Matt and Steve Rinella Went Head to Head. Who Won?

TAB’s take on The MeatEater Podcast #304.

Today we were graced by the latest edition of The MeatEater Podcast, the last half of which featured a spirited debate between brothers Matt and Steve Rinella. By “graced” I mean punished and by “spirited” I mean painful, which is exactly what you’d expect when these two get together.

As a man with a brother born 14 months after me, I can appreciate how quickly this devolved into a he-said he-said argument. Each brother finds themselves on polar opposites of the hunting social media/influencer spectrum, and the podcast featured plenty of “let’s take this offline” moments. Steve, of course, is the boss at MeatEater and Matt is a research ecologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. I’ve already covered much of Matt’s background, beliefs and recent controversy, which you can check out here.

Matt accused MeatEater of conducting “for-profit R3,” a reference to Recruit, Retain and Reactivate efforts employed by many non-profits and federal and state wildlife agencies. He claimed social media influencers are the primary reason for the overcrowding of public hunting lands and the “blowing up” of once-secret hunting spots. He again lambasted those who post pictures of their kills online and he doubled down on his comments about Joe Rogan.

Steve (and other members of the MeatEater crew) offered rebuttals at nearly every turn. He downplayed the impact of social media by equating it to mediums of the past, such as books and magazines. He wasn’t sold on the role influencers play in hunter recruitment, noting the difficulty in measuring their impact and the fact there were as many hunters in 1950 as we have today. Decreased access to private land was offered as a reason for overcrowding.

I’m not going to be able to cover each of the points discussed in the podcast, so I do recommend you give it a listen to get the full picture. By the end of it, you might starkly find yourself in either of the two camps. Or you may ask yourself, “who’s right?” Ultimately, I have disagreements with each of the brothers.

You and I have no more right to hunt than anyone else. The earth’s population grows and more land is developed every day. If you’d like to go back to the old days of secret hunting spots and limited pressure, go ahead and wish in one hand, shit in the other and see which one fills up first. It ain’t happening. The best we can hope for is educating more hunters about the right way to do things. How you decide to educate folks is up to you. I’m a big fan of shaming, but that’s not always the best approach. Bottom line: the hunters are here and I don’t expect them to go anywhere anytime soon.

As for social media, it’s not Matt’s right or mine to tell you what to do and how to do it. I get where he’s coming from – I don’t want to see droves of hunters that only care about likes. But if you love hunting and busted your ass for a trophy deer, who am I to tell you not to share a photo of it? Just be mindful of what you’re putting out there and don’t be a brand whore.

When it comes to MeatEater and other hunting visual media, I do hate the fact they “blow up” spots. In MeatEater’s most recent season, in an episode that featured Luke Combs on an antelope hunt, I could tell exactly which ranch they filmed on – and that’s private land I can’t even hunt! What do you think happens when you show a backdrop of unique public-land mountaintops? Now everyone knows about it. There’s an episode of Western Hunter titled “No Secret Peak” where the featured hunter, Nate Simmons, bitches the whole time about other hunters being in his basin. YOU BROADCASTED THAT BASIN TO THE WORLD, JACKASS. IT’S YOUR FAULT IT’S NOT A SECRET PEAK!

And, when we talk about influencers, it’s important to understand two things: 1) they’re not all pieces of shit like the Bowmars and 2) they play a vital role in helping businesses – many of them small and 100 percent American – stay afloat and support their employees and communities. Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between the good and bad ones, but we should all do our part in holding them accountable and ensuring they’re honest and responsible with their followers. Don’t just blindly follow someone because they make YouTube videos.

So, who’s the winner in all of this? We are, because it’s a conversation worth having. I’ve said it before, but I have no interest in living in an echo chamber. I don’t fall in line with either of the Rinellas, but I do appreciate the differing opinions. At the end of the day, hunt for the right reasons, do what makes you happy and help others along the way. The rest will sort itself out.

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