History Channel’s reality-television/documentary series “Mountain Men” made Kyle Bell a popular game hunter. His survivalist skills were on display in the show including his interesting relationship with his young son, to whom he passed on his game-hunting expertise as well as life lessons acquired over the years. His fans were disappointed that their participation in the show was cut short after just two seasons, and many wondered what happened to them and if Kyle still worked for local ranchers in New Mexico.
- 1 The 101 on “Mountain Men,” the reality-TV show
- 2 Kyle Bell’s journey in “Mountain Men”
- 2.1 The first time Kyle appeared in the show
- 2.2 He’s the local ranchers’ all-around go-to guy
- 2.3 Kyle’s new assistant
- 2.4 Going after strayed buffalos with Ben
- 2.5 Ben’s first hunting trip
- 2.6 Kyle gave Ben his first horse
- 2.7 Father and son went for a buffalo hunt
- 2.8 Kyle was on a repair mission 7,000 feet up
- 3 Get to know Kyle and why he left “Mountain Men”
The 101 on “Mountain Men,” the reality-TV show
‘Man is not at the top of the food chain in the mountains. To survive, men must do what is necessary. Some images may be disturbing.’ No viewer who was into outdoor activities in the wilderness could resist a TV show with this kind of opening spiel or disclaimer.
Since the 1800s, the mountains of North America had been the home to people who thrived in the wilderness. It was said that they were the ones who opened up trails and paths, which provided Americans living in the east the opportunity to travel to the west. Surviving in these mountains could be brutal, and the TV show “Mountain Men” chronicled the lives of people in modern times who live in some areas with no known paths and endured its hardcore lifestyle. From the Appalachians’ Blue Ridge Mountains to Montana’s Rockies all the way up to the Northern Alaskan Range, these hardy and highly skilled survivalists knew that the line between life and death was quite slim, especially when the temperature dropped below minus 25° Celsius.
Background on the creation of “Mountain Men”
Chris Richardson and Marc Pierce of Warm Springs Productions were credited as the creators and showrunners of “Mountain Men.” The idea came to them after they worked on an outdoor show called “Escape to the Wild”, but shelved the concept for later use. They only pursued it after their massive hit, “Duck Commander,” ruled the TV ratings game, and gave them the leverage to push beyond the limits of their creativity. After three years of running that show, the two were unceremoniously left out when A&E network took over, and chose another team to produce it, which motivated them to do another show, and “Mountain Men” was born.
The cast and crew
The creators of the reality-TV series traveled to various places, and scoured hunting game outfitters just to get the right people and ensure its successful launch. The first thing they did was conduct a background check for any criminal activities that those men might have had, which shortened the potential list of future reality-TV stars. They sought the help of local ranchers and hunting guides, as it was difficult to look for people with interesting characters who survived and flourished remotely while confronting deadly predators. The original cast members included Marty Meierotti (Two Rivers, Alaska), Eustace Conway and Preston Roberts (Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina), and Tom Oar (Yaak River, Montana). By the third season, there were eight survivalists featured in the show.
Hiring the right people for filming was also a taxing job, since only a few were willing to take on an adventure in areas located on the edge of civilization. It took a certain kind of person to live there even temporarily, so the job wasn’t for everybody. One of the cast members shared, ‘Once you get cold you just can’t warm back up.’ It took more or less 90 people to ensure that the filming went smoothly. Several five-man camera teams would stay for weeks with these mountain men, just to document their lives, and they acknowledged that it was one of the most dangerous jobs on TV. They battled to live on their wits due to the extreme weather conditions that they were in. The creators proudly said that their crew knew how to ensure that the batteries wouldn’t freeze, while carrying heavy cameras, light and sound systems, as high as 10,000 feet, over 3,000 meters
— Mountain Men (@MountainMen) November 11, 2022
Kyle Bell’s journey in “Mountain Men”
In the third season, the show introduced the game hunter, Kyle Bell.
The first time Kyle appeared in the show
In the mountains of New Mexico at an elevation of 16,000 feet, about 5,000 meters, the dry Cimarron Valley had one of the most brutal winters in the country. The temperature could drop to 25°C below zero. Over 30 inches, 75cms of snow buried the valley each year, but it didn’t discourage Kyle Bell. He said, ‘I lived an independent, free lifestyle. I take pride in being able to make a living out of my surrounding.’ While he was highly skilled in surviving extreme conditions and isolation, he never underestimated the force of nature. He knew that he had to keep his wits about him when he was out hunting animals, or even just cutting firewood.
Kyle Bell from Mountain Men is in Asheville for Field & Stream's grand opening!
He’s the local ranchers’ all-around go-to guy
Everyone in the Cimarron Valley knew that there was an element of danger each time they stepped out of their homes, but the risks tripled whenever the worst-ever weather conditions were expected to hit their valley. The local ranchers hired Kyle to do various jobs for them, including herding buffalos, scouting for predators, breaking trails, or fixing broken fences up in the mountains. Aside from the ferocious weather, several things could kill or hurt him if he wasn’t extra careful. Bears and cougars were always on the prowl – Kyle said that danger would always be a part of his life, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. He accepted these odd jobs in exchange for the right to hunt on their lands.
Kyle’s new assistant
There were times when Kyle would bring his 10-year-old son, Ben Bell, to his work; the young boy wanted badly to be a mountain man like his Dad. Kyle said that his son spent so much time in the woods, because he’d rather stay outside than inside their house playing video games or watching TV. He was glad that Ben shared his passion for this way of life, but knew that the young boy had so much more to learn, as in the mountains, there’s no room for mistakes. Ben shared, ‘I’m watching and learning the things that my Dad does. I want to live this Mountain Man life.’
Going after strayed buffalos with Ben
The local ranchers heard that a rare polar vortex would hit the country one winter season, and would stretch out to the far south in New Mexico. Kyle was tasked to bring down those buffalos that strayed, and herd them back to a safe place. It was the perfect time to expose Ben to this kind of situation so took brought him along for the job. Around 30 buffalos lost their way, and if they weren’t found before the storm hit, they would end up dead, with the ranchers incurring a huge financial loss, as each head cost $2,500 at that time. It was Ben’s first experience moving buffalo, and his father warned him of the danger that they posed, so he should never underestimate them; reading correctly the different stances of an aggressive buffalo would help in doing the job. They found the missing buffalos after Ben noticed tracks, so the father was quite proud of his son, as he stayed by his side and never complained the whole time.
Ben’s first hunting trip
One of the reasons why Kyle and Ben became fan favorites in “Mountain Men” was the fascinating dynamics between them, especially during the time Kyle took his son on his first hunting trip. Young Ben had never killed an animal, even a small one in his life before, and his father knew that Ben had to do it if he wanted to become self-sufficient. He instructed his son to look for a fat rabbit, as he wanted to have it for supper.
The only way for his son to acquire the same skills that he had was to get Ben out in the woods to experience everything; it wasn’t like any camping trip that they’d had in the past. Kyle made a list of challenges that Ben needed to overcome on his own, but under his watch. There was no box of matches or fuel-filled lighter to create fire, and no food supply. His son would have to shoot, skin and cook an animal to fill their stomachs. Ben satisfied his father’s wish, as he killed a fat rabbit and prepared food for them from scratch – Kyle said that it was quite satisfying to sit down with his son around the fire pit, as Ben absorbed everything that he’d taught him.
Kyle gave Ben his first horse
The Cimarron Valley was known for its terraced terrain of mazes and canyons, which was carved by past volcanic eruptions over the decades. Kyle had been navigating around this rugged landscape for 20 years, and the best way to explore it was to have a sturdy horse. The father knew that for his son to survive that lifestyle efficiently, he must have his own dependable horse. Kyle gifted him a horse named Chico, but just when he was giving instructions to his boy on how to bond with the horse, it was spooked due to some rattlesnakes lurking on the ground and jumped erratically. Chico’s foot became stuck between the railings where he was tied, and he couldn’t remove it. Kyle was afraid that Chico might be crippled if he kept on trying to forcibly get his foot out. An hour of pounding the railing widened the gap between the steel frames until the horse was freed from his predicament. A disaster was averted, as the horse ended up with only small cuts, and not one bone was broken.
Father and son went for a buffalo hunt
Herds of buffalo 100,000 strong once made an epic migration through the canyons in Cimarron Valley, and it provided an endless bounty of meat to anyone brave and skilled enough to hunt them. To continue with the tradition as well as a way to gather food supplies for the winter season, Kyle and Ben went out on a buffalo hunt of their own. In the fourth season of “Mountain Men,” the Bells needed to replenish the meat supply in their freezer to ensure they’d have enough for the rest of the year. It was an ideal time for Kyle to teach his son how to track and kill a buffalo. He was patient, and took all the precautions so that it would only take one shot to immediately kill the animal, and not just wound it.
Kyle was on a repair mission 7,000 feet up
Doing odd jobs for the local ranchers included repairs, and Kyle was tasked to go 7,000 feet up to help fix a broken fence. Apparently, a part of the fence fell, and when he saw it, he suspected something spooked the buffalos because they wouldn’t normally run down a fence unless they were in danger; he knew that a predator was lurking around the area. After he finished repairing the fence, he found tracks left by a cougar, and just then, Lizzy, one of his horses was startled and ran away. He searched for the horse and was afraid of the possibility that a cougar could get to her before he did. When he found Lizzy, the horse was lying down on the ground and he thought the worst. However, Lizzy was unharmed but she couldn’t move because the reins were tangled up in bushes.
Get to know Kyle and why he left “Mountain Men”
Just like most reality-TV shows on any cable channel or streaming service, the network executives never gave an official explanation as to why Kyle Bell left “Mountain Men”, and was never seen again. Speculations were then thrown on social media and online forums.
Who is Kyle Bell and what drew him to the mountains?
Kyle was born and raised on a small ranch his family owned in North Central Texas, growing-up in a house located in the middle of the woods. From the time that he was a little boy, he couldn’t get enough of the woods and the animals living there, and was passionate to learn more about them. He shared that he was lucky that his Dad and uncles took him on camping and hunting trips. By the time he was around 12 years old, he started to go by himself, camping overnight with only his dog to accompany him.
His parents would take him to the mountains of New Mexico and Colorado during vacations. Kyle felt even back then that it was such a cool country, and dreamed of one day living up there. When Kyle became an adult, he worked on various ranches, and became a ranch manager by the time he was 30 years old. After giving it some thought, he quit a really good job, loaded everything he owned in his pickup truck, and worked for outfitters in Idaho and Colorado. Later on, he moved to New Mexico and worked with three outfitters in the area. He believed that one must have the guts to pursue his dreams just like he did. Kyle said it was important to ask oneself, ‘If you’re not happy with what you are doing, why ain’t you.’ and do something about it.
The reasons why he left the reality-TV series
Kyle Bell quit the TV show without any fanfare after appearing in it for two seasons; fans were surprised as to the reasons behind such a decision. He was last seen on an episode aired on 1 October 2015. There was no explanation, but there were some reports that his absence was because he wanted to focus on his other business endeavors. Apparently, aside from filming “Mountain Men,” he also ran an outfitting company called Folsom Outfitters, which specialized in western big game hunting on private land with diverse types of animals, and a promise that they could make anyone’s Western dream hunt a reality.
The next time fans saw the father-and-son duo was when they announced that they’d launched a website as well as an official YouTube channel that would provide how-to tutorials on things related to camping and hunting trips. The fans were excited to see the Bells once again, however, after a few posts on their blog site dated February 2016, no new articles were posted. Even the YouTube channel only had one video uploaded since it was launched. People thought that Kyle might be too busy to even manage their online accounts, and never heard anything about them until a complaint about his outfitting company was posted on the Texas Bow Hunters online forum in September 2017.
A client gave a negative feedback on his group’s experience with Kyle. Allegedly, they observed that Kyle was quite drunk when he guided them during a hunting trip; the worse part was when he left them in the middle of the trip. Some of the people close to Kyle, who were part of the forum, were alarmed by it, and one of them even reached out to his wife. Apparently, Kyle’s knees hurt badly due to his rodeo days, and he would take painkillers along with alcohol to get by. Other clients vouched for their positive experiences, and were shocked at the negative experience other clients allegedly had with him.