INTERVIEW: Trapper opens up about hunting monsters, making memorable TV

The cast of Mountain Monsters on Destination America includes John "Trapper" Tice, center. Photo courtesy of Jason Elias / Destination America.
The cast of Mountain Monsters on Destination America includes John “Trapper” Tice, center. Photo courtesy of Jason Elias / Destination America.

His name is John Tice, otherwise known as “Trapper,” the star of Destination America’s successful series Mountain Monsters. For several years, Tice and company have been traveling throughout Appalachia looking for all things mystical and marvelous. From a giant fire dragon to Bigfoot, the suspected creatures are numerous and steeped in legends that run deep among the community of believers.

On Mountain Monsters, which airs Saturdays at 10 p.m. on Destination America, Tice offers matter-of-fact statements about the clues he finds in the woods. For some viewers, the action and questionable findings don’t quite attain the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt threshold. For the many other viewers who have made the reality series a hit, watching Tice and the rest of the Appalachian Investigators of Mysterious Sightings (AIMS) is pure fun.

“I have to be surprised,” Tice said of the series’ success. “I’m just an old country boy off Sugar Creek here in West Virginia.”

AIMS finds its cases entirely through witnesses. The witness network, Tice said, is growing daily thanks to the AIMS website. Team member and AIMS co-founder Jeff Headlee monitors the many requests for investigations, and the cases are built off his research. “And if we have three or four good witnesses in one area saying the same thing, that’s where we’ll go to,” Tice said.

The AIMS team, including John "Trapper" Tice, investigates a lead. Photo courtesy of Destination America / Jeremy Brigden.
The AIMS team, including John “Trapper” Tice, investigates a lead. Photo courtesy of Destination America / Jeremy Brigden.

The TV personality didn’t use the word “scared” when describing the team’s nighttime investigating of all the creatures that go bump in the night, but they often find themselves “surprised.”

“When you’re after one creature and another one appears, that’s happened,” he said. “That happened last season, and it’s very dramatic.”

Tice has been a hunter his entire life, and it’s his love for the outdoors that naturally led to the mountain investigating. “If you spend as much time in the woods as I do, and if you see things and you hear things that you don’t understand, that makes you want to investigate,” he said. “So I think that’s where it all came from. I’m not putting anyway down, but the whole team, my whole team, is hunters, every one of us. We’re deer hunters. We’re trappers, so we have many, many years of experience on this team, hundreds of years of experience. We’re not a concrete person going out in the woods for the first time looking for a Bigfoot. We’re a person that can read signs, and when I say signs — a mark on a tree, a footprint, leaves are turned.”

From left, Jeff and Trapper take a look at measurements on Mountain Monsters. Photo courtesy of Destination America / Jeremy Brigden.
From left, Jeff and Trapper take a look at measurements on Mountain Monsters. Photo courtesy of Destination America / Jeremy Brigden.

Tice added: “I survived Vietnam because my dad made me a great squirrel hunter. Hours and hours in the woods, and the Army can’t teach you that. I can see a leaf was turned wrong or anything wasn’t right. I can recognize that well in advance.”

AIMS has cameras out in the field when they are collecting evidence. They often begin the investigation and research before the TV cameras from Destination America even start recording. Tice wants to be well-prepared for any situation that might arise.

Of course, it helps that Tice and his team, which includes a host of personalities with TV-ready nicknames like Buck, Huckleberry and Wild Bill, know the surroundings well. They have called Appalachia home for a long, long time. In fact, Willy, a team member and expert trap builder, was born down the road from Tice (“I’ve known Willy since he was a pup”).

“Appalachia is the greatest place in the United States to live,” Tice added. “It really is. The people here are just so kind, and gentle and so forward to you. Maybe that’s because we’re hill people ourselves. You get the four seasons here. Of course, we’re not doing much hunting right now because we’re covered up from a foot of snow in the West, 40 inches in the East, in the mountains. So nothing’s moving much now. The roads are just got cleared from this weekend’s snowstorm. So everything’s pretty quiet. Even the creatures, when you get bad weather like this, will lay up. The deer lay up. The Bigfoot lay up. Nothing moves, so this time of year is not really a good time to do investigations.”

Over dozens of episodes, the AIMS crew has grown used to the camera and sound operators who follow them into the woods. Tice said he offered them some “outdoors training” in the beginning, and now they are “pretty good outdoorsmen.”

“Now they know how to stay out of our way,” he said. “Once in a while you’ll see me turn and talk to a cameraman to get back a little bit, or come here or look at this, which we were really shy of doing in season one.”

Tice, who is a retired construction worker, is fairly kind to the skeptics who might not believe in the same confidence that AIMS team members have when it comes to these creatures. He seemingly strikes a balance and ties the skepticism back to the reality series. “Well, there’s always going to be believers, and there’s always going ot be skeptics,” he said. “That’s just the way this world is. To the believers, we’re out there to prove that they’re correct. To the skeptics, just keep watching.”

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

  • Mountain Monsters airs Saturdays at 10 p.m. on Destination America. Click here for more information. Click here for Hollywood Soapbox’s previous interview with John “Trapper” Tice.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

16 thoughts on “INTERVIEW: Trapper opens up about hunting monsters, making memorable TV

  • February 8, 2016 at 3:36 am
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    I cannot believe ANYONE would take this show OR these guys,SERIOUS. I’m sure,as hunters, they’ve seen their fair share of things that go bump in the night but the audience NEVER gets to SEE ANYTHING BELIEVABLE! I’ve watched several times,hoping something would be shown but its the same BS, over and over again. The WITNESS just ‘happened’,to get a picture or video, but we don’t get to see Jack. Oh well y’all are making big bucks ,blowing smoke up folk’s butts,while paying the Yahoos to make fools out of themselves. I guess showing some REAL PROOF doesn’t matter and all of you fellas can continue laughing your heads off,all the way to the bank! I, for one,will remain DISAPPOINTED that yours is yet ANOTHER BS show,that can’t be taken seriously. It NEVER will be as long as the audience doesn’t get to SEE ANYTHING BELIEVABLE.

    Reply
    • April 10, 2016 at 12:33 am
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      I agree with you 100%. Like you stated, the witness always has a video and they only show you for a split sec. And there’s always a worn out shed or barn of some sort in the woods. And let’s not get started on those stupid traps. I watched a few times, but just like the other bullshit show ” finding Bigfoot ” I stopped watching after seeing it’s just a gag show.

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    • April 10, 2016 at 12:39 am
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      Also, you notice how they put fangs on the Bigfoot images, trying to make it look scary and viscous.

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    • July 16, 2016 at 6:00 pm
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      To all non believers. If you dont like the show simply dont watch it

      Reply
    • August 10, 2016 at 7:13 pm
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      Hey there Trapper, I like your show.
      I think I may have seen a big foot once wile I was a road trucker.I was somewhere in the rockie mountains around calafornia.
      I was parked along side of the road for a bit.Then I was getting ready to go and something was looking in my side window.
      Freaked me out so bad I left.
      I sure like your show and I do believe.
      Sure would like to go on a hunt with you all.
      I was born and raised in Northern Kentucky, now I live in CINCINNATI, Ohio.
      Will continue to watch your show.

      Reply
  • February 11, 2016 at 6:48 pm
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    Hello. I believe that their are things in this world that Can Not Be Explained. Their are Places that People Can Not Even Imagine. Even Your Camera Men Can’t believe it. So when things get a little tight, some of Their pictures don’t Come out coz they too are to busy running. Some of U All should Loose Some weight so things go a lot Smoother n Your Cart or smaller vehicle don’t flip over, and it is Good For U Alls Health. Just an idea for Your Show. Keep up the good Work. GODS Blessings

    Reply
  • February 27, 2016 at 7:25 pm
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    i want to know where the bigfoot body went that thoes other guys took from trapper an the team

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  • April 15, 2016 at 12:27 am
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    Guess you will be a skeptic til you see something in the woods surprises you.

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  • April 17, 2016 at 2:45 am
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    I enjoy watching this show these guys are great to watch and they are entertaining and lets leave it at that.

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  • May 1, 2016 at 5:35 pm
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    are the other groups in the woods when they hunt for real?why not hunt in the daylight,most witnesses pictures are in the daytime.also,read some of the writings of richard shaver?he claimed his experiences were real,and he spent at least two years in the innerearth.the appalachian mountains are one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world.

    Reply
  • June 11, 2016 at 4:01 pm
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    When are you guys coming back on TV? I miss you all!!

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  • August 9, 2016 at 10:14 am
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    i did think it was real for a start. but the more i watched it i agree with you, the say things are running around them yet u dont see a thing, the infa red never shows anything but the supposed creature, no other wildlife, and bigfoot, despite been scarce on video etc they seem to have endless witnesses that just happen to have audio or video, disappointed but still watch it for the hillbilly humour

    Reply
  • August 10, 2016 at 11:42 pm
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    It doesn’t matter to those of us who have actually seen a creature, if ANYONE believes it or not. Yes, it’s an entertaining show, yes, you don’t get to SEE the creature. But YES, there is SOMETHING out there! I was 8 years old when my Uncle, my Mother & I saw them. YES! I said THEM! I will never forget it. I’ll be 65 soon, it’s still clear in my mind. They ran in front of the car for a short distance, then jumped up on the bank of the road off into the woods. I won’t forget it, can’t forget it.

    Reply
  • September 2, 2016 at 8:32 am
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    Hey Trapper ,
    Love the show won’t miss it buddy , how ever until recently I got to admit I to was sceptical but one faithful evening I was visiting my mom on her farm down in Liberty Ky , when about 100 yards from me across an open field just into the edge of the woods I caught some movement under a cluster of pine tree’s .Well at first I thought it was a bear then to my surprise it stood up on two feet and was reaching up with a stick trying to get something from in the tree now that shows skills and knowledge of tools if it knows to use a stick so slap my ass and call me crazy I am a believer now .

    Reply
  • January 31, 2017 at 8:00 pm
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    It’s hard to explain why I enjoy mountain monsters so much. I must say it makes me forget about life for a little while. I need that escape from the harshness of everyday life. Sure it may all be fictious but it’s clean entertainment that obviously plenty of people enjoy. Keep up the good work.

    Reply

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