In many ways society is set up to gently mask certain aspects of the true nature of our existence. We think nothing of going to a large building where we pull up in our metal, combustion-engine-powered vehicles and collect “meat” in tidy plastic and styrofoam wrapped packages. We fill our cart full of essential items of mysterious origins, push it up to the black treadmill, swipe a plastic card through a machine, and then scribble some writing on a small piece of paper to seal the deal. That’s how most of us acquire our food.
In 2013, this is pretty standard stuff in many parts of the world, and most of us have gotten very used to it. That’s one of the weirder things about people; how easily we get used to strange things. We adapt like a motherf***er.
It’s the reason why there’s people living in Alaska in the winter, and Florida in the summer. It’s the reason you can regularly get 200 people to casually sit in a metal tube as it hurls through the sky 30,000 feet above an ocean and nobody freaks out, and it’s the reason why so many people don’t even think twice about using a plastic card to acquire a chunk of meat that some unknown stranger cut off a cow. We’re just a really f***ing weird animal, even to ourselves.
Tell someone you’re going to get a cheeseburger, and unless you’re talking to a hard-core proselytizing vegan, it’s likely no one is going to bat an eye. Tell that same someone that you’re going hunting, however, and you’re likely to receive a completely different reaction. Depending on the company you keep, pretty standard reactions can vary from shocked, to disturbed, to down right disgusted or even angry.
We’re all aware in a semi-abstract sense that a cheeseburger used to be a part of a living creature, but we conveniently ignore the potentially disturbing aspects of that process and the tasty package of meat, cheese, and bread just becomes “lunch.” When you tell someone that you intend on hunting, killing and eating an animal, however, the societal normalcy filter is removed and the true nature of the act becomes unavoidable.
For some people—even people that eat meat, this can be very upsetting. When I first decided to go hunting I made a conscious decision to note how people reacted to me telling them my plans. Most of my friends treated the idea with curious consideration, but amongst casual acquaintances there were some very interesting knee-jerk reactions I encountered when the subject came up.
Common themes were:
“Why would you do that when you can just get meat at the store?”
“I could never kill a beautiful animal.”
“You’re not going to become a crazy hunter now, are you?”
I had been thinking about going hunting for years. I’ve eaten meat all my life, but I had never bridged the disconnect between a living animal becoming food. I’ve always let other people do the work for me, and for a long time I’ve contemplated that this disconnect is probably not only mentally unhealthy but dishonest as well.
Unfortunately, for a grown man in his 40s thinking about going hunting there’s not a clear path to take to turn that idea into a reality. I had looked into it, and I thought about it quite a bit, but until I met Steve Rinella it was just another unchecked item on my bucket list.
I first found out about Steve from a show he had on the Travel Channel called The Wild Within. It was a really interesting show that combined hunting and survival skills with a historical perspective. The first episode I watched, he shot a buffalo with an old-school musket, made a boat out of its hide and then used it to float down the Missouri River taking the same path Lewis and Clark did when they explored the West. Right away I was hooked.
It was a great show, and I was very impressed by Steve’s noble take on the discipline of hunting and living off the land. His articulate and passionate narration immediately separated him from the other hunting shows that I had seen on TV, and when the chance came to have Steve on my podcast to talk about a new show he was promoting I jumped on it.
Steve came on the podcast, and an instant friendship was formed. His take on “fair chase” hunting, and his incredible knowledge of nature and the history of the exploration of the Wild West made for one of my all-time favorite podcasts.
By the end of the show, Steve and I had made plans to take me out on my first hunt for his new show MeatEater in an episode which airs tonight, Sunday, April 28th on the Sportsman Channel.
I took one of my favorite humans on the planet with me on the trip, the hilarious and brilliant Bryan Callen, and we set off for an epic 5-day journey canoeing down the Missouri River and camping in some of the very same spots where Lewis and Clark stopped. We hunted for mule deer in 10-degree weather, and without giving too much away before the show airs, we had the adventure of a lifetime.
The episode is a special 2-part season finale with part one airing tonight and part 2 set to air Sunday, May 5th. I’ll have another blog entry up later in the week to go over my thoughts on episode 1, and then I’ll wrap it up for a final piece after episode 2 airs.
Even if you’re not a hunter and you’ve never enjoyed watching hunting shows, take a chance on MeatEater. I can guarantee you that it’s not like any hunting show you’ve ever seen before, and Steven Rinella’s exceptional take on the pursuit might just get you thinking about trying it out yourself.
— Joe Rogan