When you spend enough time in hunting camps, it becomes easy to categorize people and, unfortunately, pre-judge them as well. Many stories are variations of ones often told in the past, and, for that part, most hunting stories are going to end one of two ways: you got it or you didn’t. When asked to accompany Steve and the MeatEater crew on a Missouri Breaks hunt for mule deer, I had few reservations; take any excuse to hunt the breaks has long been a motto of mine. Of course, the catch was the focus of the hunt: helping two first-time hunters try to fill mule deer tags—the hunters being Joe Rogan and Bryan Callen, comedians out of Los Angeles. I’ll summarize by saying my attitude wasn’t great. Eastern Montana can be brutal to a seasoned hunter; temperature swings and moisture can render the country an impassable mud slick. Comedians from Los Angeles who had never hunted and maybe shot a gun? And did I mention we were taking canoes? My morale wasn’t high, but helping people get on their first animal is almost always a good time. Turns out these LA guys were great, very determined. Both Joe and Bryan had shown up for the right reasons and their goals were simple: take something home and eat it. I like that.
The Eastern Montana weather held little back. The trip started out with temps in the low 30s and rain, which progressed into snow and temps in the single digits. Joe and Bryan were swiftly taken out of their comfort zones and their versions of normalcy, and were deposited into a cold, foreign landscape accompanied by people they didn’t know well or had just met. I do not see many people who are willing to do that; your average hunter who is traveling spends lots of time preparing for a trip and has typically hunted before. Joe and Bryan had brushed up on some of the historical points of the area, but neither had been camping since they were kids. I’m not saying everything they did was professional. They may have had a little fear of wandering too far from the tent at night when nature called, and I’ve never seen giant down-filled jackets worn so consistently. Joe lept before he looked and landed in a prickly pear cactus patch and, in full view of camp, Bryan—flashlight in mouth—removed spines via tweezers from Joe’s legs and thighs. Bryan got a little shaken when his sense of direction failed the first night.
Both Joe and Bryan were great to have on a hunt—lots of ribbing and laughing mixed with focus and an eagerness to learn the area and the game. Above all else, they had a respect for the animals and a greater respect for how people survived in that country.
Top 6 Pieces of Advice for First Time Hunters:
1. Make sure your shells match your weapon.
2. Take care of your feet: Wear heavy wool socks with lots of cushion; break your boots in and take care of them.
3. Patience pays off.
4. Practice, practice, practice… using calls, shooting, backpacking. Shooting is more than sighting in your rifle a week before the season. For bowhunters, practice with broadheads when the season starts getting close. If you do not, you are relying on luck alone. There is no substitute for hiking—you can be in shape but not in hiking-shape, so be sure to get in lots of side-hill off-trail backpack time before the season starts.
5. Be on time. Check your gear and re-check. Make a list if you have to. Do not make someone wait on you. You will inevitably miss the first flight of birds or show up to your “spot” only to find someone has beaten you to it.
6. It is your responsibility to know where you are. Be respectful of private land and ask permission. Be courteous to others in the field.
Join us for a 2-part special MeatEater series as Steven Rinella takes Joe Rogan and Bryan Callen on their first even 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.