REVIEW: ‘Yukon Men,’ realest of all reality television shows

James Roberts stars in Yukon Men. Photo courtesy of Discovery Channel.

Reality television is a term thrown around a little too loosely nowadays. As long as a camera is rolling, and some person is willing to do something deemed interesting, then you have the recipe for TV success. The truth is that the majority of reality television is engaging, entertaining and even educational, but the “real” part is secondary.

Discovery Channel’s Yukon Men, which airs Friday nights at 10 p.m., is the real deal of reality television. This brutal, often difficult-to-watch series looks unflinchingly at a community in Tanana, Alaksa — a community simultaneously surrounded by vivid life and constant danger. Several of the decisions made by the folks in this small town are questionable, perhaps even wrong. The power of the disclaimer that runs before each episode is evident: The series, quite simply, details a rugged lifestyle where hunting and trapping is necessary to survive.

I’ve never been to Alaska. I’ve never endured sustained temperatures in the negative degrees. I’ve never looked in the freezer and watched the caribou meat dwindle to a few remaining pieces. This makes me different than these men, all of whom seem like good people with the community’s best interests at heart. This push-pull of respect for their lifestyle and revulsion over so much spilled blood is what makes Yukon Men must-see television.

The men of the community get ready for a caribou hunt. Photo courtesy of Discovery Channel.

Watching these two father-son teams is eye-opening. Subsistence living is the polar opposite (pun intended) of what most people in the United States experience on a daily basis. But in Tanana, there doesn’t appear to be any franchises like Domino’s or McDonald’s. There doesn’t appear to be any Cheesecake Factories or readily accessible brand names like GAP, Abercrombie & Fitch and Gucci. Instead, there’s a community of a few hundred people, tucked up against the North Pole, living on a river that overflows its banks and causes both life and death on a seasonal basis.

In the span of a few episodes, the new Discovery show has displayed a caribou hunt, wolf hunt, geese hunting, trapping of animals for fur, an unfortunate death of a loved one on the river, a community facing no water, families facing no food or money, and a ton of snow and icy water. This is ruggedness to its core. There may be some “playing to the camera” in other shows, but that doesn’t appear to be the case with Yukon Men.

But even though the series shows how the people of Tanana are different from so many other towns, it’s the similarities that leave a lasting impression. Even in the cold wilderness of Alaska there are fathers willing to teach theirs sons a few lessons about life. There’s good people relying on the help of one another. There’s the need to mourn the dead. There are chores for the young, responsibilities for the adults, and natural beauty for as far as the eye can see (this last one may be unique to Alaska).

Yukon Men may turn off many viewers, and there are several scenes that are downright cringeworthy. Watching a beautiful lynx get stuck in a trap and then face the end of its life, all to make some money off its fur, just doesn’t seem right. But, again, this is reality television. We’re supposed to appreciate some things, question others, and ultimately be glad that such unfiltered access is still available on the airwaves. But as Stan Zuray says in the show, the trapping and hunting is not a sporting event. It’s all about food. It’s all about survival.

It may be hard to love, but Yukon Men is the best new reality show of the year. Why? Because it’s actual reality television. If the cameras weren’t rolling, these men would still be combating nature and fine-tuning their survivalist traditions in the middle of the beautiful nowhere.

By John Soltes / Publisher /


John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at, among other publications. E-mail him at

18 thoughts on “REVIEW: ‘Yukon Men,’ realest of all reality television shows

  • September 24, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    This is what living a traditional Alaska lifestyle is about. These families face lots of difficulties living t
    In remote villages . This show is wonderful

  • October 4, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Absolutely love this show. It depicts the reality of life and the life and death struggles of our ancestors. While many in the cities may cringe and pick up the phone to call PETA these folks don’t have a WalMart to pick up groceries at. I deeply respect the people of Tanana Alaska!

  • November 21, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    As a Yukoner, I am very offended by this show. THIS IS NOT AT ALL ABOUT WHAT IT IS LIKE TO LIVE IN THE YUKON!!!! the show is not even filmed there!!!! I honestly feel that the name should be changed to Alaska Men, as that is where the show takes place. If you want a reality show about Yukoners,,, GO THERE!!!!! Is there a legal issue here, as the producers are using our territory as a name for the show? something for everyone to think about

    • January 26, 2013 at 10:56 pm

      yeah i agree but still good show

    • April 22, 2014 at 6:03 pm

      Tanana is in the Yukon census area and is bordered by the Yukon river. How much more yukonny do you want? Go back to school you angry little cave-dweller.

      • February 23, 2016 at 12:25 am

        Never been to Alaska, but Yukon Men is the best reality show! Better then the alaska bush clowns!

    • October 7, 2015 at 11:10 am

      You are correct in stating that the show is not filmed in the Yukon Territory, Canada. However the village of Tanana is at the confluence of the Tanana and Yukon Rivers with the town fronting the Yukon River. I’m certain now that you can see why your rant is just simply that, an incorrect rant.

  • February 6, 2013 at 11:30 am

    I love this show. I cannot imagine living in a place where it gets to be -50 degrees but I sure want to try it. My mother’s maiden name was Roberts. I wonder if I have relatives in the Yukon? Would be very interesting to me to know. So I shall go to and start a search for my maternal family tree. I wonder if I can get to the Yukon in my search.

  • February 25, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    My husband and love this show. However we are questioning why these people don’t plant a garden when the temps are warmer & can the veggies. There is another show on, can’t think of the name just now, where the families have cattle & also have large gardens. They have a “root cellar” in which they place the canned & fresh vegetables. They do hunt for meat & fish for salmon. Even tho their weather is similar to Yukon Men they seem to do more to make sure they have food when the weather is extremely cold.

  • June 5, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Yukon men is NOT true survivalist is an umbrella to promote trapping and they make it look like a survival show which is NOT.
    Is a FAKE.

    This program is made by the white man and is soo colonialism based.

    I will repeat again.
    Besides Yukon men is not true survivalist not at all.
    Read carefully.

    I know what survivalist is.
    If you came with little technology, city made stuff you use it until it worn out and then you use 100% natural stuff.

    No guns
    No electricity
    No battery
    No cars
    No scooter well maybe one incase of an emergency if the dogs get killed by predators.
    I saw stuff on Inuits they use no technology, the one who lives in their 100% life style

    They use 100% no technology and avoid technology as much as possible.


    I know the difference between tradition and animal abuse.
    This drift away from tradition and goes to animal cruelty.
    I saw many things about the indigenous, they’re far more humane than these people making “the white man look bad” doing it.

    Now why I criticize this show?

    because this show is fake and is an umbrella to make it look like is a survival show but promote trapping and is not a true survival show. It is FAKE!!!.

    Killing for profit is wrong.
    Survivalist is not about profit. Is about surviving.

    These people have decent jobs, they use city made technology and military style weapons.

    This show is soo based on colonialism.

    Also this show promote trapping and they use it as an umbrella to trick people and making people think is a survival show.
    I know trappers are among the worst liars and scumbags on Earth. I documented their forums for a decade and I know they aren’t great people.
    They are soo bias to trapping if you criticize their sport they go on a ragy rampage just like religious extremists when you criticize their religion.

    As for non edible animals.
    They kill animals for their fur and throw the away. Total waste.
    In survival nothing should be wasted.

    Also this scumbag who beat this wolverine with a stick while holding a gun and then shooting.
    I saw comments from people who hated it as soon they saw people beating the lynx.

    Also they abuse dogs, pull the collar, neglect them and put them in this situation.
    These fools eat well according to MANY comments both from sportsmen and from animal lover and their dogs are neglected.

    This trash is made by the white man not the native.
    This show is just as bad as Africa Addio which is a mockery of the tribe and is racist. Ebert gives it 0/4 stars.
    Is soo colonialism based.
    This racist film gives the tribes bad names and makes them look like “savages and brutes”.

    Now back to topic

    Yukon men goes in the same category.
    It is a mockery of the natives.

    I saw sportsmen with more morals who criticized this show and saying it gives us the black eye and gives ARA a lot of fuel.

    I saw many documents on Inuits, natives and tribes,
    They are as humane as possible, kills the animal as fast as possible.
    They are maybe behind in technology but ahead in morals and ethics than these morons in that show.
    Because wasting energy means between life and death.
    Beating the living out of an animal is a waste of energy.

    Is not their way of life, is the way of life of these stupid worthless trappers trying to spread “THEIR” culture…. from that show.

    I see and document trappers and they beat animals and maximize pelt value.
    This show MATCHES, they beat the animal and maximize pelt value.
    This show is about profit and promoting trapping, NOT survivalists.

    I saw videos on youtube from a worthless apathetic trapper who beat a ground hog and then shoot it.
    So they should just shoot it instead of being soo cruel to it.

    This show is racist toward the native and makes people think the native are brutes and animal beating savages.
    This show is an atrocity made by the WHITE MAN not the NATIVES.

    According to this site this show is not legit.
    Kills hibernating bear which is not legit.
    Promote poaching.

    Yukon MLAs have taken issue with the Discovery Channel’s show Yukon Men, and are calling for the name to be changed.

    In the legislature Thursday, independent MLA Darius Elias said the show demonstrates illegal trapping, and that “Yukon hunters and trappers consider this program’s name as an outright case of identity theft.

    They abuse pets and I saw many commenter being outraged .
    you can see more in

  • December 6, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    Oh my God this is and amazing place and people. I had to admit I have a little not to say huge crush on James. All this mans are handsome, manly, hardworking bad asses you dontsee this

  • March 1, 2016 at 12:18 am

    Zaxtor so obviously you are one of those persons out there trolling ranting and going on and on. Why who knows, however just because you have read and researched Inuit life style etc. Does not make you pro.. I read the first few lines of your post laughed and and said wow people these days.

  • April 2, 2016 at 5:41 am

    I keep a picture of Stan and His lovely wife Kathryn on my Kinle. We love his show. I admire stan so much also Charlie. Their boys too. Courtney and all the regulars. I think James has grown character wise. He was so condescending.Overall it is my most anticipated program each week. If people are offended by their lifestyle they can shut up and watch some piece of fluff. You have my prayers. You are in my heart.
    Ann nd Jimi


  • June 1, 2016 at 3:37 am

    I don’t understand how on all these shows, suddenly winter is upon them and they have no food for winter. Or the chip Hailstone going after wood because he is out and bringing home some branches. Even here, we make sure we have enough food, water and wood for emergencies. Granted we can go to the store, but even here sometimes the roads are impassible.

  • July 18, 2016 at 11:07 pm

    Love watching the Yukon men, my favorite is young joey, he has become a wonderful hunter. It is beautiful country and I love the wilderness.

  • August 11, 2017 at 12:38 am

    After watching Yukon Men appoximately 12 times and reading reviews regarding the show. I have an extremely hard time understanding how anyone could write a review when they are missing the majority of faults of this show.
    Here is a quick review of Yukon Men. The people involved in the show are disrespectful, clueless about hunting, no idea of the rules of survival, thinking into the future does not enter into their thought process, if they did not need something from their neighbors they would not lend a hand to help anyone, the kids and the parents always try to get the upper hand on each other and finally if you are watching this show with the hope of learning something forget it.
    Finally, clean up the characters and turn this into a show about family and neighborly values and friendship. Not, how to think of a way to screw your neighbors, but how to teach them the skills you know and vice versa.

  • August 21, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    Cris Morse convinced his wife Jessi to crawl into a bear den then they were disapointed a bear wasnt inside den
    So tell me please what was suppose to happen if a bear an better still a bear with cubs was in the den?
    Omg what is mentally wrong with this couple?
    They are so annoying plus Cris fast talking makes me cringe
    Good wishes to Stan Joey Charlie Bob Courtney an Pat

  • August 21, 2017 at 9:08 pm

    Oh i forgot to add best wishes to James his son Francis an the rest of his family
    By the way James im not tryin to tell u how to raise your son but plse dont be so hard on Francis he is still so very young an seems to want to do the best he can
    Im sure with your guidance he will grow into a fine young man


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