, referred to as “Prey”, must elude capture while attempting to reach a finish line within thirty-six hours. In the final season, Terry Grant was replaced as Mantracker by Chad Savage Lenz.
If you have never watched the show then this post is not going to make any sense to you, but if you have seen the show, then here is how I would attempt to defeat the Mantracker.
I would without a doubt choose my adult son as my partner. He and I have many trail miles under our feet, including doing Philmont Scout Reservation. We are both very good with a compass and reading a map and terrain recognition.
From what I have seen and read, it appears that the prey gets the map the night before so that night we will both study the map and make hand-drawn copies in pencil. Each will carry the hand-drawn copy with them in a waterproof bag, this is our insurance against losing the map (which has happened every season). We will also make a bogus copy that will have the ending point near the final ending point, but it will be about 1 mile away from the real ending point. This will be left on the trail if we need to leave a decoy for Mantracker.
We will also plot out all water sources on the map. Then we will define as many routes as possible as well, and plan our strategy.
Our packing list will be light and our packs will be small. We will bring the following and every item we will both carry (I know that doubling the gear goes against traditional packing, but this is a game and we need to be prepared to win:
- Slingshot – Not as a weapon (I would never try to hurt the cast, crew, or horses), but to sling a rock in the opposite direction to cause the horses to alert on it and take Mantracker away from us. This will be in the backpack, but a dummy corded to it so we don’t lose it.
- Two-way radio with headphones – These will be clipped to the pack and dummy corded
- Good flashlight – Again dummy corded
- 3-liter water bladder for the pack and backup bottle – the backup bottle is used last, it will be dummy corded to your pack and when you start drinking out of it, you need to find the water fairly soon.
- Filter straw – in the pack to filter water on the fly
- Water filter – used for bulk water purification
- Sleeping gear – This will be small and light, it is only one night and only for 4-6 hours
- Trail snacks – This is key for energy
- MRE – One for Dinner and one for the next morning. We are talking, for 36 hours and it looks like they kick off around 8 a.m. So we will already have breakfast in us, Lunch will be on the go, so no MRE, likely flat break PBJs, we will eat as we are moving. Dinner will be once we are at camp for the night. Breakfast at camp, but really early. Lunch on the trail, so we will either pack something that is no cook. We are done at 8 p.m. so we eat after that.
- Binoculars – dummy corded to the pack and has a clip on it for easy storage and usage.
- Compass – dummy corded to the pack
- Map and copy of map – Stored in Ziploc and dummy corded
- Pack cover – either worn on the pack or stored in the pack, they are super small and lightweight, but it will help disguise you
Attire: (Concept is on day two to change your look)
For day 1 we will be wearing
- Reversible shirt (One color inside and one outside), preferably, green and tan
- Start off with a Boonie hat, switch to a dark baseball hat
- Start off with Tan pants and switch to green pants on day 2
- On day one, your back is covered with a pack cover day 2 it is not
On day 2, we will be wearing
- Reverse the color of the shirt
- Baseball hat
- Green pants
- No pack cover
If you are exposed (on the road or visible trail) the first rule is to establish an exit plan
Once Mantracker chases you and abandons the chase, backtrack. No one ever backtracks on the show. Always backtrack!
At the start line, limit your movement, stay in one spot, preferably on rocks, stone something that you won’t leave a print on, and quickly put a pair of socks over your boots to help mask the pattern on your boots. Nothing in nature is straight and the bottom of your boots have straight lines on them. On the flare, my partner and I would go in the opposite direction from the endpoint for one minute, then we would split up and 90 degrees and bushwhack for 10 minutes, remove the sock and quickly stow, and then 90 degrees to parallel the road.
On average it appears to take Mantracker 15-20 minutes to reach the flare site and another five minutes to check it out. At a slow 1.5 miles per hour, that gives you 25 minutes of time to make it about 3/4 of a mile (depending on the terrain into the bush).
So once we are off the road and bushwhacking in opposite directions of each other, it is time to really put some distance down between us and the launch site. If Mantracker is wise to split up, he will have two choices, track one or head down the trail looking for signs that we crossed. He will almost certainly do the latter which will work in our favor. He already knows that we are bushwhacking, so we can just keep moving. The chances of him heading into the woods at the start of day 1 is next to zero.
We would bring two-way radios with headphones so we can communicate and not give out positions away. The show always shows the prey using two-way radios with a tone, our radios do not have that function. Communication would only be when require and most of the time it would be in a pattern of radio squelches. So two squelches would mean making your next 90 turns.
The idea here is to cause the Mantracker to stop and give us time to put space between us. He will certainly know that we will try to get back together to bed down at the end of the day, but in the event we can’t we are capable and ready to do it alone.
Since Mantracker (Terry) said that he liked it when the prey left something at the start line, we will leave him something pointless but still make him get off the horse and figure it out, again working to our advantage. No need to be cocky, it’s just a game and we wanted to be on the show as we liked what he does and have mad respect.
Alright we are now by the time Mantracker reaches the launch site, we should be 1/2 mile inland from the trail and made our 90 turns to parallel the road and we should be a good 1/2 mile or more (depending on terrain) in the right direction.
Now we stay that course for 60 minutes (another two miles or more down, but this is very heavy terrain dependent, if the terrain is easy to move through for both of us, then we stay the course a little longer, if it is thick, then we make our turns back to the trail). We squelch and it is time to make another 90-degree turn toward the road. We each squelch once we reach the road and wait for the other. If we don’t hear from the other in another 15 minutes, we break the radio silence and talk over the radio to see where the other is located.
Now a horse can walk about 4-5 miles per hour and trot between 5-10 miles per hour, so bushwhacking for an hour like that will really put Mantracker on edge looking for signs that we had been there. He will have to walk slowly, looking for signs. So by the time we reach the road, he should have already passed us and is looking to set up an ambush somewhere along the road.
Cross the trail
This is where everyone gets caught, crossing the road and though bushwhacking is slow, it is the only way to beat Mantracker. He can’t track what he can’t see or hear. The only flaw in this plan so far is the terrain and the horses. If we are not on even terrain on each side of the road, we will have to adjust the plan, but we should be able to determine that on the topo maps, by reading the contour lines. The horses can hear a sound over 2 miles away, so approaching the road near the horses could give our position away.
This is where you need to recon before you cross or use the road/trail.
1. Stop and listen
2. Look and observe for a few minutes
3. Look up and down the trail/road looking for signs of Mantracker (prints…)
4. Communicate with your partner and stick to the edges of the road
5. Whenever on the road or on an open trial, it is always double time, making up for any lost time.
6. If you are crossing the roads, use anti-tracking techniques. You can’t hide the fact that you crossed, but you can waste his time, trying to figure out what you did.
7. If you are in a wide-open area, stay low to avoid getting glassed (seen through the binoculars)
8. Hopefully, there is a good 20-30 minute gap between you and you’re making it to the road and hopefully, you both are near each other, but then again, being a few hundred feet apart on a straight section of the road could really work in your advantage as you have a great view of ambushes.
So, let’s just assume that your plan worked to this point and Mantracker is still looking up and down the trail for signs of you. It will be obvious if he sees that he has already been past you. The night before you and your partner used the terrain features and a compass to determine your turning points and you meet at the road about 200 yards apart at a straight section of the road.
One of you arrives 20 minutes prior to the other. That stays hidden and quiet, just observing. The horses will not sit still in one spot for 20 minutes, they will move around, they will make a sound and if they are not together, they may whinny as they are what is known as “herd bound” so they will want to know where the other horse(s) are at and they will communicate with each other.
The road and surrounding area have been quietly reconned. Your partner arrives at the road and you can tell him to safely walk down the edge of the road. Have them walk down the side that you ultimately want to be on. And if needed have them ditch at 90-degree angles into the woods on the same side you want to be on.
When your partner reaches you, remain quiet. By now you have observed the road/trail in the direction that Mantracker is located and you haven’t heard or seen anything. You come out and you meet your partner.
*** Always cross with caution ****
*** If traveling down the road/trail, always look in front and behind
*** Always be quiet on the ***
Depending on the plan for the day, depends on if you chance walking down the trail or do you bushwhack, I would recommend that you stick to the bush until you can manage to get more distance between you and Mantracker. What I would do is try to work it so that you have him guessing and you went the other way. He will circle back and figure it out, but that is putting distance between you and him. The goal here is to put the distance and keep the distance between you and Mantracker.
If you planned it right, your 4 liters of water will last you for the majority of the day or for the entire day and you can refill at night. The watering hole is often the choke point for many preys. They push so hard that and bring too little water and they run out and are forced to find water. They find the only water source around and Mantracker is waiting for them. But if you can bring enough water for day one, then you can avoid that entirely. Once Mantracker is off his horse for the day, you have time to refill.
End of Day 1:
You made it through day one and you have managed to have little interaction with Mantracker. If you are lucky, you know where he is camping. This is the part that every contestant gets wrong. They stay up all night and late in the morning. The secret is to make tracks until it is dark (Mantracker will take the horse off the trail well before dusk, but you can hike easy enough until it is dark, this gets you another hour ahead of Mantracker). An hour on a flat road is 3-4 miles an hour. So let’s say that you make it 3 miles away from Mantracker.
Don’t be a dick and hike all night, that isn’t fair to Mantracker and it is a game, and if you are not playing fair, then it isn’t a game. I’m sure if I wanted to I could come up with a path and ways to not be found the entire time, but the game is to test wits, not go for a hike in the woods for two days. Play fair, hike until it is dark, and look for a site to bed down. Don’t go and attack his campsite, that is just being a dick.
Once you reach your campsite, then you can camp for the night, have a little fire, and set up your shelter. You are staying one night, so you don’t need anything fancy unless there is Inclement weather rolling in. If you are fortunate to have nice weather that night, then you can sleep under the stars.
The first thing is first, get the boots off. Bring something to switch into. This is important as you need to protect your feet, they also need to stretch and breathe and your boots need to dry.
Have a good meal, plan your day 2, and plan to get up early as well.
We would get up at 0430-0500 and break camp, swapping out our clothing to change our appearance. This likely won’t work, but it might confuse Mantracker or Sidekick into thinking that you are not the same people they saw yesterday and it doesn’t cost you anything. Make sure to practice LNT (Leave No Trace) and head on out. Once you have everything ready, take our first step at daybreak. This will get a few hours ahead of Mantracker. If you take your first step at 0500 and they take theirs at 0700, you get another two hours ahead, on a flat trail/road which is another 6-8 miles. So you are now 9-11 miles away from Mantracker. This is a good distance, but he can make that up really quickly on horseback (under 30 minutes), but that is assuming that they know where you are and he is not trying to look for tracks. He will be looking for tracks and once he found them, he will be able to cover that distance more quicker. So your 9-11 miles will only buy you an hour tops, but that move wasn’t about buying you time, it was about gaining distance and getting closer to the endpoint.
You aren’t so worried about leaving tracks at this point. He will locate your campsite and will be able to follow you on the trail. So the concept here is how far can you get and how fast can you get there. Once the sun is fully up, it is time to bail off the trails and into the bush again. Hopefully, you can find something thick enough that he can’t track you.
The goal here is to bail in the opposite direction as you want to go (so if you want to ultimately go East, bail to the West), loopback so you are parallel to the trail, but going in the way you just came (you are doing what you did at the start of Day 1, but you are backtracking). Head back for a good 20 minutes and then head back to the trail. Carefully cross leaving as little of a trace as possible. I recommend putting the socks back on your feet and trying to cross at a point that is narrow so you can make it across the trail and into the woods on the opposite side.
The concept here is that Mantracker and Sidekick are moving at a trot following your obvious footprints and they will miss that you crossed sides. If they do see that something crossed, it won’t be your boot prints. He will have to eventually circle back and he will find your cross-over point, but it will take him a while.
If this worked, Mantracker will be 20 minutes up the trail, trying to figure out their next move as you bailed into the woods. They will likely first set up an ambush and wait for 10-15 minutes. They shouldn’t hear anything so they will decide to go around and see if they can cut you off. But you aren’t there, you are in the total opposite direction beating feet toward the endpoint. Now you could have “dropped” your fake map when you bailed into the woods. This map might support the theory that you are in the woods making it to the wrong endpoint.
If this rouse worked, then you are home free for the rest of the day. But somehow Mantracker always manages to figure out the trick, so let’s just assume that he figured it out, but you got another hour down closer to the endpoint. Last night and this morning you manage to get around 4 hours of solid hiking on the trail/road. Most ending points are around 20-25 miles from the flare site and today you have already managed to put down somewhere around 9-11 miles, so you are close by now.
Spend the rest of the day if you can bushwhacking, it is more difficult for Mantracker to sneak up on you and travel in the bush. Keep pushing towards the end-point. If everything went well, you should be well ahead of Mantracker and not get spotted all day.
Just remember that you only want to stay on the road in the morning for no more than two hours. You need to be able to bushwhack your way back and across the trail safely without being spotted. If you are spotted then all that was for nothing.
Make sure you are mindful of your time, you don’t want to cut it close.
- Make as much distance as you safely can. Never try to outrun Mantracker, the best bet is to ditch into the woods and make 90-degree turns, it is more difficult to do that in the woods
- If you have to cross the trail, be mindful of your tracks
- If you can travel in the water, it will be slower, and easy to glass, but more difficult for Mantracker to track you by your tracks.
- If you cross water, be mindful of tracks, if it is a wide path of water, then you might want to try to travel down the center for a while to lose your tracks.
- Be mindful of your sound, you don’t need to talk the whole time
- What if it is open terrain at the start?
- What if no thick woods along the road?
- What if the road is concrete?
Anti Tracking Techniques
1. Try to erase tracks behind you using the brush.
2. Swap shoes or fake soles.