Famous Bounty Hunters

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The 1872 landmark Supreme Court case Taylor v. Taintor is credited as defining a bounty hunter’s legal rights. These include the right to seize fugitives without a warrant, to break and enter into their homes if necessary, to transport them across state laws without any formal extradition procedures, to use necessary force to detain them, etc.

The Discovery Channel’s “Mantracker” website published an article “Top 10 Bounty Hunters” profiling some of the most famous bounty hunters from the late 1800s to present day, including celebrity Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman. Let’s take a look at some of the other famous bail enforcement and fugitive recovery agents they describe.

John Riley Duncan

John Riley Duncan was working as a detective and private investigator in Texas. Then, in 1877, he was recruited by the Texas Rangers to help track down the infamous Wild West outlaw John Wesley “Wes” Hardin. Duncan went undercover, posing as a hobo says “Mantracker,” and successfully tracked the outlaw to Florida, where Wes Hardin was apprehended by law enforcement. Duncan was bitten by the “bounty hunting bug” after that and went on to capture more than 20 fugitives, even after he was shot in the throat.

Joshua Armstrong

Joshua Armstrong rose to fame after the release of his memoir The Seekers: A Bounty Hunter’s Story (2000), which he co-wrote with Anthony Bruno. “…this is the true story of America’s most unorthodox (and successful) bail enforcement team,” says a Publishers Weekly book review, referring to the team of bounty hunters Armstrong organized. “Unlike other bounty hunters, Armstrong’s group isn’t composed of trigger-happy tough guys. Instead…the Seekers track down felons in a respectful and usually bloodless way. The method works: the group, based in New Jersey, has an 85% capture rate.” According to “Mantracker,” Armstrong and the Seekers were heavily influenced by martial arts, Egyptian mysticism and The Art of War by Sun Tzu.

Ralph Thorson

During his 40+ year career, Ralph “Papa” Thorson was one of the most well known bounty hunters in the country. According to “Mantracker,” a 1987 Los Angeles Times article reported that Thorson had caught over 12,000 fugitives. “He relied on astrology charts to help him locate fugitives and, though he packed a .45 pistol, preferred to rely on a nonlethal weapon called the Prowler Fowler, which used compressed gas to fire beanbags filled with buckshot,” states “Mantracker.” Throughout his career he had been stabbed or shot at least eight times and was killed in 1994 by a car bomb. His wife Dottie and daughter Brandi continued his bounty hunting business after he passed.

If you are intrigued by this profession, visit our “Become a Bounty Hunter” page.