Holy Cats!! I received a ton of questions and support surrounding the recent Discovery Channel show, I-Cave Man. Thanks to everyone for both the questions and the support. The show was one of the most intense experiences of my life and I’m glad folks enjoyed the show and have questions. I had so many questions it’d be hard to answer each one specifically, so instead I’ll just try to tell the story of this event looking at elements before, during and after the show.
Several folks had questions about my background in hunting and survival skills so I guess I’ll jump in there. I did scouts as a kid and learned some basic woodcraft and survival skills. This certainly was the seed for a lifelong interesting in hunting, tracking, edible plants and similar stuff. I have done a fair amount of hunting but almost 100% has been with a long bow. I was taught long bow by James Schultz, son of John Schultz, who learned his shooting from Howard Hill (who did all the trick shooting for the original Errol Flynn Robin Hood movie, which ironically, was shot in lower Bidwell Park in Chico, CA. small world!) The Schultz’s are AMAZING archers, in this video John shoots quarters, dimes and even an aspirin out of the air with an English style long bow.
Now, I was NEVER 1/100th the shot James and his father were, but I was a quick study and became a reasonably good shot. I managed to take a few deer and a pretty good sized boar back in the early 90’s when I was really into this stuff. Unfortunately, I had not tinkered with any type of hunting until the Discovery show, but I have done a fair amount of tracking, hunting, field dressing critters etc. I’ve done a lot of backpacking and have done backcountry trips longer than a week with just the gear I’ve packed with me. I’ve made primitive shelters during weird weather snaps and stuff like that. I’m absolutely NOT a survival expert but I’m not a complete city-slicker, green-horn either. Folks had a lot of questions about how much background I had with this stuff so hopefully that fills in the gaps.
I was contacted by the folks producing the show for Discovery back in May. I talked to them and they explained the premise of the show: give some modern folks basic training in stone-age technology, let them free, see what happens. I had serious trepidations about this idea as I know the skill-set necessary to exist as a free living hunter gatherer. Giving us some basic training and letting us lose sounded like a really tough time. This was also when the proposed locations were north Texas and Kentucky, but there are far tougher locations. Several of the folks in production worked for years on shows like Big Brother and Survivor so I was also a little worried about this turning into Real World 100,000BC. After thinking about things I told them I was interested and was invited out to LA for casting. That’s the first time I saw Billy and I actually snuck a picture of him and texted it to Nicki saying “what the hell do we do if THIS guy makes it? How will we feed him, let alone my skinny ass?!” Billy is 6’2” and about 255 lbs of muscle. It takes a lot of fuel to run a truck like that!
Casting was interesting, they asked good questions and I made a hard case for the opportunity to show the power of a paleo diet and lifestyle in reversing modern disease. The producers seemed surprised but interested that 2-3 weeks was long enough to see significant changes in blood lipids but I was pretty emphatic about that. They DID end up doing some medical tracking as part of the experiment which I’ll talk about later. I liked the potential of the show but was worried not only about the suffering in store for me, but also the spectre of extreme kitsch-factor. There was the potential that we’d be clothed in loincloths.
It’s always been a process to try to talk about the paleo diet without things going to the Fred Flintstone place and I was not excited about the “project loincloth” potential. I made my way back to Santa Fe and despite my trepidations started researching edible plants in the N. Texas/Kentucky areas, looked at small game foraging and as much survival related material as I could find. About a week or two later I was contacted by production and offered a spot on the show…and discovered it would be happening in Colorado. The mountains of Colorado. At about 8,500 ft elevation, where there was still three to six feet of snow on the ground and the lakes were frozen. I damn-near bowed out with that information. I knew that foraging and living in a temperate climate like N. Texas or Kentucky would be hard, but doable. Crayfish & catfish can be caught (reasonably) easily by hand. Lots of berries, starchy tubers and other things to be had with minimal energy expenditure plus we’d have a profusion of small to medium game like armadillos, skunk, fowl and lots of other critters. Temperate climate: hard but doable. Alpine Colorado…was an entirely different affair. Given the time of year it would be cold, few animals and a paucity of calorie dense plant materials.
We were going to fucking starve.
I talked to Nicki about the situation and just tried to wrap my mind around the fact that I’d likely go hungry throughout the experiment as the location was not going to have good forage. I whined and bitched to production about the change and was told “you’ll do great!!” I went back and forth and finally decided to do it as this was likely a once in a lifetime opportunity. Starvation or not, I agreed to do the show, pumped the producers for as much info as I could (did not get much).
Here is what was clear:
1-A group of folks would be given some training in stone-age technology and survival.
2-The group would have a mix of skill-sets, some (hopefully) helpful in this experiment.
3-Nighttime temps would be in the 20’s, daytime in the 40-50’s, weather could change in a matter of minutes and might include rain, sleet or snow. If the sun was out it’d be pounding, high UV sunlight due to the time of year and altitude.
Things that were not clear:
1-Clothing. Would we need to make our own? If we had some, what type would it be?
2-What type of tools would we have? Would we need to make it all? Would we have cordage (string, rope etc.) or would we need to make our own cordage from plant fibers?
3-What type of materials would we have for making stone tools?
And a lot of other unknowns! The schedule was laid out and the plan was to have the cast come to Colorado about 2 days before the show started for basic training. I had a little confounder with this in that I’d agreed to do a talk for Naval Special Warfare on one of those days so I’d have to work with another survival/primitive skills expert before my departure to LA, then bounce up to Colorado for one day of training with the group. I found out an Atlatl might be part of our kit (again, unclear if these would be provided or we’d have to make them) but I set to making an atlatl and darts to practice. The set-up was pretty rough but I practiced for 2-3 hrs per day in the weeks leading up to the event. I ran around everywhere barefoot, sat out in the sun for hours to get a tan (sunburn sucks in general, under the conditions of the experiment would be an absolute weenie shrinker). Along this line I also made a point to eat highly colorful vegetables (full rainbow spectrum here) and lots of pink seafood. These foods are loaded with carotenoids and phytonutrients that provide significant UV protection and prevent sunburn.
I read everything I could on the Colorado area, watched everything I could on survival in an alpine environment and wrapped my mind around getting really skinny, really soon. Discovery sent out primitive skills expert Nathan Martinez and the guy was phenomenal. We worked on basic stone tool production, trap manufacture…and fire making. I knew we could survive for the duration of the experiment without food. It would suck, but we could do it. Without fire, at that altitude and the low temperatures I knew it was going to be a very short experiment, so I practiced making fire kits and making fire with a hand drill, assisted hand drill and bow drill. I overdid this and I literally had no skin on either of my palms. It actually complicated making the fire during the experiment as my hand was absolute agony. I also managed to get a piece of flint stuck into my index finger while making stone points and that proved to be a bastard later in the experiment.
Nathan showed me how to make Paiute dead-fall traps & snares that were simple in design but devilishly complex to get set-up. I managed to drop a 60lb rock on my hand while setting up a dead fall and it smacked the hell out of it. I actually went into the experiment pretty beat up but I was nearly desperate in my desire to get my skill-set up to speed. I’m a chicken-shit at heart and I wanted to minimize my suffering to say nothing of actually being able to pull this thing off! I actually managed to get a day in a half with Nathan, then had about a week to practice. My hand was hamburger from trying to make fires so I just practiced making the kit but this really sucked as the skill to actually manage the drill is so critical to success. I made and set as many traps and snares as I could while walking around the Santa fe desert barefoot, shooting bushes with my atlatl. I’m lucky we are renting a place on 12 acres of land in the middle of nowhere or I would have been arrested for sure. I hugged Nicki, packed up my kit and knew I would not see her for about 3 weeks and for 2 weeks of that time I would have not a single communication with here. Nicki and I built the gym together, travel together and rarely spend more than a day apart, so this was a fairly stressful part of the whole gig. This is also when I posted that I’d be “off the grid” for a few weeks.
To Colorado and Beyond
So, I did my gig with NSW, flew to Steamboat Springs, CO and then was driven about an hour and a half into the Back of The Beyond. Like so far off the beaten path they’d never hear me scream or find my body! It was now time for me to meet my castmates. I was miked up, walked out to the group and introduced…with 3-4 cameras rolling, everyone’s reactions recorded. This would be the norm for the next 11 days. It’s pretty stressful at first, once hunger and cold set in you don’t notice the cameras so much.
Day 1 of the experiment we had a solid breakfast but then had to hike into the location which was several miles away from the lodge where the production staff was located. It was raining, sleeting and just barely above freezing. We spent the better part of 6 hours getting to our skin covered hut and were given our clothes and tools. I think this was fairly well covered in the show, but what you do not know is that we were FREEZING before we even got started, at least I was. My modern pants were soaked through, I was shivering and not feeling very peppy. If you recall from the show, Manu did not do well the first night and really got hammered from the cold. I’m, pretty sure she had Raynauds which causes severe vasoconstriction when folks go from warm to cold. This is a very painful condition and can make one debilitated and likely contributed to her day 1 problems. But that was a bit later. After we had our gear, discovered we had shelter, albeit only large enough for about half the crew, we had to collect firewood and get a fire going. Now, this area that we were in was stunningly beautiful and two weeks before filming it was under 3-4 feet of snow, the lakes and creeks were still frozen. EVERY damn scrap of wood was wet and I had to look, and look for materials that were even a potential for our kit. I spent a good 3 hrs looking for material for the kit trying to find the best stuff we could get for the base, drill and other elements of the kit. I spent time on this because if we did not get this right we were not going to get a fire, just blisters, frustration and exhaustion. Great way to start things off! So, I spent a lot of time making the base, hand drill and getting tinder that was as dry and high quality as possible. I finally settled in on a kit and got to drilling, I managed to get the beginnings of an ember, but it was Billy that drove that over the top…we would likely NOT have got the fire without Billy and that first night had a low temp of 27*F with snow, sleet and rain.
I’m not going to go through every excruciating detail, but much of the prep is important for the questions I’ve received. We managed to get fire on day 1 which was huge but we were far from safe. I’m going to share some details which may not paint some of my castmates in a great light…I love these folks now, but some of them ranged form being a pain in the ass to actually dangerous to not only themselves but the group. Something you discover in a survival situation is cultural relativism (everyone’s opinion is equal) is absolute bull-shit. So, all that considered, we had a fire, wood and shelter, but the weather was bad and Manu was out of her head with cold and would NOT get near the fire to warm up. I thought she was insane (she might be a little, but I love that woman) and just pretty much wrote her off as lost. Everyone was sitting around the fire, super high energy and it was getting late. I made the point that we had some success but we were just getting going. It would be smart to rack-out, save energy and get ready for what lay ahead. I made the point we were flying high on adrenaline, but things would likely get bad in the days that followed. I had three people aggressively shoot this down. Two of those folks subsequently left the show for the obvious reasons of fatigue and frustration, the other person just did not do that damn much the whole show. Keep in mind, this is all my opinion, but from my perspective a few folks shit the cave in how they chose to tackle this survival situation.
More on that later I guess.
The long and short of night 1 was that everyone was cold and uncomfortable, Billy and I had to spoon Manu to pull her back from the edge of hypothermia…the doctor was actually called as she had pretty severe shivers and convulsions at one point. Day one was hell, we got no sleep, but we managed to pull Manu through which was huge because she ended up being both a pain in the ass, but also hilarious and someone who never stopped working and producing.
I need to backtrack a little as there were some things which should have been done by the group that were not. Going into this I researched how we should divide up work and what we should prioritize. I talked to 20 people ranging from survival experts to SEALS and the uniform recommendation was the following:
1-Secure camp: including fire, shelter and water.
2-Survey the location and begin foraging, but focus on traps.
3-Construct weapons such as Atlatls
4-As part of foraging and trap installation, survey the terrain for hunting opportunities.
5-Build fish weirs, crayfish traps etc.
6-Attempt to secure a foraging economy, then, when we are not starving, start hunting, looking for a big payoff.
In my mind that would have meant 3-4 days of trapping and foraging, working our way ever further away form the camp. As we struck pay-dirt on the traps, it would actually improve our success with subsequent traps due to the ability to utilize better bait.
Well, it did not go that way.
Billy was by far our best primitive skills person. Gene and I could make deadfall traps and snares, but we were fairly slow. Robert…well, Robert did what every one of the survival experts said not to do. Run over hill and dale, trying to hunt with nothing more than a hand spear and throwing stick. Robert is a super cool guy, really funny (think of a young Denis Leery) but pretty full of piss& vinegar. I made a case for the plan outlined above, was shot-down, so Robert, Billy and or Morgan did virtually all of the initial hunting. I opted out, instead trying to focus on traps, but a huge amount of time was spent gathering firewood. As was alluded in the show, we had some…production inequity and some folks were not very motivated to go and gather firewood. So instead of a few folks hauling wood (we needed a lot to get through the nights) a few folks foraging and some folks trapping we had a kind of chaotic mess that was very energetically demanding, but produced little in the way of chow. While out stomping around Gene saw large shoals of minnows and had the idea to use one of our baskets to scoop them up. It was a great idea! Gene and Lora managed to catch maybe 4-5 pounds of minnows! They brought them back, we figured out some ways to cook them…and a few people opted out of eating them. That was fucking annoying. The minnows were not very tasty (you ate the whole thing, guts & all) but it was chow and it was easy to get. I did a lot of yammering about the need to take in any and all food, but…well, anyway, the big mistake I made here was in not eating all that was not consumed by other folks. I left it because in a reasonable situation that would have been bad of me to eat that grub when others had not yet eaten. What I did not realize was that folks were not even remotely aware of how bad things would get in a few days.
That’s all for this week, tune in next week for part 2. I will have very limited email/internet access for about 2 weeks, but I will do my best to get back to questions.
Sounds like you were really the only one prepared for this show. It’s too bad they didn’t follow the suggestions you received from other survival experts and SEALS. It would have been interesting to see everyone able to cooperate in a more productive manner. Something tells me that our ancestor hunger-gatherers were able to prioritize their tasks a little better than some of the other participants on the show. It would have been awesome to see the full effects of the type of diet and daily movements our ancestors experienced.
Thanks for the background to the show, and for participating in it.
Robb Wolf says
I practiced a ton, Billy is a bad-ass and knew 99% of this stuff going in…Morgan is a good hunter and tough guy (I was impressed) as was Robert, but he was too high strung for his own good. Gene always worked, and Lora never sat down…but from there more group cohesion (collecting firewood without prompting, not asking to have your fish “filleted” and drinking the water available (next week) would have made things way easier. )
Thanks for sharing this part! Makes it even better! Was hoping you’d give us a detailed look! Thanks!
Crunchy Pickle says
It sounds strange but I feel a bit of a connection to you after having followed the blog and read your book. It’s like I had a family member on i-caveman. What can I say – I feel a little proud… 🙂
Robb Wolf says
Aw shucks! thanks Crunchy!!!
Omg me too. I was like go robb! The entire freaking time so i had to go add you on fb. I really want to go to Chico now before you get too famous to meet.
Pretty psyched to read part two Robb. I was really impressed by your deadfall traps and can’t imagine how much effort you put into preparing for the show. Thanks for your efforts, Its much apprecatied by at least 6 people in my family.
Robb Wolf says
thanks man. I really just a coward and did not want to starve!
Chuck Charbeneau says
Great stuff, Robb.
The best laid plan never survives first encounter with the enemy…or a group vote.
Robb Wolf says
It seems like modern day sensibilities need to take a back seat when we’re playing pretend caveman. It should have been like “you don’t work, you don’t eat”. Able bodies can’t just sit on their butts like that when survival is at stake. That was super frustrating, but I guess it gave the show some dynamic tension. Overall it was pretty awesome to watch and I was cheering for you all to make us modern humans proud.
David Csonka says
Thanks for sharing the insight into the the behind-the-scenes Robb! Fascinating stuff.
I was myself, wondering what you were up to while the meat heads were going out to “hunt” with spears. Looks like you were trying to salvage a potential disaster back at camp. Good for you.
I remember shouting at the screen, “I want to see more Robb! What is Robb up to?!”
Robb Wolf says
HA! I was being a cranky ass-hole for the most part!
Robb – I watched both episodes last night and had so many questions, so thank you for the recap. It was such an amazing series to watch. My only criticism is that I felt they missed the boat by not doing more detailed bio’s on each of the participants. I think this would have provided greater context to the group dynamic and everybody’s strengths/weaknesses. Other than that, it was really well done and played out more like a documentary vs Real World 100,000 BC. It was fascinating to see the hardships that our hunger-gatherer ancestors suffered through and gave me an appreciation for how easy it is for us to follow paleo principles in the modern world. I really want to hear about what you’ve changed in your life since doing the show (hoping you cover that in recap #2)– I imagine that it has been one of the more profound experiences in your life. You represented yourself very well and definitely stood out as one of the more stable and stoic participants. Congratulations!
Robb Wolf says
thanks Summer! it was a life changer…or perhaps re-affirmer si more accurate. Leet me know if you have other questions after next week.
“I will have very limited email/internet access for about 2 weeks”
Hmmmm…. I-CaveMan Part 2: Son of I-CaveMan?
Robb Wolf says
Ha! No, but another project.
Awesome! I can’t wait to hear the rest of the story. I need to watch this online (no TV at home). Great stuff!
I thoroughly enjoyed the show, and getting a little behind the scenes is really entertaining. Glad you made it through, and huge props for taking out the elk with a neck shot! That was seriously amazing. Looking forward to the next post.
Link to some clips:
When I first started watching the show I was thinking “seriously?” This smacks of Big Brother meets the Flintstones. (as you alluded to) But I didn’t think you would have done the project if that was going to be the gist.
I was not disappointed.
So to summarize, YOU provided fire, the most critical element to get you all safe and secure and YOU got the kill that saved your asses at the end of the show. Clearly, YOU ROCK!
I found the dynamics of the group fascinating! I’d love to hear more about that and about how accurate this was as an honest comparison to the experience of actual paleos. I’d also love to really get the behind the scenes details over a few Nor Cal margs 😉 Maybe next time you’re in the OC.
Robb Wolf says
It was a group effort but i had my hand in a few important goodies.
Anywhere I can watch this online? I live in the UK, really want to see this!
Robb Wolf says
Itunes & amazon I believe.
JD It was on Youtube last week and that’s where I watched it.
craig almaguer says
Very cool details Robb! Nice work. FYI, I shot my first deer with a 45 recurve back in ’86 on the Cottonwood Creek off Gas Point Road. Yep, small world.
Robb Wolf says
WOW! Really small.
small world indeed!! I’m from Anderson..whoa haha
Marc @ PaleoTrack says
Thanks for this great “behind-the-scenes” look. Love it so far.
I watched both episodes on Sunday. Very cool stuff and a must view for the vegan sect. Although you were ultimately successful, I would have also been reluctant. Hunter gatherers survive based on years of skill honing and knowledge passed down over generations. In that respect, it seemed like any conclusion drawn from this experiment would be unjust.
As far as the people who wouldn’t eat the food they got, they weren’t in it for an authentic experience obviously. They were just biding their time till they were off the reservation and could go to the first restaurant they could find. I am curious to see the clinical #s from the experiment.
BTW, can you tell more about the land you were on? I saw a fence line in the kill scene.
Robb Wolf says
16,000 acre ranch in the mountains of colorado. HUGE place. Right before we got the elk we saw a bear and were trying to set up to go after it but it took off. We had Mtn. Lion tracks everywhere…it was a pretty wild place.
something i wonder after reading this article. are you going to start hunting for sources of animal protein and fat? seems like an optimal source of food. also seems like there may be more opportunity to do this in santa fe.
i am not sure we heard why you moved there away from your gym. why did you or is it none of our business?
Robb Wolf says
Great hunting In both Chico and Santa Fe. I mentioned “why” for the move in a podcast ;0)
Working with Erwan, but winding that down.
Matt Lentzner says
My main thought watching the show was that it wasn’t a fair portrayal of “caveman” life at all. No caveman would be so stupid to set up camp in such a shitty location with fuck all for forage.
It was made artificially difficult. Setting you guys up on a tropical island with copious coconuts and breadfruit would have been just as “caveman” without starving and whatnot. Although, real cavemen didn’t have the option to opt out and go home if they got their panties in a knot.
This experiment was more like a military “school” like Ranger, Special Forces, or SERE. Basically just push people to the limit and see who can hack it and who can’t.
At any rate, entertaining show, even if it wasn’t testing what it purportedly was.
There are good historical and entertainment-related reasons for the producers to have focused on more of an “ice age” scenario. The historical fact is that there were hunters who, for whatever reason, left the savannah and made their way to, and survived in, extremely inhosbitable areas. The peoples of northern Europe do exist, after all, and they didn’t just pop up out of the ground a few hundred years ago.
It makes for a much more interesting program to pursue the question of how it was that people could survive and thrive in difficult, challenging, brutal environments. The most sophisticated civilizations — European and Chinese, for example — developed in northern, relatively inhospitable regions, and a reason for this is no doubt that it took more wits and innovation to survive in such difficult circumstances.
There is really no mystery to how people can survive on tropical islands: such peoples still exist today or at least existed until very recently, so it has been studied and is known.
Tropical island civilization remained – without exception – relatively primative throughout history, so as a historical and civilization inquiry, it is much more interesting to look at the circumstances that led to a more advanced civilization.
I doubt watching Robb spend two weeks napping under the coconut and banana trees would have been as interesting or solicited the interest that the “ice age” type scenario did.
Yeah, but those people would never have gone in that unprepared.
You don’t start from nothing up north. The peoples who moved into ice-age territories knew darned well what they were getting into, and came bearing *things*. Better tents, better clothes, better weapons. Nothing you couldn’t carry on your back, of course, but you don’t spring from nothing up north.
It makes reasonable tv. It would’ve been more so if people would’ve consistently *tried*. (That’s why Surviorman is so awesome. That, and I mean, dude that guy is a superhero. You should meet him Robb! I would die of visceral happiness!) You didn’t get away with not pulling your weight in caveman times, and the more so the further north you get. Family/tribe was all, and if you were selfish or stupid they had no qualms about leaving you out to die.
I would’ve enjoyed it more, now that I know, if it’d stayed down south like the original plan was. So things don’t take quite so much work just to survive, and we could show off the caveman leisure time too.
Robb Wolf says
I’d highly suggest reading 1491. We do have examples of advanced, tropical latitude civs.
Ditto on the 1491 recommendation. That book is a major eye-opener.
Luke Terry says
Awesome recount, Rob. I only got to catch the last 10 minutes of the show–is the full version available somewhere online?
I’d love to see what I missed, even though I’ve already heard all about it.
It’s neat to see you had some background as a kid. I did scouts as a young lad as well, and at one point we had to do a 3-day survival camp, also in Colorado at a similar elevation. It was, as you can imagine with a bunch of 14-year olds, somewhere between Silence of the Lambs and Lord of the Flies. But it worked out, mostly because our scout leaders were decent human beings. Also, no cameras and a decent bond going into the thing meant we had some teamwork & group discipline.
With the minnows–no attempt made to remove the gut lining? I realize you guys didn’t have much in the way of bladed tools, but even with a stick, it might have improved the taste.
Way cool overall.
Robb Wolf says
Dude! There was no way to gut those minnows! You can find the show on iTunes and amazon.
I doubt I could have taken it seriously at all especially when you consider in reality you were in no danger because there were camera guys there and they most likely had guns for bears. We will never know what it was really like as any person worth filming is also worth saving them from starvation or being eaten or some other form of physical consequence.
I would like to see a show or movie with real actors that doesn’t break the 4th wall. Of course I consider Robb a real actor.
Robb Wolf says
Actually, no guns and we could have got in serious trouble. If that elk (or bear) had wanted to charge it would have been them vs us.
Wow that is impressive then, scary as hell and more real than I expected. I watched it again tonight and I really wish there was more of your dialogue in it. I greatly enjoy the part where you estimate calorie intake and expenditure, one of the most exciting moments!
Surviorman breaks the fourth wall, but that dude is ALONE and bad things could happen. Does all the filming himself, and a lot of the time he’s got nothing in the way of supplies except what he’s managed to learn from whatever ancestral native tribes of the area can teach him. I mean, sure, a pickup crew is coming if he doesn’t make it to the rendezvous point, but they’d have to FIND him and a lot could go wrong in four days to a week.
But I obviously have a crush on Les Stroud. As much, but slightly different from how much I heart Robb. 😀
Survivorman is fantastic, I’ve seen all of it twice, probably time for a 3rd viewing.
B. Knight says
Robb, really enjoyed the show. Very intense watching you guys hunt and kill an elk.. Been trying to imagine what it would be like myself, but have no idea.
For anyone who wants to watch the episodes online, they are $1.99 each on Amazon.com.
I bought them and it was totally worth it, though the part with Amy leaving was so fucking annoying, I swear it was 10 minutes of her fucking crying and hyperventilating. City girls man, don’t understand them.
Anyway very cool Robb, excited to read part 2 of this inside look. 🙂
As a resident of steamboat springs and a follower of your pod cast and blog it was awesome watching the episodes. Our local paper did a little write up about the ranch and series. That area of the county is no joke. Wild and scenic, tons of wild life, and vast. As a hunter, I still can’t believe you were able to take down that elk!!,, several of us rely on the elk meat for our source of protein through the winter in this community. It was nice to see that you all respected the elk in the manner that you did. One ??… What did you do with the rest of the meat.?…
John Calhoun says
Finally watched this last night. Great job! It was awesome to see YOU get the kill. Thanks for this follow up..makes me wish I didn’t delete it now.
I saw the disclaimer that all laws etc were followed (to cover any trespassing or hunting issues I guess). But I was wondering how you were able to kill large game out of season? Special permit or something? Maybe some weird Colorado law? I have no idea how this works. Just curious.
I watched part 1 and part 2. I want it to see you more. You were super cool. When you guys got to hunting part…what was it, Elk… well I was very emotional. It made cry. What an experience, It was!!. I have more in my mind to say but don’t know how. I am from Mexico. Cool show it was. Thanks
Chris D says
Great show, Robb! I can’t believe they just explained you in one small, concise word: Writer. I was like, what the hell?! With your background and skills and experience, couldn’t they at least have managed: Writer/Paleo Baby Jesus?
I agree. I saw that all they said was “writer” and could not beleive it. You are so much more than a writer!
God yes that pissed me off too…..
Kim M says
This is awesome! Thanks so much for giving us the inside scoop to the behind the scenes goings on. Those two girls, Amy and the other one, the Athlete chic, were a disgrace to the female sex and the human race. Since when do you turn down food that someone has worked so hard to bring you? It’s funny how you can usually tell from the beginning who doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to survive and manage situations like that. Amazing that they survive in society at all!
Amy Kubal says
I completely agree with you about the wimpiness of the girls – It makes me want to change my name to something other than Amy for sure!! 🙂
Hey Robb, great job on the show! I really wanted to talk to my Anthropology professor and see if he watched the show and see if he knew who you were, but I didn’t get a chance today. I’ll try to see if I can talk with him Friday and maybe get him interested in some of things you guys do.
The show was great timing too, we just learned about Oldawon stone tool technology and the first big game hunts.
John Harris says
Conversation with my brother who has hunted with me since we could walk, literally. I was so shocked to see that the elk hunt was successful that I had to ask him.
Me: Did you see ICaveman? I told your wife to record it.
Him: No, What is it.
Me: They send 10 people into the mountains in Colorado and give them some skins to wear and leave them for a couple weeks. Then about half way in they give them some atlatls and try to show them how to use them and they go elk hunting.
Him: Dude, that’s f**king retarded. I’d have been catching crawfish and minnows. There is no way you are going to kill an elk with nothing but a sharp . . .
Me: No they killed one! Check this out, Robb Wolf stuck one in the throat.
Him: Robb Wolf was on the show?
Him: I gotta f**king see this!
Robb Wolf says
Ha! Everybody seems to keep forgetting all the failed attempts!
Mike D NJ says
Robb, I don’t know if this was asked already but how do you think you fared against the hunger vs the other folks. Do you think having a properly working metabolism and the ability to fast due to the paleo diet had a big inpact? Or was it that you knew what you were getting into and could mentally tough it out?
BTW I’d love to see raw footage of you arguing with these people.
Really great show!
I had a friend of mine watch it with me, hoping to expose him to the paleo way of eating, among other things. He didn’t believe you really got that elk, that there was some guy off camera who really got it. I have faith that you really did the deed and this post really backs that up.
Oh, and he also swears you must have had outhouses back there to do your bidness. No way!
Thanks for doing this show and for giving us some background on the whole deal. It was fascinating!
Wow, thanks a ton for the behind the scenes info! I always wonder about the “confession booth” clips, where they show one person talking about the experience. Are those done on-site?
I was also rather bummed to see that they glazed over your paleo qualifications and such.
So if they ask you to do a month-long experiment, which would really bring out some group dynamics and allow some real improvement in fieldcraft, would you do it?
I thought it was interesting how they described you as a Writer. Accurate, but IMO certainly downplaying how the paleo diet probably prepared you for fasting (starvation? *g*) much better than most of the other cast members. As well as perhaps being better at handling the terrain from the workouts you prescribe. I chalked it up to making it seem more interesting if the people they threw in there would be more maladapted to hunter gathering, but then why bothering casting you at all in that case?
I had also been wondering why you hadn’t gone out hunting the first few days and now I have my answer!
Mimi (Gingersnaps) says
Haha, I actually work with one of Discovery’s subsidiary networks and share an office with their publicity team. When I heard about “I, Caveman” and the digital publicist was debating who to pitch to, I jumped in and went “You should show it to Robb Wolf!” I got an “oh, that name is familiar…” Cue my moment of revelation when I thought back to your earlier podcast comments about something you couldn’t talk about until September. Too funny!
Anyhow, it was fun to watch!
Rob – loved the show – cried big time when you guys killed the elk – really realized how removed we are from nature etc. But one thing nagged me the whole time – no one was eating any insects – was it too early for there be many out yet??
I was wondering about the insects too.
I feel asleep in the middle of Part 2 (aired too late for me) but my husband woke me up the next morning just to tell me “You missed it. That Robb Wolf killed an elk!”
I’m so happy for these shows! I’m a Paleo homeschooler, and we just finished our paleo history section. This became a follow up for school, and started a bunch of fantastic questions, and led to plans for camping/ hunting trips in the future! One 7 year old daughter, one 5 year old son, and many conversations with Dad and Grandpa about all their plans. When confused why the Vegetarian wouldn’t eat the elk, my daughter proudly proclaimed that she would have eaten it!
As a former Outward Bound instructor, and new Paleo convert, I loved watching this show. The dymanics were much the same; some carrying the group, while others did nothing without any guilt. I’ve seen it too many times to count, and it’s still fascinating! Thanks for the behind the scenes insight and I look forward to the next installment.
I hate reality TV but watched this to see Robb who, in my opinion, was not on screen nearly enough. I guess that was due to his lack of histrionics.
And speaking of drama, I tracked down Designer Amy through the interwebs to find out her exact qualifications for the show. Turns out she is an interior designer/aspiring actress/Food Network host!
While I was watching the first episode I joked with my wife that the only thing missing from the group was a vegetarian. Then I saw episode two and BINGO!
All and all a great show Robb. I thought it really showed the difference between “our” current culture of everybody’s opinion is important as opposed to a tribal set-up with main (survial) decisions basically coming down to one individual. I think the concept of having to work for your food is something the majority of people can’t relate too and that was seen also. Totally looking forward to Part 2, but I have one question. You mentioned above eariler you were really into hunting. Has this re-ignited the fire or just put your mind into a shole new space of appricieation?
I posted a comment on Dr Kurt’s blog, but want to add my thoughts here too. I was REALLY embarrassed by the girls. Not Manu, who was a woman and a value to the tribe (I don’t count against her the struggles of the first night) — but the others who seemed to spend nearly all their time sleeping and whining. I’m sure it’s not telegenic to show them foraging for bitter nettles and making soup (if it was even them doing that) — but it seems to me they should have spent every day down by the stream catching fish and frogs and whatever. I wish the producers would do an in-depth (and televised) debriefing of y’all. Loved your descriptions and can’t wait for tomorrow’s! Bravo on your kill!
Did the women at least provided sex! GEESh!
I look forward to hearing more about your experience after killing the Elk. Even the experienced hunter dudes got emotional. If you had gotten the Elk on, say, day 1 or 2, when you weren’t yet so starved and tired and emotionally exhausted, do you think your reactions would have been so strong still? I found that part to be incredibly interesting. It’s curious because animals that kill other animals don’t really get emotional about it, but humans maybe do? Is that a natural reaction for all humans or just because you guys were tired, starved and aren’t as experienced at hunting as a hunter gatherer would be? When our brains developed was when we were eating more meat, so that’s probably when we started to be capable of empathy. Did we start hunting more and then develop empathy for the animals along the way? You know people that have hung with hunter gatherer tribes, Robb, do they have such a strong response to a kill of big game?
One of the reasons I became vegetarian, back when I was 15, was because I wasn’t sure I could kill an animal to eat it so it just seemed totally hypocritical to eat meat in that case. That combined with the vegetarian propaganda about health and environmental stuff really convinced me for a long time, till I discovered paleo. Now that I’m eating meat again I feel the need to go out there and kill and animal, not because I really want to, but because I have to to justify my eating animals. Will my response be that strong? Will I be able to gut an animal when I could barely watch the show as you guys were gutting the Elk? How can I get to the point where I will be able to kill and gut an animal myself? I don’t even have any friends who hunt so I don’t know where to start, but now that we’re buying a house and can fit a deep freezer, I think I should pursue this.
You could try fishing. Start wherever you are: walking streams for trout, or ponds for small bass, then try large rivers for stripers and other good sized fish, then when you feel you have the knowledge, go out on the ocean or salt water bay, for Reaallly BIG fish.
You can go clamming at many tidewater flats, the ones I know are in Connecticut and Cape Cod Mass.
Many people used to go oystering, don’t know of any places that are unpolluted any more.
There are guides who take people fishing and/or hunting. Maybe “being there” would be enough, without spending a lot of time getting the skills, whether with fishing rod, bow and arrow or gun.
It’s emotional. It’s why all traditional cultures respect their meals.
“I know that this is your death or my death, and I honor that this time I won and you lost. Next time, it could be me that loses. Thank you for keeping me alive.”
It’s worth doing. If you’re really nervous about it, see if you can find a Asatru farm. *grin* It’s a religious imperative that the animal is killed as pain-free as possible, or the meat isn’t fit for the gods. They are very very good at it, when it’s actually done, and it’s far more meaningful to do it when you can look them in the eye, with your own hand, than to do it through the scope of a rifle. (Although rifles are useful for pain-free deaths, if you’re a good enough shot.)
I’m slowly working through my list of “killing at least one of each kind of animals I eat” so I sympathize completely with your morality on it. I makes sense to outsource some food production, but I need to know for myself that I at least could kill my food, and that I’m not outsourcing the guilt too.
That was an amazing shot. Will you change your name to “Atlatl Robb”?
What made you abandon your foraging strategy & join in the elk hunt?
Patti Jeanne says
Watching the show I was struck by the people who thought it was survivor. Meaning if they lay around they won’t make waves and get voted off. They didn’t seem to understand that laying around is the same as dying in a survival situation. There is no reward challenge to get food YOU have to go get food. I was also struck by the complaining. Correct me if I’m wrong Robb, but doesn’t the complaining just take more out of the group. Don’t you feel that the others now have to waste energy trying to lift the complainer up or spend mental energy ignoring them instead of lets go find food?
I thought it was a great show but once again with reality tv they push it with people who aren’t even remotely equipped to rise to the challenge.
I can’t believe you were in Colorado and not somewhere with more small critters and vegetation. Caveman was nomadic and never would have lived there in the spring. I’m on the east coast and the Wampanog Indians lived all over this area outside of Boston and on Cape Cod moving with the seasons. The spring on the cape is amazing fishing and even foraging. Maybe that would have been too easy.
JP Vakos says
Rob awesome show and thank-you for a behind the scenes look at what was going on. It showed how much effort went into procuring food and how you didn’t really have time for anything else until you had enough to eat. It might have been better to have spent more time training and a longer time in the wilderness, but 10 days was enough to give a glimpse at what life may have been like.
I have no idea how to find or watch the show. What network? Discover Channel? Couldn’t find it. Maybe a web link to a schedule?
Amy Kubal says
It’s on the Discovery Channel Chuck. It’s called “Curiosity”!
Primal Toad says
Awesome show Robb. I am glad I watched it. As someone said above, I was cheering you on. We did not see much action from you at first but now we know why. It sounds like you were by far the most prepared out of anyone from the group. I bet no one else did anything to prepare yet you were very into it. Kudos to you.
It was awesome to see you get the kill and even more awesome to see how emotional you and everyone else got. I plan on going deer hunting for the first time in my life this November in Michigan. It will be an experience of a lifetime but I hope to do it for many years to come. Hunting and gathering your own food is as primal as it gets!
Robb–this behind the scenes blow by blow is totally awesome! If you have any insight about what drove some to be so uncooperative so that the group didn’t gel, that’d be real interesting. I’ve done stuff with groups that did and others that did not, and it is always hard to understand. You and Billy both knew the list of priorities–why couldn’t the others buy in?
Also, on screen, Morgan didn’t seem totally there–like he was hamming for the camera. He was way more happy than everyone else. I know he was one of the producers. I’m guessing he knew more than everyone else?
Sorry, I have to ask–what was up with your facial twitch? Was it camera-exaggerated? Was it malnutrition related? You came off as one intense dude!
Thanks for everything.
Morgan really did seem to not be taking it seriously didn’t he. I think I would be the same way honestly…… I mean it is going to be over in 10 days anyway. I would only be concerned for my muscle loss really and that is why I would be trying to find food.
Loved the show. By the way – LOVE LOVE LOVE the twitch.
I had to force my partner to watch because, while we are big fans of you Robb, we are not huge fans of tv – especially of the ‘reality’ version.
He was convinced to watch when I told him that:
A) Robb Wolf has the most awesome (and very mild) facial twitch
B) Robb effects a truly magnificent kill after days of fasting, and
C) then gets choked up over the sacrifice of the beautiful animal.
C was, for us, the point of the whole thing, but…I honestly, I went to the second episode solely based on A.
Congratulations on the show. We love the book, which changed our lives, and now have to buy another copy because we loaned it and can’t get it back. Our neighbor, who borrowed it, lost 25 lbs in two months and her health is getting better every day!
Also, for your health – Dr. Steve Brule discusses how cavemen dealt with dental care http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=at_H6u4a3Zo
Was there a rule against making a bow-based fire kit? Looks like the materials were available. Just wondering.
I thought they should have weeded out the squeamish back in casting. Then give the group a 2 day supply of jerky to go with the starter water, and leave you there for a whole month. But it was still pretty cool to watch as it was.
Of course I only watched it because Robb was involved. Having seen it, though, now the rest of the series is starting to look interesting too…
Fat Guy Weight Loss says
Gives whole new meaning to, “So easy a Caveman can do it”
Ive been waiting for your post on i-caveman ever since the show aired! I hope you can answer the many interesting questions people have asked in these comments.
I know a few other people asked this but I didn’t see a response from Robb. What was up with that facial twitching Robb?
Be glad you didn’t end up in North Texas. People would have died from the extreme heat that happened this summer. It was brutal.
I’m a little surprised at the animosity shown to those back at camp, “not contributing”. If you think it through, how likely is it that everyone in the tribe would be fit, healthy, between the ages of (say) 20-45? If you assume some of a tribe be pregnant women, infants and children, the aged (up to a point), the sick/ injured (again, carried by the tribe, up to a point). It always will require ‘the hunters’ to bring back more supplies than they themselves would consume…
I don’t think anyone would argue with infants ‘not contributing’, but kids and pregnant women can add value without hunting… the sick, injured and old/frail people would probably accept and would care for, I mean, would you actually resent your dear ol’ dad for his old bear-fight wound acting up in bad weather and keeping him camp-bound?
The idle, however, are essentially just being selfish with their calories and work. Selfishness would not be tolerated (I’d definitely withhold the best bits of a kill from people who didn’t contribute… they’d get the erectile tissue and all the other gristly bits…). Nor would selfishness be likely to arise much in such a small number of people, especially since the people in your group would likely be your close relatives and friends…
Besides, on average, anthropological studies of h-g groups note more calories usually being ‘gathered’ than hunted. It’s not sit on yer ass or hunt… it’s contribute (hunt/gather/prepare/build) or sit on your ass.
AJ Wow says
I have hunted elk for a long time and have never seen them so used to humans.
They must have regular contact with humans to have you get so close. Is this place a closed hunting reserve?
You had the best idea to shoot into a group of elk, unlike Billy who tried to shoot a single. Your odds were much better for something to stick. Nice shot.
Nice job Robb
Hi, Robb – I bought your book at Barnes and Noble last week – as I read through it, thinking about what my own 30-day transformation might yield, I wondered if I could transform myself into looking like Raquel Welch in 2 million BC – maybe I could knit myself an outfit using feathers and other odds and ends to simulate her outfit. Now looking forward to finding you on that Discovery show.