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Mountain Men raises authenticity questions with each new show

Mechele R. Dillard's picture

As the History Channel reality series Mountain Men goes forward, more questions arise regarding reality vs. television.

The depiction of the History Channel’s Mountain Men becomes more suspect the more one searches for information on the reality television show.

Turtle Island Preserve was founded by Mountain Men cast member Eustace Conway. He does seem to be the “real deal” as far as loving and living on the land is concerned. Visitors to the Turtle Island Preserve website are greeted thusly:

“We live, teach, breathe and believe in nature's governing truths. We interact with the beautiful clarifying teachings of nature as we interpret it's story. We are more about doing it than talking about it. We invite you to visit us and experience all that is Turtle Island!"

There are many programs available on Turtle Island Preserve, from camping to spoon carving to tree-house building. According to the website, “The programs at Turtle Island Preserve are powerful and effective. We dig deep reaching profound connections within us, touching our ancestral roots. ‘SIMPLY REAL’, we touch the sources of life directly, unshielded from nature's truths. Intimate and personal, we experience relationship building with the foundational essence of our existence.”

But, these programs are pretty pricey. The spoon-carving class comes in at $95; tree-house building $250; 5-day adult camp $650; and if you want a meal on-site during an activity that does not include one already, you’ll plunk down another $15. Plus, if you see Turtle Island Preserve as suggested on the website—“The easiest way to see Turtle Island Preserve is to schedule your own personal Horse Drawn Carriage Ride with Eustace! This is great for those people who want to come to Turtle Island but just can't wait for the next Open House!”—you’ll pay $75 for one person, $65 for two or more people for an up-to-two-hour ride.

Making a Living on Mountain Men

There is nothing, of course, wrong with charging for services. Everyone has to make a living, after all—nothing wrong with making an honest living. But, Mountain Men recently insinuated that Conway’s ability to make actual cash was extremely limited, and depicted him frantically chopping firewood in an attempt to make enough money to pay his property taxes. Plus, the History Channel is not particularly open about others on the Turtle Island Property with Conway. “Interns come to Eustace to learn the old ways of living with nature in a self-sustaining society,” says Conway’s bio on the History Channel website, with no reference to the money-making programs available. And, on the show itself, statements are made such as the one last night, “Eustace calls his land ‘Turtle Island.’ The 1,000-acre plot requires a great deal of upkeep. So, he trades room and board for maintaining it.” One can assume that this refers to the internships on the property, since Justin, featured on the program, is listed as an intern by the History Channel. But, The fact that they have these other money-making programs in place is avoided in discussions about the upkeep of the property, and statements such as this one insinuate to the viewer that all activities on the property are not money-making but bartered as a way for Turtle Island Preserve to continue to function.

It is possible, of course, that not a lot of people are signing up for the classes on Turtle Island Preserve, and that there isn’t a lot of income from the programs offered. But, if that is the case, why not be upfront and address it? But, as one Huliq reader commented recently:

Why is Eustace not paying his taxes, It's not like he is not making any money. Look up Turtle Island Preserve and see all the camps he has and what he charges. $95 for a spoon carving class. The show makes it seem like he has no income except for cutting down trees and selling it for firewood.

The longer this show goes on, the more staged it appears—not a good sign for the longevity of Mountain Men.

Oh, and by the way: Last night, Eustace kept saying his gun "misfired." Clearly, it did not. When a gun "misfires," there is no discharge; "misfiring" does not mean that a gun's sights are off, which is the way he appeared to be using it. Makes one wonder, in fact, whether or not Eustace Conway is the "real deal" after all.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Will Eustace keep his land in Season Two?
Image: Wikimedia Commons


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
I'm glad that other people have picked up on the subtle oddities and discrepancies on the show. Though I find it entertaining, and see hints of authenticity here and there, I find it very hard to believe that any seasoned outdoorsman would entrust the process of maintaining and sighting in his hunting rifles to anyone other than himself. Oh yeah, misfire? Big joke. It was sort of like throwing Justin under the bus and to the wolves in one fell swoop to cover Eustace's own incompetence. Kind of staged. Also, did anyone else notice when Eustace was reshingling the shed that just happened to be in disrepair THIS season? He asked for a handful of cut nails and was conveniently handed a handful of 16 penny nails. Seems a little more like an entrepreneurial hippie to me, than an actual self sustaining mountain man. And let's go to Tom in Montana. I've spent a lot of time in this area, specifically the area he lives in. NOT 100 miles away from a grocery store. And has anyone else noticed power, electricity, and phone? And a pickup truck? Also, that area is TEEMING with whitetail. I couldn't wake up any morning when I lived there without seeing at least 2 or 3 in the yard. Having to survive the winter on a couple of beavers and a mallard? Pretty tough. Where did the elk go that he's scraping the hide for in his shed? A little too much theatrical latitude. As far as Marty goes, let's set all judgment aside. The guy has a house and a family that he leaves behind to go and work in some of the worst conditions in the world at one of the oldest trades known to man. Yeah, I think that they took the footage of him without a rifle for our benefit, but no self respecting or self preserving seasoned outdoorsman or mountain man would step outside without a rifle. Having lived, hunted, and fished in the wilderness of Montana, and actually worked with cut nails, lived in a house only lit by candle and kerosene, I can attest that some of the aspects of the show are authentic. But like much of the reality TV that we are subjected to, it's tailored to entertain us rather than enrich us.

Yes, I think that this show is a case of bad production rather than incompetent subjects ... there are likely hours of footage we have not seen, and the footage just isn't being edited and put together properly to create a believable show ... the production staff obviously doesn't know anything about the subjects they are dealing with in order to cut everything properly ... Eustace, Tom, Marty, don't know the men, but I would guess that they are probably more frustrated with what is on the screen at this point than anyone ... they are not, after all, coming out shining in a lot of these situations ....

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
What serious hunter allows someone else to sight in thier gun, then doesn't check it himself? I am qualified as a sharps shooter for the state of North Carolina and if I shoot poorly I check my weapon at the range then man up!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
This was the final straw for me with this series. No one that hunts would allow someone else to sight in their rifle for them. You just don't do that!

Submitted by Crow (not verified) on
I don't think I could be more disappointed with a show. Spoilers for next weeks episode: 20 minutes of Eustace blaming someone for something. 20 minutes of Tom's wife freaking out. 20 minutes of Marty saying "I'M SCREWED!".

Submitted by Coyotejoe (not verified) on
That totals 60 minutes whereas the program, minus commercials runs less than 40 minutes but otherwise you nailed it. LOL

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
This show should really be called "3 Idiots Spread Across America". You don't give your rifle to someone else to sight in first of all, second you should at least check to make sure it actually is sighted in correctly before using it if you did do the first dumb thing, third you shouldn't shoot at something not knowing if your rifle is actually sighted in, and finally you don't get to b*tch if isn't sighted in. (of course this is ignoring the "misfire" comment and multiple guns shown because its too ridiculous to even talk about) Idiot. Next, you shouldn't send your German Shorthaired pointer into barely above freezing running river water with grass beds in it to chase a wounded duck when the g-damned dog has apparently never made a water retrieve before in its life which makes sense since its an upland game bird dog. Idiot. Finally, you probably shouldn't rely solely on a 20 year old piece of junk snowmobile in BFE Alaska as your primary mode of transportation, particularly if it breaks down and you have a hard time walking 100 yards at a time. Idiot. 3 idiots trying to kill themselves, their dogs, or just maim animals. This is the kind of show that gives legitimate hunters/outdoorsmen a bad name.

Submitted by Real Mountain Man (not verified) on
Did anyone not notice how staged the snow mobile breakdown was? If you watch it back when he left the cabin, he left his litte cart behind at the cabin. Then during the so called break down the cart was attached to the snow mobile and then it was gone again. Then while he was fixing the snow mobile, no cart. After he walked back carring a 75lbs. motor and fixed it he pulls away and like magic the cart was back. He never could have made that 10 mile walk back. What a joke!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Remember the poor cameraman had to make the trip both ways carrying his camera and equipment. Sure he did....


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