He sat across the table from me, tall in his chair, looking satisfied, seemingly unable to remove triumph from his face. It wasn't just Rogan's expression that read of victory, though, it was his whole demeanor. For a man who's part comedian, part fighter, it was a damn good time to be the former. To sit back with his fellow hunters and enjoy or, better yet, revel.
Rogan's plate was overflowing with wild organs. Thick, juicy slices of fresh moose heart sat steaming beside that same animal's liver, smothered in grilled onions. Beyond this first plate of wild protein, there was so much more to eat — 211 pounds to be exact — and the stand-up comedian, actor, martial artist, UFC commentator, and podcaster would be enjoying it all.
Though Rogan has spent some time in Hollywood, there'd be no private chef to prepare his backstraps. He hunts, kills, butchers, cooks, and eats his own meat, joining thousands of other converts in a movement that cannot be ignored. "Eat what you kill" is its mantra, and its front man is the dude sitting in front of me'¦devouring bloody moose heart.
Rogan lives, works, and raises his family in California — just outside of Los Angeles — in a place where very few people understand or accept the bloody truths of hunting.
He also makes his living in show business, where his connections with fans and followers are what drive him on a daily basis. Most celebrities in his position shy away from anything controversial in favor of following the watered-down societal norm — don't be different, you'll be accepted, and that acceptance means success.
There are countless examples of high-profile celebs getting hounded for their support of hunting. Most of them simply cower at the thought of facing death threats and PR backlash. But Rogan has been around awhile, and he simply doesn't give a shit.
Take this Twitter exchange for example:
Redgrave Anthony: @joerogan, F*&k you. Hunting for pleasure isn't making you a man, but a retarded pathetic cave worm with a disgusting life, you shit.
Joe Rogan: Dear folks mad at me for hunting: I only hunt things I eat and my goal is to personally, ethically harvest all the meat I eat at home'¦I know that some people have a problem with that, but if you wear leather and eat meat, hating hunters for getting their own food is insanely hypocritical and just another sign of the convenient detachment people have regarding the food they consume. Make no mistake about it; if you eat meat you are killing as well...Life eats life. My goal with pursuing hunting is to get more connected with that.
Rogan is layered. He breaks all show business stereotypes. The former Fear Factor host is as hyper-intelligent as they come. He's a black belt in jiu-jitsu. He's an expert in the psychedelic functions of the brain and an encyclopedia of randomly awesome knowledge. He's devoted to the enhancement of his own consciousness. With over 10 million downloads a month on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, he's become an antihero of sorts. He's willing to tackle tough issues head on, and people love him for it.
So why not do the same for hunting? Why not take to the airwaves in support of proactively changing the way we all think about meat'¦removing not only the chemical additives and antibiotics from the equation, but also the unhealthy disconnect between modern society and the origins of our food.
"The best thing about hunting to me is the rejection of store-bought, factory-farmed crap," Rogan told me, as we sat beside the moose he'd just killed. "There's no brand name, plastic-wrapped meat in the world that can stand up to this. The funny thing is, all you have to do is get out here and experience this to understand the truth. It takes some level of delusion to pick up a conveniently packaged piece of meat at a store and call it anything other than corrupt'¦mentally and physically."
Rogan's ideas seem in line with what should be common sense. Trace back the history of our race and you'll find that hunting is at the core of human existence. Yet the idea of taking complete control of your meat consumption in 2015 is not as simple as hunters would like it to be.
For non-hunters, like Rogan was just over two years ago, the idea of being introduced into a world where taking the life of an animal is justifiable, if not beneficial, is a hard intellectual hurdle. It can be a complex journey that requires a thoughtful approach, one that Rogan himself had to go through.
"Just imagine if you knew nothing of our world," he said. "And some over-evolved modern man tried to explain his consumption of meat and the leather he was wearing while damning hunters as murderers. It's complete lunacy. It's ignorance so profound that I can't even begin to understand the thought process. But I had to go through my own discovery of hunting and what it all means. It wasn't always an obvious alternative to total dependence."
"I had to go through my own discovery of hunting and what it all means. It wasn't always an obvious alternative to total dependence."
Rogan was 45 years old when he first put on an orange vest, picked up a rifle, and headed out to discover hunting. He had no close friends that were hunters and no family history of going afield for food. Hunting was an open curiosity; it was an unchecked box on his bucket list.
That is, until Rogan, a fan of Steven Rinella's show The Wild Within on the Travel Channel, jumped on the chance to get the author and adventurer on his podcast. The pair struck a bond, and things changed quickly. Soon a hunt was planned. It wasn't long before the stark realities of being a hunter in the liberal, animal rights haven of California became all too real.
"It was crazy to hear the responses," he said. "It was usually one of these three: '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, are you?'"
Rogan was repulsed by the dishonesty in these conversations. And he knew he had to stop lying to himself about his part in the process.
He killed his first mule deer in the unforgiving, "almost alien" foothills of Montana's Missouri Breaks that fall with Rinella. The primal exercise was an eye-opener.
"It quite honestly changed my life," Rogan told me. "I killed this deer, cut it up, ripped out its organs, and we ate it. I felt like a damn caveman. I just knew that there would never be anything in the outdoors more challenging and rewarding. For the first time, I could say I'd broken the crazy cycle of dishonesty. I wasn't pretending anymore."
Fast-forward almost two years. When I first talked to Rogan, he'd been on three hunts. Total. That's it. But we talked for hours, and it seemed to me that he'd read more about the subject than I could ever hope to. He'd become a fanatical archer and an even more dedicated meat eater. He'd hunted whitetails with Rinella and killed a bear from a ground blind with his bow.
Rogan brought that meat home for his family, even converting his sometimes-vegetarian daughter to the taste of wild game. We decided that the best way to put this into practice was to hunt an animal that would provide the most meat and, of course, a side dish of adventure.
Three months later, I met Rogan face-to-face in a lodge 20 minutes outside Quesnel, British Columbia. We hooked up with veteran moose guide Mike Hawkridge of Big Country Outfitters. We'd spend the next six days spotting and stalking through the cut timber of the beautiful country outside of town with our stone-jawed, emotionless guide, looking to score on a 400-plus-pound bull that would be Rogan's first. An animal that would ensure he'd eat nothing but wild meat for the forseeable future.
We set out to erase what Rogan called the "normalcy filter."
"We're all aware in a semiabstract sense that a cheeseburger used to be a part of a living creature," Rogan once wrote in a blog post. "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."
It was all unavoidable for us now as Hawkridge led our crew on hike after hike through the now-frozen tundra in the northern November cold. We glassed and called, hoping to draw a post-rut bull out of hiding. The weather ran warm and cold, and we struggled to locate a moose that would cooperate. The adventure waned, and on day three, rain soaked our crew.
"I felt like a damn caveman. I just knew that there would never be anything in the outdoors more challenging and rewarding."
It was the afternoon of day four and we all had a slight trepidation about the conclusion of the hunt. Hawkridge's truck rumbled and creaked down a muddy road cut through the timber. We were headed back to the lodge to regroup and get lunch. Rogan was in the middle of hilariously explaining the virtues of his sensory deprivation tank, and I was in the middle of busting a gut laughing.
Hawkridge slammed to a stop.
"Right there, bull right there!"
Rogan was out of the truck faster than I thought possible, carrying the weight of four days of failure, bad weather, and missed opportunities on his jacked-up shoulders. Before I could scramble down the roadside embankment and to his side, he was flanked by an equally intense Hawkridge, now pointing out the bull.
"He's a forker," Hawkridge said, locked in a stare down with the young moose. "Do you want to shoot him?"
"Hell, yes," Rogan replied. "I got him."
"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."
Rogan's posture stiffened, his eyes locked on his target. I watched him make the mental decision to squeeze in a split-second. His .300 RUM rocked the timber with a familiar roar, and things went silent. The bull crumbled at 75 yards.
Just then, as Rogan let loose with a primal celebration, things seem to slow down. I think I realized why we both made the trip. Hunting had somehow been changed, its purpose had morphed. We weren't chasing a trophy, and there was no singular joy in the grip-and-grin photos. The byproduct of this badass adventure was the meat, and it was the perfect moment for the movement.
After things calmed down, I sat with Joe on a freshly downed tree, its bark was still ripe and wet. The moose that lay in front of us was no great trophy. He would make no record book. He would not look right on the cover of this magazine. The final moments of the hunt would seem anticlimactic to most.
But we'd never felt happier or celebrated harder. The transformative properties of becoming a full-fledged "eat what you kill" convert had taken hold. Our thoughts now turned to the most important outcome.
Rogan already had his knife in hand. "Let's cut him up and eat him," he said, turning to me with a determined glare. "It's time to get to work."
And work we did. Hours spent gutting, skinning, quartering, and hauling meat were done with pleasure. All a part of the honesty of our efforts.
The next day, I tagged a bull of my own. The celebration mirrored the previous day, and I had never been happier to be a part of a hunting crew. That night we dined on the aforementioned organs. Rogan manned the grill, doling out slices of moose heart. We partied hard.
I've hunted all my life — putting wild meat on the table for as long as I can remember. But this new perspective, this departure from the norm, had an impenetrable logic. Kill what you eat. Eat what you kill.
No matter how you phrase it, it's a game-changer. Just ask Joe Rogan.
Be sure to pick up the April/May issue of Petersen's Hunting on newsstands now!