LEWISTON – A Kendrick, Idaho, man outlasted all of his competitors in the History Channel survival show “Alone” and won the $500,000 top prize.
Clay Hayes participated in the reality show last fall, but the results weren’t revealed until the season finale Thursday. In the intervening months, he had to keep his performance secret, but said in a phone interview Thursday night he was determined not to quit or “tap out.”
“It never crossed my mind,” Hayes said. “I was there until it was over.”
The show starts with 10 contestants. Each is dropped off alone in remote wilderness with 10 hand-picked survival items. The contestants must film themselves while securing food and shelter. The person who lasts the longest wins.
Hayes, who is thin to begin with, lost 40 pounds during his 74 days on the shores of Chilko Lake in British Columbia and finished weighing 140 pounds. The weight loss came despite him killing a young mule deer buck with his bow, foraging wild mushrooms and berries, and catching the occasional fish.
He had encounters with a mountain lion and grizzly bears and in the season finale was visited by a fisher.
Hayes isn’t the first Idaho native to compete, and win, on the show. In 2019, Jordan Jonas originally from Athol, won.
Hayes, a wildlife biologist, filmmaker and avid primitive bow hunter, said during a June interview that he was drawn to the show because he felt he could learn from the experience. On Thursday, he said the show taught him two lessons. One, that attitude is a huge factor in how people approach life. He could have viewed his time at Chilko Lake as something to endure and suffer through, but said he chose to view it as an opportunity.
“The other one was just how much my family means to me,” he said.
Hayes has two young boys, Coye and Fen, and has known his wife since they were both 17.
“The show taught me those things aren’t a given and they can go away,” he said. “It brought that into clear view.”
He plans to pay off his house with the prize money and set some aside for Coye and Fen to go to college.
“Beyond that, I don’t really have any plans,” he said.
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