It’s All About The Meat

The first Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) North American Rendezvous was held at Fort Missoula, Montana, during March 2-4, 2012. Seminars, activities and events on the schedule included (in part): llama packing, casting accuracy, archery range access, DIY outfitting for wilderness fishing and hunting float trips, backcountry success story: Oregon’s Copper Salmon country, etc.

Additional seminars covered the perfect backcountry camp, truth to power: getting politicians to listen, Dall sheep hunting in Alaska, climate change: what’s the future of hunting and fishing, breaking down the wall: getting agencies to hear our voice, keeping the backcountry experience alive, the future of BHA: the future of backcountry. We also recognized Colorado BHA Habitat Watch Volunteer Robert Marion with BHA’s Aldo Leopold Award, among other award recipients.[1]

Our Saturday evening keynote speaker was author, television personality and hunter-angler-conservationist Steven Rinella. I was serving on the BHA North American Board at the time and recall being impressed by Steven’s engaging presentation and easygoing demeanor.[2] Rinella recounted some of his countless hunting and fishing stories and explained “how backcountry turned me into who I am now. There’s a spiritual component to it.”[3]

Backcountry Buffalo

“I’d say that 90% of the truly memorable experiences in my life—I’m talking about experiences where I’ve told and written the story dozens and dozens of times—have occurred in the backcountry,” Rinella said (in a pre-Rendezvous BHA interview). “And I don’t think it’s just because those stories are really that much better. Rather, I think it’s because the backcountry allowed me to experience them in a way that was much more vivid and pristine. It allowed me to live those moments fully, and to capture them fully.” [4]

“… backcountry is important for reasons that are more, well ... spiritual. Backcountry allows hunters and anglers to have experiences that are completely removed from the noise and clutter of our contemporary lives,” Rinella added. “When I’m in the backcountry, many of my worldly concerns immediately dissolve away. I become focused on things that are much more elemental: the movement of animals, the smell of the wilderness, the sounds of birds, the shifting of weather.”[5] Rinella’s passion for backcountry experiences is buttressed by his formidable writing and storytelling skills.

He earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Montana-Missoula in 2000.[6] His first book (2005), “The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine,” takes readers along on an unlikely yearlong journey as the author tries to procure, via rod and gun, the ingredients to re-create a 45-course meal from a century-old cookbook by Auguste Escoffier. Rinella hunted mountain goats in Alaska and fished for stingrays off the coast of Florida—not to mention going after everything from raccoons to snapping turtles elsewhere—to assemble all he needed for the feast.[7]

Then, in 2005, he won one of 24 spots in a lottery for a wild bison hunt in the Alaskan wilderness—and was one of only four hunters to register a kill. The story became his second book (2009), “American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon.” It recounts not only the grueling hunt (which included rafting the meat out of the wilderness while being chased by grizzlies) but reminds readers of the magnificent animal’s place in our national heritage.[8]

“… my most memorable backcountry hunt was after buffalo in Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve,” he said. “The area I hunted was accessible only by boat, and I put in seven days on that hunt before I killed a mature cow. I then spent three days packing meat off a mountain. It was a tough hunt. Of the 24 permit holders, only four of us got a buffalo. And you have an eight-month season. I ran into grizzlies, a wolf, a black bear, moose, all while tracking America’s most iconic beast.”[9]


The success of his books helped land Rinella on TV, first as host of the Travel Channel’s “The Wild Within,” then the Sportsman Channel’s “Meateater,” which is currently on Netflix. On “Wild,” Rinella traveled the world to hunt and fish with local personalities. On “Meateater,” he eats what he kills, showing viewers not only the hunt, but how to field dress the animals and then cook certain parts.[10]

“Rinella has become something new: a simple but authoritative voice that both speaks clearly to hunters and rings true to even the most ardent skeptics,” Ben Obrien wrote in Petersen’s Hunting. “In many ways, he’s leading the meat-eater revolution.”[11] In the Outdoor News Patrick Durkin added, “Steven Rinella may have done more than anyone the past 15 years to popularize hunting and give it legitimacy with nonhunting Americans.”[12]

Today Rinella is arguably the country’s most famous hunter. “MeatEater” is on its tenth season and he’s the founder of a rapidly growing lifestyle brand, also called MeatEater, whose tagline is “your link to the food chain.” In addition to its ever-expanding roster of hunting, fishing and culinary podcasts and YouTube shows, his company sells clothing and equipment and serves as a clearinghouse for all manner of advice, tutorials, videos and posts.[13]

Although Rinella didn’t know the meaning of the word “podcast” in 2014, Durkin explains, his weekly “MeatEater Podcast” skyrocketed in popularity soon after its first episode in January 2015. As of late December 2021, “The MeatEater Podcast” ranked No. 5 among all sports-related podcasts on[14]

Rinella is also now the author of six books dealing with wildlife, hunting, fishing and wild game cooking, including the bestselling “MeatEater Fish and Game Cookbook: Recipes and Techniques for Every Hunter and Angler.”[15] He has a contract to write five more, including a parenting book. In three years, MeatEater has grown to 120 employees from 10, and its revenue has more than tripled.[16]

Rendezvous Redux

After stops in Boise (2013), Denver (2014) and Spokane (2015), the BHA North American Rendezvous returned to Missoula in 2016, and Steven Rinella was there. “It’s inspiring to spend time around hunters and anglers who are willing to fight on behalf of our public lands and outdoor heritage,” he said. “That’s why I continue to support Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. Their focus on public lands conservation is something that benefits all of today’s outdoorsmen, as well as future generations. I will continue to stand side by side with this group.”[17]

Southeastern BHA chapter board member Josh Kaywood added: “To paraphrase author, podcaster, and accomplished outdoorsman Steven Rinella, BHA members are the ‘huntingest and fishingest folks I know.’”[18] Although Steven missed (if I’m not mistaken) the 2017 Missoula Rendezvous, he was a featured Campfire Stories storyteller at the 2018 Boise Rendezvous and issued a call to sportsmen and women to join the public lands party.

“BHA’s Rendezvous has become an annual destination for passionate hunters and anglers who are willing to speak out in defense of wildlife and wild places,” Rinella said. “From seminars to the wild game cook-off, it’s a kick in the ass in the best possible way. I’m honored to be headlining the pinnacle of the weekend as a storyteller on Saturday night. You’ll never forgive yourself if you don’t come.”[19]

At the 2019 Rendezvous (also in Boise), Rinella was awarded BHA’s Ted Trueblood Award. As detailed in the Summer 2019 Backcountry Journal: “The Ted Trueblood Award is presented by BHA for exceptional communications work informing and inspiring people for the benefit of public lands, waters and wildlife. The 2019 Trueblood Award recipient is Steve Rinella, host of the MeatEater podcast and TV show.”[20]

“It is a privilege to honor Steve Rinella with BHA’s Ted Trueblood award,” BHA President and CEO Land Tawney said. “Quite frankly it should have been communicator of the decade. The public lands revolution is fueled by Steve’s ability to connect, inspire and engage with folks all over North America. I couldn’t be more proud to be in the arena with this fine conservation champion, and I hate to think where our movement would be without him. We have much more to do together.”[21]

“Why doesn’t every hunter support groups like National Wild Turkey Federation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership? Stuff like that does drives me nuts,” Rinella said. “Get involved in the conservation movement. I don’t care what anyone says, habitat loss is the number one threat to hunting. We cannot afford to lose another acre of wild land. It’s the best thing we have going for us, and we need to protect it with our lives.”[22]

Environmentalist With A Gun

Hunting and fishing stories are Rinella’s way of sending out a kind of plea, Malia Willan explained in her New York Times story, “An Environmentalist With a Gun.” “I want my work to inspire people to think about the things that they love, to learn about the things that they love and to find it in them to advocate on behalf of the things that they love,” he said. For Rinella, that thing is the outdoors; he describes himself as “an environmentalist with a gun.”[23]

“First off, backcountry is important in an ecological sense,” Rinella emphasized (in a BHA interview). “The one thing that just about every wildlife biologist will agree on is that healthy populations of fish and game require sanctuary areas where they do not experience excessive pressure from human traffic. So even if you don’t hunt the backcountry areas yourself, much of the fish and game that you pursue relies on it.”[24]

In practical terms, Rinella helps raise money for organizations working to protect habitat and urges his followers to get involved in conservation efforts, as he did recently encouraging people to contact the U.S. Forest Service and tell it to reinstate the roadless rule in the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska, which was exempted from the rule by the Trump administration in 2020.[25]

He also sits on the board of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), a nonprofit that lobbies policymakers to put more money toward restoring wetlands, defending the Clean Water Act and halting the sale of public land.[26] Over the years Backcountry Hunters & Anglers has worked closely with groups like TRCP, Trout Unlimited and many other conservation organizations on a myriad of issues and initiatives.

And as all BHA, TU and TRCP members know from hard-earned experience, the opportunity for an angler to catch a trout or a hunter to shoot an elk is predicated on preserving the habitat, the ecosystems that sustain all life. Rich Landers, longtime outdoors editor of the Spokesman-Review (also BHA’s 2015 Ted Trueblood Award recipient), probably said it best: “Any sportsman who isn’t an environmentalist is a fool.”[27]

“There are many ways to become an effective conservationist. A great way to start is to get involved with one or two conservation groups whose missions appeal to you,” Rinella explained in “Ask MeatEater.” “I sit on the board of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership … Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is another important player, and a few of the MeatEater crew sit on their board. By mixing it up with these organizations, you’ll keep abreast of the rapidly evolving conservation landscape. That’s an education worth having.”[28]

It’s All About The Meat

“We don’t eat any store bought meat in my house,” Rinella added. “Most people eat beef, pork and chicken. My kids have eaten dozens of species and they don’t even blink an eye. The other day I sent my kid to school with a musk-ox sandwich … I travel a lot, so I do eat store-bought meat.”[29] Traveling is, obviously, integral to Rinella’s lifestyle. He’s essentially a hunting-fishing nomad, “following the hunting seasons like some kind of migratory superpredator, often with cinematographers in tow,” Malia William wrote in her New York Times story.[30]

In November, he hunted black-tailed deer and caught shrimp in Alaska and then white-tailed deer in Nebraska; in December, he shot ducks in Louisiana. January means hunting Coues deer in Mexico; February, the piglike javelina in Arizona; March, Osceola turkeys and cobia fishing in Florida; April, wild turkeys in Mexico, Wisconsin and Michigan; May, black bears back in Montana. Summer means bowfishing and spearfishing in Florida and Louisiana; fall means moose in Alaska and elk in Colorado.[31]

“When he isn’t … hunting or fishing, Rinella enjoys cooking for friends and guests. He says he thinks he’s fed more game meat to more nonhunters than anyone in the country,” Patrick Durkin wrote in the Outdoor News. “Hunting must ride on food,” Rinella said. “It’s the only thing we all respond to. My living room is all horns, hides, racks and skulls. I never get tired of looking at them, but they have no impact on people who don’t hunt until you cook venison for them. Then we talk about the hunt, wildlife populations, what I prepared, the rules governing the hunt, and the culture of hunting. When you tie hunting to food, it speaks to people.”[32]

“One of the best things that Steve and MeatEater have done is to introduce people to hunting through food,” BHA president and CEO Land Tawney said. “It’s not just about killing things and high-fiving.”[33] In fact, many (maybe most) memorable hunts produce no “hero photos,” recounts of an astounding shot, lengthy blood trails, or remarkable recoveries. Enjoying the journey really is the key to enjoying the hunt. “We anticipate success, yet with the right outlook success is guaranteed,” Matt Green wrote in Traditional Bowhunter. “Most of our hunts ultimately conclude with the only harvest being a harvest of memories.”[34]

Colorado BHA Hosts Rinella

Coming full circle, back to 2012, when Rinella was the keynote speaker at BHA’s first North American Rendezvous, that September Colorado BHA hosted him for a book signing at the Sportsmen’s Warehouse in Thornton (on Sept. 13), as detailed in this membership email update about the event.[35]

  • “On September 13th, Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers hosted Steven Rinella for a conversation about hunting America’s backcountry and enthusiastically eating its respected wild game.[36]
  • “Over 70 Colorado sportsmen packed a room at Sportsman's Warehouse in Thornton for an event that featured wild game samples, stories from Rinella’s new book ‘Meat Eater,’ door prizes ranging from rifle scopes to game processing gift cards, and discussion on the great work BHA is doing on behalf of Colorado’s wild public lands.[37]
  • “Rinella capped-off the evening by sharing the loss he’s experienced as his traditional … hunting grounds have been sold-off for development, prompting a call to sportsmen of all techniques to join together and speak up for the lands we all enjoy, because if we don’t, who else will?”[38]

At a meet-and-greet with Steven for Colorado BHA members before the book signing, at Jay’s Grille & Bar in Thornton, he touched on topics ranging from OHV overuse and abuse to climate change. Steven hitched a ride with me from Jay’s to the nearby Sportsman’s Warehouse, and then back to his hotel (The Brown Palace) in downtown Denver. On the way we talked mostly about ruffed grouse hunting, which is one of the game species I first hunted. 

Steven grew up hunting grouse in Michigan and asked me how many I’d shot in a day. The limit is five in Minnesota (where I was raised), and he was surprised that I’d limited out multiple times (usually during the 10-year grouse cycle peaks) over the years. In Michigan, the most birds Steven killed in a day was three, and he wanted to hear more about where and how we hunt grouse in northern Minnesota.

The huntin’ talk ended far too soon as we pulled up to The Brown Palace. Before departing, Steven signed my copy of Meat Eater, writing (appropriately), “Thanks for the lift!” Thank you, Steven, for the enlightened “lift” you’re providing to the future of our wild public lands, waters and wildlife. We need many more like you. We have much to do together!

Additional/Related Information/Photos


[2] “Where Hope Lives: A Brief BHA History.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 11/30/20.

[3] Vince Devlin. “Outdoors author, ‘Meateater TV host comes back to Missoula to share adventures.” The Missoulian: 3/3/12.

[4] Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA).  “We need to fight for those places.”  BHA Interview with Steve Rinella: 2/21/12.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Patrick Durkin. “A quick chat with … Steven Rinella.” Outdoor News: 1/28/22, p. 6.

[7] Vince Devlin. “Outdoors author, ‘Meateater TV host comes back to Missoula to share adventures.” The Missoulian: 3/3/12.

[8] Ibid.  

[9] Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA). “We need to fight for those places.” BHA Interview with Steve Rinella: 2/21/12.

[10] Vince Devlin. “Outdoors author, ‘Meateater TV host comes back to Missoula to share adventures.” The Missoulian: 3/3/12.

[11] Ben Obrien. “Being A Meat Eater.” Petersen’s Hunting: April/May 2014, p. 59.

[12] Patrick Durkin. “A quick chat with … Steven Rinella.” Outdoor News: 1/28/22, p. 6.

[13] Malia Willan. “‘An Environmentalist With a Gun’: Inside Steven Rinella’s Hunting Empire.” The New York Times: 2/2/22.

[14] Patrick Durkin. “A quick chat with … Steven Rinella.” Outdoor News: 1/28/22, p. 6.

[15] Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA). BHA 2020 Calendar.

[16] Malia Willan. “‘An Environmentalist With a Gun’: Inside Steven Rinella’s Hunting Empire.” The New York Times: 2/2/22.

[17] Katie McKalip. “BHA Rendezvous Smashes Attendance Numbers, Breaks Fundraising Records.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 4/7/16.

[18] Josh Kaywood. “Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: Southeast Access Issues.” Canoe & Kayak: 11/27/17.

[19] Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA). “BHA North American Rendezvous Sets Sights on Idaho: Largest gathering of public lands hunters and anglers on continent heads to Boise in April.” 2/15/18.

[20] Editor. “BHA Bestows Top Honors At Rendezvous.” Backcountry Journal: Summer 2019, p. 11.

[21] Katie McKalip. “BHA Bestows Top Honors at Rendezvous: Hunters, anglers recognized for contributions to North America’s public lands, waters, wildlife.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 5/21/19.

[22] Eric Pickhartz. “Steven Rinella Responds to Questions on Hunting, Wild Game, and His New Book Series.” Wide Open Spaces: 9/2/15.

[23] Malia Willan. “‘An Environmentalist With a Gun’: Inside Steven Rinella’s Hunting Empire.” The New York Times: 2/2/22.

[24] Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA).  “We need to fight for those places.”  BHA Interview with Steve Rinella: 2/21/12.

[25] Malia Willan. “‘An Environmentalist With a Gun’: Inside Steven Rinella’s Hunting Empire.” The New York Times: 2/2/22.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Katie McKalip. “Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Honors Sportsmen Leaders, Raises Funds for Conservation at Annual Rendezvous.” BHA: 3/17/15.

[28] Steven Rinella. “Ask MeatEater: What Conservation Organizations Do You Recommend?” The MeatEater: 7/1/20.

[29] Cassie Scott. “15 Minutes with Steven Rinella.” National Wild Turkey Federation: July 2016.

[30] Malia Willan. “‘An Environmentalist With a Gun’: Inside Steven Rinella’s Hunting Empire.” The New York Times: 2/2/22.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Patrick Durkin. “A quick chat with … Steven Rinella.” Outdoor News: 1/28/22, p. 6.

[33] Malia Willan. “‘An Environmentalist With a Gun’: Inside Steven Rinella’s Hunting Empire.” The New York Times: 2/2/22.

[34] Matt Green. “Killing Time.” Traditional Bowhunter: December/January 2015, p. 71.

[35] David A. Lien. Age-Old Quests II: Hunting, Climbing & Trekking. Denver, Colorado: Outskirts Press, 2014.

[36] Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA). “Steven Rinella and CO BHA Team Up to Protect Wild Public Lands!” BHA: 9/20/12.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Dani Dagan. “Where We Go to Geek Out About Conservation News.” TRCP Blog: 1/27/17.

About David Lien

See other posts related to Colorado BHA Colorado