Hawthorne resident, Joe Schilling was able to test himself and his outdoor survival skills when he was chosen to participate in the History Channels, “Alone: The Beast”. The show takes three strangers, drops them in the Canadian Artic in a remote wilderness location with no tools or modern amenities to face extreme challenges.
Their first challenge is to find and process a bull moose, which had been harvested for the challengers. Their only clue as to where the moose is – was a single flare shot off. After they find the 1,000 pound animal, they must harvest the animal using only what they can find in the area, build a fire and secure shelter.
The Independent-News asked Shilling who had been interested in the outdoors since a young age, according to his biography on “Alone: The Beast” website. At the age of 14, he found he had a passion for wilderness skill when he read the book, “My Side of the Mountain”. His safe haven became the woods. A place far aware from schoolyard bullies and a chaotic city life.” At 50 years old, his dream is to someday open a wilderness school of his own.
MCIN: What is “The Beast”?
Shilling: The basic premise is you have three people of different walks of life and skill sets, dropped off in the North West Territories with just the clothes on their backs and provided one carcass. They then have to find a way to use the natural resources to not only gut and quarter the carcass, but to make fire and shelter and last 30 days.
MCIN: What made you decide to participate in “The Beast”?
Shilling: Always wanted to test myself, to see how far I can push my skills, and this show was a perfect opportunity to do so.
MCIN: Can you tell our readers about your experience on the show?
Shilling: A bit, it was very difficult as you can imagine, the rocks in our area were of very poor quality and it made gutting, skinning, and quartering the critter difficult. Actually, quartering was the only easy part of that. But my main skill set was to get shelter going which I did using a fir tree and used the lower part as our shelter by using fir boughs.
MCIN: Describe your situation on “The Beast” for those who have not watched the program.
Shilling: Which one? The survival part, or me getting sick? The survival part was close as real as you can get, it wasn’t until day two or three that we were able to get fire. Not to mention trying to stay hydrated which became difficult as we had no container and the lake became rough, so trying to get a drink became very difficult as we ran the risk of getting soaked. No fire, no change of clothes in the artic, not a good combination.
MCIN: What was the best experience and worse experience of participating in the show?
Shilling: Best part would have to be getting onto the show and bonding with my cast mates and working together, The worse part, was having to make that decision to tap out because that cough was getting worse. Was a full diaphragm cough, and what made me decide to tap out wasn’t that, it was waking up that morning feeling slightly feverish. I had two bad lung infections in my life. One fungal, and one walking pneumonia and was told I now ran a risk of getting it again, wasn’t going to chance it.I do wish I could have stayed, but my wife reminds me how bad I was when I got back.
MCIN: Would you do the show again?
Shilling: Absolutely! Without hesitation!
MCIN: What did you learn about yourself by doing the show?
Shilling: Well, aside from needing to restrengthening my lungs? Making friction fire in different ways, especially the notch less bow-drill
MCIN: Anything else you’d like to tell the readers?
Shilling: Well, I do love to teach these skills, and that’s always been a dream of mine.
The History Channel’s biography of Shilling explains, “Years later, Joe took his first wilderness survival class at the Tracker School in NJ. After learning as much as he could there, he continued training at different wilderness schools and courses across the country. Joe was mentored by the late Ron Hood and took part in Hood’s survival videos. He is one of the co-founders of the Mid-Atlantic Primitive Skills gathering and social group (MAPS).
For over 30 years, Joe has wanted to just leave the world behind and live solely off the land. He’s excited to finally have the opportunity to do so with this challenge. He wants to push his skills to the limit and show everyone out there what he can truly do when it comes to wilderness survival.”
The episode “Alone: The Beast” featuring Shilling is available to watch for free online on the History Channel.