Fugitives on the run in Southwest Colorado are likely to see a little less screen time with the announcement “Rocky Mountain Bounty Hunters” will no longer be on the air.
The show featured local bounty hunting team Dayson Goetz and Clint Simmons as they combed Southwest Colorado for the region’s most wanted runaways. “Rocky Mountain Bounty Hunters,” which also followed a team in Montana, enjoyed two seasons and 16 episodes from 2014-2015 on Animal Planet before the television channel decided to cancel production.
“Animal Planet told us they were going back to more animal-type shows,” Goetz said. “We still had really good ratings. They decided they wanted to go back to that. Why it ever ended up on Animal Planet in the first place I don’t know.”
A spokesman for Animal Planet declined to comment on the specifics of the channel’s decision, saying only, “It’s no longer in production.” Its last airing on March 22, 2015, recorded 671,000 viewers, according to Nielsen ratings.
Despite the cancellation, the show opened up major doors for Goetz and Simmons, who still hunt down fugitives, and the two started their own bail bondsman agencies. Both keep busy scouring the Southwest for suspects on the lam, with Goetz based in Cortez and Simmons running an office in both Durango and Cortez.
Now, “Rocky Mountain Bounty Hunters” is a fun memory, a check off the bucket list.
“Not everybody gets to do that in their life and we did, and it was awesome,” Simmons said. “But I think my family liked it more than I did.”
When an individual is charged with a crime, a judge sets a bond to reduce flight risk. The individual can either pay the bond to be released from jail or wait behind bars until the court date. Suspects without the funds to meet their bond can opt to borrow money from a bail bondsman (with interest that is paid even if found innocent), who will return the sum if the individual shows up for the court date.
If a suspect misses his or her court date, “that’s when they have a problem with us,” Simmons said.
Bounty hunters tracking down fugitives have become commonplace on television ever since Dog the Bounty Hunter started tackling and choke-holding suspects on the run in the early 2000s. The reality shows, each with their own spin, have drawn criticism from those who fear bounty hunters are entrusted with too much power and not enough training. In 18 states, individuals can become a bounty hunter regardless of education, training or prior criminal history.
Around 2010, Colorado did away with any requirements or licensing for becoming a bounty hunter.
Tom Remy, a bail bondsman in Denver who runs a training course, said he recommends bail bondsmen do not hire recovery agents who have not undertaken some form of training.
“The recovery agent needs to understand what they can and can’t do,” Remy said. “We instill in the recovery agent the fact they can go to jail. Don’t believe everything you see on TV because you really don’t have the power you see on these shows.”
Both Goetz and Simmons completed a two-day training course in Denver and now require their agents to attend Remy’s School of Bail and Recovery. Simmons showed no hesitation when questioned if law enforcement should be used for entertainment.
“You bet,” he said. “People need to understand they can’t outrun the law. Well, they may be able to outrun the law, but they can’t outrun us.”
Their own show’s angle to catch offenders that “do whatever it takes to escape custody by fleeing into more than 3,000 miles of dense forest and rocky peaks” garnered adamant praise by many, but also a fair share of criticism from others.
“Totally scripted,” wrote Ignacio resident Barb Fierstad on the show’s Facebook fan page. “Shows places in Durango/Four Corners and then totally misrepresents them. They ride the train to Needleton, then are magically on a trail on Purgatory Flats, then the cabins in Cascade Creek, which you drive to, even though they supposedly took the train.”
Asked if there’s any truth to claims that the show was scripted or that runaways were paid, Goetz was good-humored about the reality of reality TV.
“Come on, man, it’s TV!” he said, laughing. “Bounty hunting is not non-stop action. You have periods where you sit in a truck making phone calls to 20 different people or you’re watching a house hours on end. That was one thing that made it difficult. That wouldn’t make good TV.”
The two bounty hunters still love the business and show no signs of slowing down. Though the “Rocky Mountain Bounty Hunter” trademark is owned by Animal Planet, they’ve been in talks with other production companies about the possibility of a new show.
“It’s always a rush, especially when you enter a house in the middle of the night and don’t know what’s on the other side of the door,” said Goetz, adding that he was first drawn to the profession while leafing through a CrimeStoppers magazine.
“I got to thinking, and said, ‘Oh (expletive), a guy could make a lot of money just hunting people.”