DNR officer competes on History Channel survivalist show ‘Alone’ 

By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV

Isaiah Tuck is always up for an adventure. It started early. 

When his mom went to Greenbrier Valley Medical Center in 1988 to give birth to him, Isaiah couldn’t wait to get his adventurous life started. “I was born in the waiting room thanks to a nurse and a janitor who helped my mom,” he remembers with a smile the size of Alaska. 

These days, his professional life is a constant adventure as well.  Whether he’s on the job as a West Virginia Division of Natural Resources officer or serving in the Air National Guard as a Captain, he’s always on the go, ready for whatever comes his way. 

So when he ended up 125 miles north of the Arctic Circle, being dropped off in the wilderness by a helicopter with only a few tools to survive, he couldn’t stop smiling.  

‘The Drop’

They call it “the drop.” It’s when contestants on the History Channel’s reality TV show “Alone” are dropped off by themselves in the wilderness. Their mission is to survive. Whoever survives the longest wins half a million dollars. 

Season 11 began last week and featured Isaiah Tuck smiling from ear to ear as he was dropped off for his biggest adventure yet. 

“The second I got dropped, it was nothing but sheer excitement,” Isaiah says. “I was ecstatic. I was screaming and hollering! But, that was the second I was dropped off.”

He confesses that his mood changed rapidly as the reality of his situation sat in. “A few minutes in after the helicopter left, I couldn’t find a place to set my shelter where there weren’t bear or wolf tracks. My options were in a swamp or in an area where there’s a lot of predator activity.”

“That gets real, really quick,” he says. “Then you think, ‘I’m in actual danger, not TV danger.’ Maybe I’m being a jerk to my family by being here.”

Isaiah Tuck is a graduate of Appalachian Bible College with a degree in Theology and Camp Ministry.

Isaiah said of all the things he was prepared for, he wasn’t prepared for those thoughts. He asked himself, “Am I being a horrible husband and father by doing this? It was heavy.” 

“With the DNR, I get to wear a bulletproof vest if I encounter an angry hunter. But what are you gonna do to a 500 pound grizzly momma?” 

This year, more than 40,000 people applied to compete on “Alone.” Isaiah has been a fan of the show since season three, applying every year for a spot on the show.

“My wife is a big supporter of chasing your dreams,” he says. “So I applied again.” 

The application process begins with a simple email, explaining why you think you should be on the show. The History Channel then sends follow-up questions to those candidates which show promise. 

“What kind of shelters can you build? What’s your comfort level with primitive hunting?” These are the types of questions Isaiah says he received. “I tried to show them I had the skills, and then I made my answers excessively entertaining.”

He made it to the next round, a video call with producers. They chose 24 to compete in a boot camp. Then the top ten make it onto the show. 

As surprised and elated as Isaiah was to make the top ten, he was even more surprised what came next. “You have less than a month once they pick you before you get dropped off,” he shares. 

While reality TV has a reputation for being anything but real, Isaiah says this show is as real as it gets. 

“There is nothing around you,” he says of the wilderness into which he was dropped. “I got up to fish one morning and there wasn’t even a ripple on the water. Except the predators. They howled all night long at times.” 

“It’s very real,” he says. “It’s just you, some tools, and the cameras they give you to record everything you do. You are all alone.”

The story behind the hat

Isaiah did have one person there with him in spirit, though. 

Viewers will notice Isaiah wearing a very particular hat on the show, a wool Stetson. It belonged to his brother, who died seven years ago. 

“He wore that thing so much,” Isaiah says. “He was a year older. In wisdom, he was an old man. He was my best buddy. I loved that hat, and one time he said it didn’t fit him anymore but that was a lie. He wanted his baby brother to have his hat.”

His brother was killed instantly in a car wreck when a distracted driver impacted his vehicle. Isaiah said while it wasn’t the most practical hat to take for a survivalist show, he wouldn’t have taken anything else. 

“It means the world to me,” he shared. “I used it for quite a bit of stuff on the show even though something warmer would’ve been ideal. I boiled water in it. Collected berries in it. Used it to wash off greens that I collected. I washed my clothes in it. It was my favorite thing I had out there. That and my shovel.”

One of the reasons Isaiah wanted to go on the show was to experience sheer silence. “Being out there all alone, I was hoping for the chance to talk to my brother.”

And to his surprise, he got that chance in a roundabout way. “Every night I was out there I had a dream about him. Usually they were really funny.”

Like one night, when he dreamed that his brother picked him up in the Arctic wilderness and took him to Dairy Queen for a chicken tender basket. 

During our interview, Isaiah paused for a moment as he flashed a bright smile. He saw a cardinal, which he says he was always taught means a relative is checking in on you. 

“Family is the most important thing to me,” he says. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without my wife, Jessica, my daughter, Caroline, my parents, and my siblings.” 

How to watch ‘Alone’

While you won’t see it on the show, Isaiah sang “Country Roads” frequently during his “Alone” experience to show his love for West Virginia.

New episodes of Alone air every Thursday night at the History Channel at 8pm. If you don’t have that channel, you can also download their app on a mobile device and watch the show for free the following day. 

“You just have to wait a day,” Isaiah says. “And stay off Facebook so you don’t get spoilers.” 

Stay tuned to RealWV for updates on Isaiah’s adventures.

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