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My question is fairly straight-forward: How hard is it to round up cattle with a helicopter? I know alot of the folks (well okay, ALL) who do this type of thing for a living typically have experience around cattle since well before they decided to become pilots, but what's the learning curve like for someone who has only been around cattle a little and has no mustering experience? Is it something that a dedicated pilot could learn in a few months during the off-season, or is it more of a nuance thing that takes years out in the pasture to learn?


Thanks for any and all input.


edited to add: my experience with cattle involves bringing a truck full of hay to the pen and letting 50 head of cattle file in as they please. I can't say I've ever coerced a cow to go anywhere they didn't already want to go.

Edited by ADRidge
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never tried it with a helicopter, had a 4 wheeler I used...some of em were still so stubborn I had to push em....my advice would be to long line a barking dog...that always seemed to work. ;)


Off-topic, but I keep forgetting to tell you, nikon, that your avatar (smiley - turned - helicopter) is freaking awesome!

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I looked into mustering about a year ago after hearing that doing it in an R22 was big in Australia. Over there you have to get an endorsement to muster, plus you also have to convert to an Australian license. It was too expensive for me, plus from what I was told, mustering jobs are very hard to get, and yes, they do prefer cowboy experience.


The advice I was given, was to go to each operator, and offer to pay them for training (as opposed to going to a school) and hope that afterwards, they would hire me.


I don't know how the operators here in the States do things, since none of them returned any of my e-mails, but if you really want to do this, I suggest going down to Texas to talk with the operators in person.


One more thing, in Australia, they told me the training would take about a couple of months.

Edited by r22butters
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  • 6 months later...

I thought i might bring this thread back to life to answer a few questions.

You can get a start as a mustering pilot with little to no experience on cattle stations but you would be pushing a great deal of **it up hill, As mustering can be a very difficult job. These days there is a huge amount of competition, So the companies need to be employing the best type of pilot for the contracts available.

The other problem is the competition to get a job. while you could learn to muster quite well you will be competing for a job with people who have spent between 2 and 5 years working on stations.

I wouldn't advise getting a mustering endorsement As unless its done on the job over a period of time then it is worthless. useually it is done with a senior pilot of the company you are working for. and it is likely to take no less than 100 hours of dual time in the better companies. Remember in the mustering industry you are considered to be fairly useless with less than 500 hours and dangerous after that until you get 1000 hours. Between 1000 and 1200 hours pilots seem to become overconfident and are watched closely.


If you can get through that then you should be ok until you get to 4500 hours.



Back to the original question though How hard is it.


Well it can be as easy as flying behind them and letting them walk to the yards. But not often. when you have upward of 1000 head of cattle who decide they dont want to go through a gate or even in the same direction as you want them to, then you will want to bash the next person who tells you they are a 'herd animal'

Then you get the thick paddocks where you can only see what is directly beneath you. Sometimes the cattle go while you are behind them and as soon as you go to the next mob the last mob turn a run. The first you will know about it is when the manager asks why you only got 70% of his cattle in...

The size of the paddock is also a factor. most days you will be finished by lunch time to mid afternoon, on a single helicopter job between 60km2 up to 100km2. The largest paddock i have tried to attack by myself was 250km2. on a really big job there might be 4 helicopters all day.


You need to know when its a good time to go and get fuel, when your biting off too much, when to tell the station owner he's in the road. When not to tell the station owner hes in the road and just deal with it. And a whole host of other variables.


Sorry for the long post. i hope some of it is useful.

Oh and dont pay someone for mustering experience.. :D

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