Steven Rinella, author and host of MeatEater on The Sportsman Channel, took some time to discuss the upcoming season of his show. Take a look at the Q&A below for Steven's take on everything from close calls with grizzly bears to his opinions on new hunter recruitment. To watch Steven in action, be sure and check out the new season of MeatEater, which premieres at 9 p.m. E/P Sunday, Jan. 6, on The Sportsman Channel.
GAME & FISH: Thanks for taking the time to hang out with us today. Let's start at the top: Can you tell us a little about what we should expect on the upcoming season of MeatEater?
STEVEN: The upcoming season of MeatEater is some of the finest work that our team has put together yet. There's a theme of North American extremes, as the hunts are stretching from well above the Arctic Circle to south of the U.S. border.
The northern end of things is a caribou hunt in the Brooks Range. The southern end is my first Goulds turkey hunt, in the foothills of Mexico's Sierra Madre. In between, we'll be taking viewers on one of the greatest hunting adventures that I've ever had: a do-it-yourself backcountry Dall sheep and black bear hunt in the famed Tok River Country of the Alaska Range.
And while many past episodes of MeatEater have been solo hunts, these all feature great guests. I bring along the writer Timothy Ferriss for caribou, and my brother Danny and my buddy Paul Neess join me for sheep and bear. For the Mexico turkey hunt, viewers are going to meet my friend Jay Scott, who happens to be one of finest, most careful hunters that I know.
So not only are viewers going to have a blast, but they're going to see some great country and learn some useful tricks. What's more, we're going to throw in another cooking special that'll help viewers do some amazing stuff with the wild game in their own freezers. This season is a gift that'll keep giving!
G&F: Your freezer is probably full of great game meat right now. Anything you are looking forward to cooking up that you haven't got a chance to yet?
STEVEN: That's a tricky question, because I don't want to give away the ending of our episodes. But let's just say that, yes, I've got a lot of game in my freezer. Ranging from squirrel to buffalo.
In truth, I'm still putting the finishing touches on some meat from Season 3. One thing I've been thinking about is the remaining buffalo tenderloin from the young cow that I killed on our Mexico hunt. Our director and cameraman, Mo Fallon, claimed that tenderloin for himself. The problem is that it's been living in my freezer.
Every time I open the door, that thing is staring me in the face. I can hardly keep from eating it, especially because the matching tenderloin was the simply the best piece of game meat that I've ever eaten. I'm just very afraid that that tenderloin will not be there when Mo comes for it. I need to find the strength to leave that thing alone.
G&F: While on the subject of big game, the Season 3 premier of MeatEater features a caribou hunt in Northern Alaska. Why start there?
STEVEN: I wanted to start there because hunting caribou in the Brooks Range is one of my favorite hunts in the world. My brothers and I were doing self-guided caribou hunts up there years ago, back when we had to do everything on a very limited budget.
We suffered on those hunts, and learned an immense amount of stuff. It's nice for me to bring new hunters along up there, because I can recapture that early sense of wonder and fear by experiencing the region through their eyes.
G&F: Speaking of new hunters, you bring along Timothy Ferriss to hunt caribou with you. How did it turn out that he ended up hunting with you about as far away from civilization as you could get?
STEVEN: Tim reached out to me well over a year ago now, when he was researching his new book, The 4-Hour Chef. He was interested in hunting, and I agreed to take him out.
Our first hunt was for whitetail deer down in South Carolina. We had a great time, but that's not the style of hunting that most excites me. So as soon as that trip was over, I started planning a more complicated and technical hunt with Tim. Brooks Range caribou seemed like a good bet, because it's stunning country and there's always a good chance of getting into animals.
I didn't want to take him way out in the middle of nowhere and then come home empty-handed. Don't tell Tim, but I'm saving the experience of getting skunked for our third hunt.
G&F: Including this hunt, Tim had only gone hunting with you once before. Did you have any trepidation bringing someone who wasn't very experienced into such a raw landscape like Northern Alaska?
STEVEN: Not the least bit of trepidation. For one thing, I have a lot of experience taking uninitiated hunters into the backcountry. What's more, Tim's a very competent guy and a quick learner.
After we spent a couple days up there, I had no doubt that he'd be able to fend for himself up there alone for a limited amount of time and with the proper gear. And that's not something I'd say about just anyone.
G&F: We heard you ran across a grizzly or two while hunting caribou. Was this your first time up close and personal with a bear?
STEVEN: I've never been scratched or even charged by a grizzly, but I've been up close to a bunch.
I used to be terrified of those things. Not that I ever let my fear of bears change my plans; that is, I'd go wherever I wanted to go, and do what I wanted to do, regardless of the presence of grizzlies. But over time, that fear just dissipated.
Now I couldn't really care less about grizzlies. I'm aware of the threat, but not fearful of it. So realistically, I'm probably getting to the point of being careless. A good scratchin' might be in my near future, but I sure hope not.
G&F: Outside of a grizz sighting and the spectacular landscape, did anything else about the caribou episode feel special or stand out to you?
STEVEN: Bringing along a new hunter was very rewarding for me. I'm a firm believer in the importance of hunter recruitment, as we need to maintain our numbers in order to survive in the face of our political and cultural adversaries. And Tim was the perfect guy to recruit, because he hunts for the meat. I knew that if he killed a bull, he'd use the meat wisely and with great care. He would never waste it.
I think that viewers will be able to see Tim's respect for our wild resources when they watch the episode. He's a thoughtful, passionate guy. If I had any doubt about that, I would have never invited him along. Really, I have absolutely no interest in hunting with anyone who doesn't utilize their game meat.
G&F: We will definitely watch to see what happens, and thanks again for hanging out with us today. Last question: We spent a bunch of time talking about the caribou episode, but outside of that, what should look out for in the new season MeatEater?
STEVEN: Same as usual: Watch for plenty of close calls, sticky situations, bloody knives and tasty meals.
Be sure to visit The Sportsman Channel to see exclusive promos for the upcoming hunt for caribou on the season premiere of MeatEater.