20 Dark Secrets About Mountain Men That May Make Viewers Question Everything They See On Screen

Images: IMDb/IMDb

The History Channel’s Mountain Men follows the lives of several Americans who’ve decided to go off-grid. These men live a rough, tough, dangerous lifestyle… And it makes for great TV. Their de facto leader is Eustace Conway, famous even before the network came calling as the subject of books and documentaries. The show brought the concept of survivalist living to an even wider audience than Conway had in the past. But it came at a price for some.

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20. Conway’s been in trouble with his neighbors

In December 2012, police arrested Conway for second-degree trespassing. His neighbor, attorney Margaret Palms, told HCPress.com, “He went and tied our gate shut, so we couldn’t get out and he put posters all over our gates, mailboxes, fences. Then he put big wooden barriers, so we couldn’t get out. He just kind of went nuts.”

Image: YouTube/DustinWilson

Palms went on, “[Conway] comes trespassing from time to time, and we’ve asked him not to. He’s harassing us. I just want him to stay away from our property.” The following year, the survivalist explained to High Country magazine about the alleged “personal vendetta” his neighbor held against him. In April 2013, however, authorities dismissed the charge for lack of evidence.

Image: Facebook/Mountain Men

19. Few of the participants are poor

During the series, it’s made out that the various participants and their families aren’t rich, and mostly make money from selling the results of their hunting trips. However, in reality many of them are quite well-off. For a start, they were all paid for appearing on the show, right from the start.

Image: Facebook/Mountain Men

Tom Oar and Marty Meierotto reportedly each have a net worth in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Kyle Bell, it appears, fared even better – he commands a fortune of at least three million. And that’s before we get to the 45,000 acres of rolling country Bell’s accrued, which he uses for private hunts. He may be a survivalist, but he’s one you have to pay for.

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18. Conway once restitched his own thumb

Eustace Conway has some pretty incredible stories to tell. He’s walked the Appalachian Trail, he’s lived with Native American tribes and learned their languages, he rode a horse from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific in just over 100 days… And he knows how to reattach injured digits. Including his own.

Image: MichaelGaida

According to Conway’s own website, he once badly sliced his thumb while out in the wilderness. Undeterred, he stitched it back together and healed it using “plant medicine.” The site quotes the mountain man as saying, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” Luckily, he didn’t have to do without his thumb.

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Image: Facebook/Jason Hawk

17. Jason Hawke has an online store

Balancing a survivalist lifestyle with the need to make money appears difficult for the Mountain Men. Tom Oar went one way – he doesn’t sell his products online, even though many people would probably want them. But Jason Hawk, who’s made his career from creating handcrafted knives, does have a digital store.

Image: Facebook/Jason Hawk

Watchers of Mountain Men, however, noted that really, if Hawk wants to live a life off-grid, then he shouldn’t have an internet connection. His website quotes him as saying, “I was born into a world that is forgetting the ways of the past.” But obviously the ways of the future are important as well.

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16. Conway learned his skills as a child

In 1998 writer Elizabeth Gilbert published an article about Conway for GQ magazine. It went into lots of detail about his early life. She wrote, “By the time Eustace Conway was six years old, he could throw a knife accurately enough to nail a chipmunk to a tree. By the time he was ten, he could kill a running squirrel at 50 feet with a bow and arrow.”

Image: Instagram/eustaceconwayofficial

This was some seriously dangerous stuff for a kid, but there was more. Gilbert went on, “When [Conway] turned 12, he went into the forest alone and empty-handed for a week, making his own shelter and living off the land. This may sound like extreme behavior for a child, but it was only what was expected of Eustace.” His grandfather, Chief, determined to toughen him up.

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15. Marty Meierotto quit the show

Marty Meierotto was a popular face on Mountain Men. But there came a point where he decided he didn’t want to live his life on the show anymore. After years of having cameras follow him around, Meierotto announced in 2019 that he’d quit the series. He wanted to spend more time with his daughter, but there were other reasons too.

Image: History Channel

Meierotto said on the show, “I’ve been doing this my whole life, and for the past eight years I’ve had a camera on me all the time… At the end of the day, I’m just a trapper. If you’re laying on your deathbed, you’re not going to be thinking about how much money you made or some job you had. You’re going to be thinking about what you’ve done with your life.”

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Image: Facebook/Mountain Men

14. A camera operator fell through the ice

The people who film Mountain Men don’t always have a great time of it. There’s cold, snow, wild animals and, of course, mountains to deal with. At one point, a cameraman was working on some frozen ice when it suddenly cracked and sent him plunging into the freezing water. Luckily, he was rescued before it did any real damage.

Image: VenomDesign

The cameraman in question, Mason Gertz, recounted the story to Men’s Journal magazine in 2015. He’d had to struggle back to a cabin to prevent the ice claiming him. And, he added, “I also nearly lost part of my hand to frostbite while trying to film a lynx. If it weren’t for Marty’s help, I’d be missing three fingers.”

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13. Rich may not really lose his dogs

Rich Lewis’ hunting dogs are the canine stars of Mountain Men. These are tough animals, and they help their owner do the extraordinary job of tracking mountain lions. One of them, Roxie, sadly died in the line of duty. And others seem to get lost a lot while they’re running around chasing their prey.

Image: Facebook/Mountain Men

Lewis worries about his lost dogs, but according to some viewers of the show, he shouldn’t have to. In 2017 the website Screen Rant noted, “Rich’s dogs wear collars outfitted with GPS tracking devices. In other words, he shouldn’t ever lose them since he always knows exactly where there are.” Oops.

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12. The Mountain Men are never truly alone

One of the appealing aspects of the mountain man lifestyle for some people is the solitude. All that hunting and trapping is done solo. Except… It’s not. At least, not after reality TV show producers get involved. The land may look empty and exciting, but behind every Mountain Man character exploring it, there’s a camera crew standing out of sight.

Image: Facebook/Mountain Men

With this is mind, website The Richest asked a very good question in 2017. “Every moment of [a Mountain Man’s] life, once they sign on to the show, is covered by a camera crew. If these guys really do live a life of solitude like they advertise, then how is it that they don’t go nuts over the fact that a camera crew is following them around all the time?” Fair point.

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Image: via Married Net Worth

11. Conway plays up to his expected persona

Is Eustace Conway really all he seems? In the 1998 article Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about him, she mused, “[He] exhausts himself trying to prove that we can indeed live like him. But we probably can’t. Perhaps we don’t even want to. If not, what does that make Eustace? A novelty? A fool? What Eustace wants to be, more than anything, is an example, but we seem destined to disappoint him.”

Image: Facebook/Mountain Men

Conway might just be a regular and flawed person. He himself admits that some of his persona is put on for the public. And that’s because people expect him to be a certain way. But in 2006 Gilbert revealed to the Powell’s Books blog that the survivalist could sometimes be “brutal and such a complete tyrant to people.”

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10. Charlie Tucker was already a local celebrity

Before producers approached Charlie Tucker for Mountain Men, the retired logger was notorious in the area of North Maine. He hand-built a cabin which visitors sometimes explored around as part of an event called the “Take It Outside Tour.” So when the producers of the show heard about Tucker, they quickly headed his way.

Image: YouTube/HISTORY

Tucker’s time on the show saw him battle against the elements, fight off a coyote and sustain a pretty major injury – true mountain man stuff. But he may not actually like Mountain Men itself. In 2014 he told the Bagnor Daily News that while the producers saw “willpower and stubbornness” in him. However, he also “hate[s] when you don’t have reality.”

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9. A journalist nearly died while doing a story on Marty

As Mountain Men gained mainstream fame, Field & Stream magazine sent journalist Bill Heavey into the wilderness for three days to do a story on Marty Meierotto. Unfortunately, at one point, Heavey wandered off from Meierotto and got lost in the wilderness. For a while, it appears that the writer genuinely feared for his life.

Image: Facebook/Mountain Men

In the actual article, published in 2013, Heavey described how he survived. He eventually lit a fire to alert Meierotto to his location. When the pair reunited, the mountain man was upbeat, the journalist wrote, “as if the idea of my actually being in danger was an outlandishly remote possibility that nearly came to pass.”

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8. Tom and Nancy have television

All the Mountain Men try to live off the grid to some extent. Which means modern concepts like cable TV or Wi-Fi should really be off limits for people who are meant to be hardcore survivalists. Yet Tom Oar has said before that he and his wife, Nancy, watch themselves on Mountain Men… So clearly, they have cable or access to streaming services.

Image: Facebook/Mountain Men

Even Eustace Conway said there are some modern luxuries he doesn’t expect people to live without. In a 2015 interview with Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine, he gave an interesting answer to the question, “Will Americans ever be willing to give up their conveniences for a more primitive life?” The survivalist said, “I think there will be a blending of traditional ways and modern technologies. I don’t think people will give up many of their conveniences willingly.”

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Image: Instagram/eustaceconwayofficial

7. There was talk of a movie of Conway’s life

After Elizabeth Gilbert published The Last American Man, her book about Conway, there was a lot of interest from movie companies. At first, director Ron Howard expressed a desire to make a film about the survivalist, but that fell through. Gilbert told newspaper Mountain Xpress in 2002, “We were really hoping to do it with Ron. We still might get to, but we sold it to Warner Brothers.”

Image: Henry Herrmann/ullstein bild via Getty Images

And not only that, but there were also rumors that A-lister Russell Crowe might play Conway. What did the man himself think? Though the survivalist told the Xpress that he hated television, he said that a movie would be “a longer-lasting way to reach people.” Of course, it still hasn’t actually materialized.

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6. Someone lost their sight at Conway’s school

Conway runs a school at his Turtle Island Preserve. It’s supposed to be a place where people can come and learn survivalist skills. Unfortunately, it appears that the safety standards are rather lax. In 2005 a young woman called Kimberley Baker visited the site. While there, a demonstrators there hit her in the eye with a projectile from a slingshot.

Image: YouTube/Turtle Island

That accident led to Baker losing the sight in her right eye. Unsurprisingly, she sued. Eventually she received $400,000 from Conway’s staff, but the man himself wasn’t so quick to pay up. It took until 2012 – after Mountain Men went on the air – before the survivalist finally gave the woman what he owed.

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5. Tom Oar moved away

When season eight of Mountain Men rolled around, Tom Oar wasn’t there. What happened to him? Well, it turned out that he’d basically retired, and headed off to live in Florida with his wife. He explained his reasoning for leaving the show to Allegheny Mountain Radio in February 2019. And it was all to do with privacy.

Image: Facebook/Mountain Men

Oar told the radio show, “We live out here in the woods. We live four miles from the British Columbia border and about fifteen miles east of the Idaho Panhandle. We live in the middle of the Kootenai National Forest. We had over 300 people that came to our house last summer to take our picture and shake our hand. We had honeymooners here two years ago from Switzerland! You know, it’s crazy!” So his exit maybe isn’t that surprising.

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4. Environmentalists have criticized Conway

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Conway’s hunting and general lifestyle don’t go down well with everyone. Back in 2010 the website MSN asked the Mountain Man during an interview, “Some self-described environmentalists have criticized you in the past for killing and eating animals and clothing yourself in their skins. How do you respond?”

Image: Facebook/Mountain Men

Conway answered, “When I shoot a deer and take its meat and skin, I’m intensely connected to the forest. Manufacturing blue jeans and T-shirts decimates the environment. So the environmentalist who wears blue jeans and a T-shirt and tells me I’m not doing a good job by killing a deer is missing the point.”

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3. Tom Oar thinks the show is exaggerated

Tom Oar has spent his life trapping animals and tanning their hides to make moccasins, sometimes using the creature’s own brains, no less. He then allowed camera crews to follow him around as he did all this. But Oar’s not convinced the show ever demonstrated his real life to watching audiences.

Image: Facebook/Mountain Men

In 2013 Oar told USA Today, “We sit down on Sunday night and watch [the show], and we don’t know what it’s going to be. They always have to make it seem more dangerous. I’m too boring otherwise.” But he did also say that Mountain Men hadn’t “embarrassed” him, so that’s a plus.

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2. Conway has had a lot of female attention

Following the publication of Elizabeth Gilbert’s article about Conway in GQ magazine, he immediately started receiving letters from women who wanted to be with him. Eventually, they started numbering in the hundreds. But none of those ladies achieved any success with the survivalist. According to Gilbert, he’s searched for a wife for decades to no avail.

Image: YouTube/DustinWilson

One ex-girlfriend of Conway’s, a woman called Patience who had gone on a 2,500-mile journey across America with him, shared something with The Irish Times in 2009. She said, “That’s how it happens with Eustace. You get sucked into the vortex of his goals and life, and then you’re lost. All he did on that trip was boss me around and tell me what to do.”

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Image: Instagram/eustaceconwayofficial

1. Conway’s school got shut down

Conway was not at all happy when his Turtle Island Preserve school got shut down in 2012. Officials of the Watauga County Planning and Inspection Department examined it and found multiple health and safety violations. They told him he either had to fix everything up, or the entire school would have to go.

Image: YouTube/DustinWilson

Once news of the situation hit, things got nasty. Conway’s fans flooded government offices with hate mail. The star of Mountain Men, though, got his own way in the end. Officials introduced a bill exempting “primitive” structures from safety codes. All of which means that, assuming the survivalist built his own structures properly, everything should be fine on Turtle Island.

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