Actor, comedian, and UFC Color Commentator Joe Rogan sat down with the folks at Zero Point Zero Production in NYC to discuss his mule deer hunt with Steven Rinella. You can watch part one of the hunt on the Season Three finale of MeatEater on Sunday APRIL 28 at 9PM E/P on Sportsman Channel.
ZERO POINT ZERO: Let’s start at the top… how did you end up on a mule deer hunt in one of the most remote parts of the country with Steven Rinella?
JOE ROGAN: I met Steve when he came to do my podcast and was originally a fan of his show that was on a different network. I found out about MeatEater through trying to contact him and get him to do my podcast. We eventually figured out a good time, and he came in to do the podcast and it was just really interesting talking to the guy. He’s so knowledgeable — not just about animals and about hunting animals, but about American history.
Steve came on my podcast and we talked about hunting together. He had a couple of different options, and we wound up going with the deer in Montana one. And then it was just a matter of finding the right time and doing it.
ZPZ: Why Steve? Why not just go out on your own for your first time?
JR: I wanted to hunt with Steve because I knew that the first hunting experience could be really done the right way if I got a chance to do it with him—to do it the way that he does it—and for me as a fan of his show, like I was a fan of the guy.
If you’re going to play basketball and you can go play with, like, Michael Jordan or Larry Bird or something like that, you go do it. And you probably go, Wow, I can’t believe I’m playing basketball with Larry Bird.
Well, hunting with Steve—no bullsh*t—is really like that. You’re out hunting with a famous, great hunter. So it was a really cool opportunity to do something that was probably going to change the way I live the rest of my life.
ZPZ: So how much hunting and rifle experience did you have before heading out?
JR: I had never been hunting before I went to Montana with Steve, but it was something I’d always wanted to do. I felt like my whole life I’ve eaten meat and I’d never taken part in actually killing the animals, though. I always knew that was a big disconnect, and so I’d wanted to hunt for a long time.
ZPZ: How did it feel to go out and actually hunt?
JR: It’s very primal. That’s what it feels like. That reaction is registered in your mind, in your genes, and when you go out there and you do it, it’s incredibly fulfilling. It’s really rewarding.
I think it gives you an experience that’s unlike any other kind of camping, or even any other kind of nature experience, because you’re doing something incredibly primal with your time. You’re not just in nature. You’re in nature and you’re actually doing the things people used to do, you know, back in the caveman days. You’re trying to find some food to eat.
ZPZ: Regardless of being a method to procure food, some folks look at hunting as cruel. Did you have any reservations about that particular notion going on your first hunt?
JR: A lot of people have that perspective of hunting and it’s unfortunate… the bad labeling or the misconception that it is cruelty. And it’s not that at all. I think the real cruelty comes from factory farming and these animals that are raised in a way that’s not hygienic, and it’s disgusting to see the animals crammed on top of each other.
In my opinion, hunting is the opposite of cruelty because you’re allowing this animal to live a completely free life, and then going out and finding it. You go out and get it and, in an instant, it’s over. That animal has lived exactly as it would without you ever interfering in its existence, and then all of a sudden you’re eating it.
I think if you’re going to be a meat-eater, it’s the ethical way to do it.
ZPZ: And you headed out way into the wilds of Montana for this particular hunt. How was “roughing it” on the Missouri River?
JR: The Montana landscape is beautiful but almost alien. There are no people anywhere out there, and it takes a little while to accept how barren it is at first. You kind of have to settle into the idea that this is the Missouri River.
It’s, like, kind of a crazy part of the country. It’s a really wild part—just you and some animals and some water.
ZPZ: So you enjoyed being off the grid?
JR: It was interesting. I don’t want to live like that, but I wouldn’t mind taking breaks like that… I think living like that would suck. If we had to go back to the way we lived before people invented electricity, I don’t think that would be that fun.
But to take little breaks and go camping and to be really out there and really immersed in nature was fascinating and exhilarating. So, I really enjoyed it very much—being completely away from all the noise of society and cell phones and Wi-Fi was kind of refreshing.
It was a lot of fun to try to disconnect from society a little bit to get something done. And getting something done is going out and finding a deer and hunting it.
ZPZ: Tell me a little about the hunt itself… was it difficult at all?
JR: When I got there, I was told it was going to be really cold and a lot of work. I had watched Steve’s shows on television, and it’s one thing to watch a show, but when you’re actually out there, you spend day after day walking up these really high hills, looking around, and then going back down. That’s what you are doing all day, over and over, and you get winded. You are constantly looking around for deer, and it just puts the whole thing in perspective. You realize, like, this is not an easy task.
To go out and find animals and stalk them and get in the perfect position where they can’t smell you and then shoot them and eat them… it’s very, very difficult. So I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. The amount of travel and walking to cover land to find these animals was really fascinating.
ZPZ: But through all that traveling, you eventually found a buck, yes?
JR: On the third day of the hunt, we walked about a mile and a half from camp and we eventually spotted the buck. He was on the side of a hill that was across a ridge only about a hundred yards away. But by the time I got to a position where I could take a shot at him, he was about two hundred yards away.
ZPZ: And at the moment of the shot, what was that like?
JR: I had never shot anything before with a scoped rifle, and had only practiced once a couple of days earlier on some pieces of paper. Now all of a sudden, there’s this actual animal in front of me, and I’m trying to lock in on this thing and stay calm and get it in the crosshairs, but I don’t have any experience with the scope so I blew the first opportunity.
ZPZ: The scope?
JR: I had my eye way too close to the scope and it was distorting the image. I couldn’t figure out how to get it right, and then I realized the distance and then I pushed the rifle forward slowly until I saw everything crystal clear.
ZPZ: The walking and shooting is only part of the experience though… you have to then gut and breakdown the deer. How did that work out?
JR: The gutting of the deer was the first thing we did after it was down. Steve took me step-by-step through all of the different parts—how to open it up, how to get the organs out, how to take the organs that we were going to cook and eat later, and how to pull out and handle all the entrails.
ZPZ: So it went well then?
JR: It’s pretty intense stuff, but I was really excited. Apparently, deer have very hot bodies. Their bodies are warmer than ours. And when you have your hand in there, it’s almost a bit shocking how warm it is.
And then there’s the reality of what you’re doing—I mean, you’re reaching into this large animal and pulling out its organs, and then you’re going to cook them and eat them. Intense stuff.
ZPZ: So have you acquired a taste for fresh venison?
JR: I had acquired a taste for game meat a while ago. I had eaten it at restaurants before, and I was like, Wow this is delicious. It is such a different flavor. It was really interesting to find out how healthy it is, how good it is for you, and how a lot of athletes swear by it.
ZPZ: And how about the meat from the hunt… have you been eating it often?
JR: I’ve been eating it at home. I just cook it on the grill with some garlic salt on it. I love it. I’ve eaten at least half of it already. So, it’s probably like forty pounds of meat and I’ve eaten like twenty pounds of deer meat in a month (laughs). I’m not joking either. I went right through it.
I’ve had friends come over and they can’t believe how delicious it is. It’s probably some of the best tasting food I’ve ever had—especially the deer steaks. There’s something about deer steaks over a mesquite fire that is unbelievably delicious.
I have a 16-year-old daughter, and she really wouldn’t be big on animal cruelty, and she’s tried to be a vegetarian for a little while. But she loved it. She thought it was the most delicious food ever.
It’s such an unusual flavor if you’ve never had venison before, but if you’ve had it fresh, and it’s cooked over, like, a nice hardwood fire, it’s some of the most delicious food you can ever eat.
ZPZ: Would you go hunting again?
JR: It was a really powerful experience, and I think that if I could, I would like to do this several times a year. I would like to get a lot of the meat that I eat in this way.
There was a lot of satisfaction involved in the way we did it, involved in the difficulty of finding these deer, and tracking them and sneaking up on them, stalking them, and then eventually taking one of them.
It was something I looked forward to doing for a long time, so actually doing it and being successful was really incredibly rewarding. I think ultimately it’s going to be something that I probably do for the rest of my life. It was everything I could have hoped for and more.
ZPZ: One last question. You brought your friend and fellow comedian Bryan Callen along with you on the hunt. We’ve done a similar interview with him, but I wanted to ask you why he was the right guy to come along with you on this trip?
JR: Bryan is one of my best friends—if not my best friend—and I’ve known him forever. We’ve known each other for pretty close to twenty years now, and we’ve been essentially best friends since the day we met.
He is one of the funniest human beings I’ve ever met in my life, and being around him on this trip just ensured we were going to crack jokes all the time. I knew that he would be hilarious, and we had some of the most ridiculous and inappropriate laughs for five days. It was just like a professional comedy show, the Bryan Callen show. He’s an unbelievably funny guy to hang around.
Aside from the jokes, one of the most important aspects about bringing Bryan is that Bryan is a man. He can get sh*t done. He’s not a whiner. He’s not a complainer. He’s not a guy that’s not going to be able to deal with the cold. He’s not going to freak out. He’s not going to fall apart.
He’s a man. And I count on him. I knew if I could take anybody to a place like Montana, going down the Missouri River and that harsh freezing environment deer hunting, he’d fit right in. He can do anything. He’s just that dude. You know, he’s a powerful individual, and I didn’t have to worry about him being able to carry his own weight and him not being able to cut it.
Join us for a 2-part special MeatEater series as Steven Rinella takes Joe Rogan and Bryan Callen on their first ever hunt in the badlands and the breaks of Montana!
The series airs April 28 and May 5 at 9pm ET/PT on The Sportsman Channel!
Find Sportsman Channel in your area here.