CORNER BROOK - Steve Cave and Tommy Humphrey did a lot of looking over their shoulders last week.
The duo bushwhacked their way through the rugged western Newfoundland forest for 36 hours, trying to evade capture from Mantracker.
Cave and Humphrey were the local prey selected by the producers of Mantracker, a reality television show which pits human prey against expert human hunter Terry Grant and his locally-chosen sidekick.
The premise of the show is that the two prey have 36 hours and a head-start to find their way to a finish line some 40 kilometres away without being captured by the pair of horseback-riding hunters. The show, produced by Bonterra Productions and aired on the Outdoor Life Network, was filmed in the southeastern extreme of Gros Morne National Park last Wednesday and Thursday.
While fans will have to wait for the 2009 season of the show to find out if Cave and Humphrey eluded capture, Cave said the chase was absolutely exhilarating.
"The experience was unbelievable," he told The Western Star. "Words cannot describe the emotions you go through and the adrenaline rushes while you're being chased by a guy on a horse and not wanting to be caught. There's physical exhaustion and there's also mental exhaustion because you always have to be trying to think what he's going to do and where he's going to go next.
"I have played two or three games of basketball in one day and have run marathons and Ironmans (triathlons), but this was by far the toughest thing I have ever done."
Cave is an accomplished athlete, but admitted he's not the most experienced outdoorsman. He said Humphrey was the one handling the map and compass, although they did collaborate on strategy.
"We banged heads a few times about being lost or which way to go, but there were only a few minor fights and nothing big," he joked.
"Tommy had been in the area before and was a bit familiar with the area, but they put you in places where everything looks the same. If I had ever been in that area before, it all would have still looked the same because we were so far back in the backcountry."
Trying to stay away from areas where they could be captured meant navigating steep hills, thick woods and wet bogs, all of which took their toll on the human body and psyche. Catching occasional glimpses of Mantracker and his sidekick, Kevin Stacey of Cache Rapids Stable in Reidville, Cave said the aches, pains and fatigue quickly slipped out of mind.
Humphrey agreed this was the most punishment he has ever put his body and mind through.
"It was nerve-wracking both mentally and physically," he said. "Bushwhacking is so slow and so hard on the body, compared to running. We got drove into the bush lots of times because of encounters (with Mantracker) or because it was just safer than being on the trail, but it just drains your body."
Not getting to meet Mantracker until the chase was done made the pursuit all the more intense, added Humphrey.
"It didn't matter that this was a TV show or that nothing was going to actually happen to you if you got caught." he said. "It just felt like your life was on the line and your mind was always thinking about where this guy was."
Humphrey became interested in the show after a chance meeting with someone involved in the production, who told him two prey from Ontario had originally been cast for the Newfoundland show. Deeming that unacceptable, Humphrey convinced Cave to partner with him and to apply.
"I am more of an outdoorsman, but Steve is in amazing shape and I knew that, if push came to shove, that he'd be the one to push me along," said Humphrey.
Both Cave and Humphrey had nothing but respect for the two-person camera crew who accompanied them throughout the chase.
"They basically went through everything we did," said Humphrey. "They just did it with cameras on their backs."
From the production perspective, things could not have gone better. Deborah Burgess, the series' producer, said Gros Morne provided a beautiful backdrop for filming once the rain and fog from the first day burned off.
"Newfoundland lived up to its expectations," she said. "We had a successful chase and we are very excited about getting in the studio to look at the footage we have."
Cave and Humphrey proved to be engaging prey, she noted.
"Some people will always root for Mantracker, but they were very endearing prey and I think people will be rooting for them as well," she said.
Burgess also couldn't say enough about Stacey in his role as Mantracker's trusty sidekick.
"Kevin is a wonderful person as well as a very good horseman," she commented.
"He has a great memory for the landscape. He knew the area well and knew of lots of interesting places. I think he was a great help to Mantracker. He was pretty funny too."
The Mantracker episode shot in western Newfoundland will air some time between April and June 2009.