How/where did you first get into hunting?
Hunting is in my blood. My dad and uncles hunted. I didn’t hunt much as a teenager though I longed to. Since I played football and every weekend in the fall consisted of games or practice I was forced to listen to my friend’s hunting stories seething with jealousy.
I became passionate about big game hunting when I moved to Utah to shoot the television series Everwood in 2003. I lived there for four years, had the time and money to really get into it and became absolutely obsessed.
Where’s your favorite spot to hunt?—and why there?
I have a secret spot in Utah that is my favorite place to hunt. It borders a CWMU to the north and a county that prohibits hunting to the south. It is protected, private, beautiful, and abundant. Each year I get a combo bull-and-buck tag there and usually fill it.
What’s your favorite animal to hunt?—and why?
My favorite animal to hunt is probably elk. There’s nothing like the sound of a bugling bull splitting the cold air at first light. And that smell is unmistakable. Once you experience their musk in the wild there’s no going back!
A close second would be a varmint hunt. I love long distance shooting and I’m not sure there’s anything as exciting as calling in predators.
If you’re heading out for a hunt, what’s in your truck? (Snacks? Go-to gear items? Make/model of gun? Bow? Miscellaneous items? etc.)
I have an old beat-up compass I inherited from my dad. It is the last remnant of his hunting career. I take it with me on every hunt so a piece of him can be with me. In terms of gear I don’t mind paying an extra few bucks for hunting products made in the USA. I’ll always take my Leatherman Wave, Surefire LX2 Lumamax Flashlight and Danner boots. I have a beautiful J. Behring knife that was a gift from my wife also.
I shoot a Ruger Model 77 Mk II .338 Win Mag with Leupold Vari X III 4-12x50 mm glass. It packs a big punch and is dead to rights out to 500 yards. It’s the perfect gun for my combo hunt in northern Utah for Rocky Mountain Elk and big bodies Mulies.
If I’m hunting coyote, white tail or antelope I go with my Winchester Model 70 25 WSSM with Swarovski 4-12x50mm glass.
My favorite gun might be my Savage .22/.250 with a Nikon Monarch 6-24x50mm glass. It’s such a flat-shooting, fast, and accurate gun and you can shoot it all day without feeling it the next day. It’s perfect for ‘yotes and groundhogs. It makes for the perfect Big Boy whack’a mole hammer!
What would your dream trophy room be like?
I’ve spent plenty of time fantasizing about my dream trophy room. I’d probably start with a 20-foot tall stone fireplace. The stones would come from a river that runs through the property on which my home sits. (We’re dreaming here right?) I’d have a pool table, Big Buck Hunter Video game in the corner, a wet bar, big screen TV and a bunch of comfy couches. The walls would be covered with the trophies I already have but trust me, there’d have to be plenty of room for more!
With Parks & Recreation, Moneyball, etc…you’ve had a breakout year. Do guys in a hunting camp, or hunting/fishing buddies, treat you differently now that you’re a big movie star?
I hunt and fish with the guys I grew up with. They treat me like they always have. Thank God! It’s important to nurture the friendships you had as a kid. Especially when you have a high profile job that surrounds you with “yes” men. One of my favorite parts of hunting is getting away from it all. These days there’s a lot more to get away from. That’s probably why I cherish it so much.
Hollywood’s not exactly known for its outdoorsmen/hunters. Is it ever strange to be so into the outdoors/hunting, and yet involved in an industry that’s so non-outdoorsy?
It’s true that there aren’t a ton of hunters in Hollywood. That being said, the people I’ve talked to about it are actually fascinated with the subject. I think I’ve changed a few minds regarding the sport. It’s pretty incredible how little people actually know about hunting. Most people don’t even realize there are seasons or tags. They don’t understand the regulations or conservation benefits of hunting. I get a lot of, “Well as long as you eat the meat, I don’t care.” I have to be honest with them though. My passion for hunting is not simply the result of a need to feed myself. There’s grocery stores for that! I’m not eating ground hog or coyote! Sometimes people don’t understand and I don’t waste my breath trying to explain it. Either you get it or you don’t. But for the most part people aren’t judgmental about it. We just disagree and move on.
How do you balance it all—the fame, with also wanting to get away into the outdoors?
Being outdoors, listening to the world wake up around me, I shed all the stress that comes with my job. And I imagine it’s like that for everyone. Whatever stresses the regular world creates for any outdoorsman can be washed away for a while in a tree stand or duck blind. Some people fast, some people go on a cruise or visit a day spa. I get out in the woods with a rifle or a bow. That’s my release.
Your interview on Conan about hunting squirrel practically went viral (both at large, and among hunting circles). Is it safe to say that squirrel in an under-appreciated meat?...And what’s the best way to cook ‘em?
I love telling people that story! It freaks them out. Especially here in Hollywood! But I’ve definitely eaten more exotic meat than squirrel. Stories of possum are coming to mind but I’ll save that for another Conan appearance!
As far as cooking them, I brined them for a few days, then pan-fried them with spices.
You say, in that Conan clip, that you were a junior taxidermist as a kid. Still something you’re into?
It’s been a while since I tanned anything. The last thing I did was a coyote. It didn’t turn out great, and I felt like I wasted the pelt. Since then, I’ve taken all my trophies to a pro. But when I retire one day, I could see tanning being a craft I could really get into.
What’s a “good day of hunting” to you? (i.e., If you say to someone, “I had a good day of hunting,” what did that day entail?)
On a perfect day of hunting I hike into the woods an hour before first light with the wind in my face. I’m completely undetected. Darkness gives way to deep blue, the last stars twinkling. I hear the squirrels wake up, the birds chirp good morning. With months of preparation at my disposal I picked just this spot. I know they’re here. As the sun crests the horizon I find my preparation paying off. The perfect broadside shot on a monster trophy presents itself. I find the unsuspecting bruiser through my scope and take the shot. He takes two steps and falls dead in his tracks. I take a moment to feel it all: the pride, the excitement, the remorse and gratitude. I say a prayer and give thanks. I radio to my friends, who are all very jealous, and make my way toward the fallen beast. And on this perfect day, I smile, noticing he happened to fall not two feet from a well worn four wheeler track.