It’s a moment I don’t think I’ll ever forget. There I was sprawled out in some deep bush, my face strategically covered in mud, I started to quietly place branches and dead leaves over my body, I could hear a horse come closer and closer, doing my best to breathe as little as possible, my brain racing with a million thoughts, but one came to mind more often then the others: How the hell did I end up here?

The “here” I’m talking about is the ranch tracker experience, which thrill-seekers can find at Heritage Ranch in Red Deer, which is located smack-dab in the middle of Calgary and Edmonton. If you’re familiar with the hit series Mantracker, the experience is much like that, although it is much more condensed. So instead of avoiding the tracker for upwards of two days, the goal is a much more reasonable hour or two, which actually makes the tracker’s job much harder. Our tracker was the ranch’s owner, Joel. He was exactly what you would think a tracker would be. Nice, but a competitive gleam in his eye. Even though I pressed him, he wouldn’t provide any tips. Obviously you want to move as quickly as possible, but know when it’s time to lay low and rest quietly. Snapped twigs became your worst enemy and while pathways seemed like they’d offer you a quick escape, they also made it all do easy for the horse (appropriately named Hummer) to find you.

The goal was simple. We got a ten-minute head start, our job was to find four flags before Joel found us. We got a map of where the flags were scattered across the ranch, which included rivers, ponds, forest, fields and thick bushes. Obviously he’d have an advantage being familiar with the land, but we had that head start and a lot can happen in ten minutes. The Ranch tracker experience is unlike anything I’ve ever done.

At moments I felt like I was in The Hunger Games, other it felt like I was pretending to be an escaped criminal, both are feelings I don’t encounter in my life as a writer all to often. But the feeling I felt the most was surprisingly the feeling of accomplishment. You’ll have to watch the video to see if he found me, but for the entire ranch tracker experience I was doing things that I didn’t even know that I could do, let alone do well. Whether it was finding the flags, or successfully dodging the cowboy as he walked just feet from me. Without knowing I had any, it was good to know that a) I do in fact have survival instincts and b) I likely would survive a zombie apocalypse, at least for a day or two.

The Ranch tracker experience is relatively new one, but groups have already been flocking to it. I honestly can’t imagine a better team building or bachelor/bachelorette experience. Joel said that they’ve done up to groups of fifty people, or you can do it with just a handful of your friends. Whatever happens, when you finish, be sure to clean up and head back to the ranch for a hearty  post chase steak dinner at the West Lake Grill. The hearty meal is a fitting (and filling) way of celebrating your accomplishments.

For the millions of Canadians who’ve watch Mantracker over the years and wondered if they could do it, the ranch tracker experience at Heritage Ranch is your chance to prove to many, including yourself, that you’re braver, smarter and more strategic than you ever thought.

Mike Morrison