My favorite new show.  And it’s about a topic I know very little about, other than the fact that I just can’t pull the trigger.  I can’t look through a scope of a rifle or a bow and pull the trigger/arrow to kill an animal.  It’s not because I’m a vegetarian or that I’m a member of PETA.  It’s that I know, unless it were about survival, it’s tough to shoot a breathing/living animal.  But what I now appreciate much more is that even though watching it on TV is, I must admit, an awkward and wussy way to come to grips with hunting, I get a better understanding of what one goes through.  Steven Rinella, writer, hunter, father, and husband, is one of those rare individuals who has that personality where you want to be his friend, even though he has just knived a boar in the jungle of Molokai.  He’s been hunting and fishing most of his life, so he’s quite comfortable in the wild where the sound of branches breaking would bring a bead of sweat to my forehead.  I will say that if push came to shove, I would kill an animal to survive, but here in America, I’m glad I don’t have to.

What I have much more of is respect for an animal that gave its life in helping me fill my hunger, likely hundreds miles away.  No, even after watching almost a full season of “The Wild Within”, I am not going to pretend that I would want to go toe-to-toe with a wild boar in Molokai.  Nor would I want to trek through the jagged ridges of western Texas to hunt for auodads and javelinas for a barbacoa.  BUT, I totally appreciate people like Rinella, who is not a mindless sports hunter, but a hunter who eats his own kill and who has total respect for the animal whose life he is going to take to feed not only himself, but the communities that he has taken this life.  This isn’t about mindless hunting where you kill a moose only to cut off its head as your prize and leave the rest of the animal for the vultures to come and pick at its body for days.  This is a person who is trying to tell a story.  The story that deep inside all of us men, there is a wilderness that lives inside our souls.  One where we used to hunt for meat because that’s how the circle of life has been designed.  Maybe it doesn’t ring true for all men at levels like it does for Rinella, but I get what he’s trying to say.  Even though I am not rugged, sporting an 18 gauge, awith a leathery face where matches can be lit, deep inside, I am more in tune with those who hunt not only because they enjoy it, but because it’s a way of life.  I don’t think I will soon forget the gut wrenching scene in which Rinella takes the life of a wild boar.  Not from a distance with a rifle or even bow and arrow, but with a knife.  With the boar at his feet, while stabbing its neck to try and pierce a major artery.  Quickly with as few stabs as possible so the boar isn’t suffering.  Even for someone like Rinella, to take a life with his own hands was a wake up call.  Is he the hypocrite huntsman who enjoys eating his fill of meat and yet cannot come to terms in which to get the meat?  Hunched over, breathing heavily, he looks at the camera – the soul of a man who you know had to make a split second decision to chase after that boar and wrestle it with his knife before viewers see a bloodied creek.  A man who has come to terms with the hypocrisy he does not want to live with.

This show will, no doubt, cause PETA and those who are extreme vegetarians to write emails and letters, pleading the Travel Channel to put Rinella away.  But that would miss the point of what he is trying to do.  He wants us to understand that the ribeye in front of us at Mastro’s didn’t just appear out of nowhere.  We ought to respect that animal, who gave its life at the slaughterhouse for us to enjoy the goodness of its body.  And that’s OK.  It would only be disrespectful for us to never think, for a second, of how this cow was bred to do just what it was intended to do.  To give up its life for many others.  Those of us wealthy and rich enough to pay $40 for that steak, even if it’s just once a year.  So I applaud Rinella for showing me a different perspective of hunting, one where I also had to ask some tough questions about whether or not I am OK with how the meat I gladly eat gets to our house.  It’s about a clean kill.  Rescuing that animal from suffering with one shot, rather shooting its leg and than letting it scamper away, wounded, and taking hours to finally lay to rest.  It’s about taking all the meat back and not just what you want/need.  To donate the meat you don’t need so others can enjoy what this animal has gone through. In one episode, after he and his brother find a half butchered elk in Montana, he says the hunter who killed this elk was totally and utterly disrespectful of this animal.  And that if he saw the hunter right now, he “would shoot him himself”.  Maybe half joking.  But then again, maybe not.

So when I cook now, it’s with much more precision and care to cook the meat I used to take for granted.  I’m not going to burn and char a piece of meat because I wasn’t paying attention to the heat.  And then throwing it away like it was someone’s dirty diaper.  I just can’t do that.  That cow/chicken/pig deserves much more than an absent minded cook, even a very amateur one, not being aware of heat and time.  I may not cook something magnificent each time, but I sure as hell will pay more attention in the preparation and how the meat will be cooked and served, that’s for sure.  Thanks Steven Rinella for igniting that part of my mind and soul to what’s there, in the wild within.