STEVEN RINELLAThe Project ChildSafe team recently spoke with outdoorsman and firearms safety advocate Steven Rinella. Steve is the host of the Netflix show MeatEater and hosts The MeatEater Podcast. He’s also the author of six books, including The MeatEater Fish and Game Cookbook: Recipes and Techniques for Every Hunter and Angler.

How did you start hunting and how did that lead to where you are now?

I started hunting at a very young age. I come from a long line of hunters; my father and grandfather both hunted, and we always had guns in our home. Growing up, I always wanted to be a professional trapper, with the backup plan of working as an outdoor writer. After I finished grad school, I started working as an outdoor writer for magazines, which led me into books, and finally led me into television and podcasts. I’ve stayed true to what I originally intended to do: spend time in the outdoors. All of this experience has culminated to where I am today, working with MeaterEater, Inc. as the host of MeatEater TV and MeatEater podcast.

Hunting is such a big part of your life. How do you practice safe and ethical hunting?

One of the things that helped me become even more aware of gun safety and my personal gun handling habits, both good and bad, was filming MeatEater. Most of our crew isn’t as familiar — or comfortable — with firearms as I am. Therefore, it’s very important for me to be aware of my handling practices and of how our team prioritizes firearms safety. We work to codify how we can safely function as a team while on the hunt, ensuring we develop best practices to remain safe throughout the entire filming process. For us, this includes carrying appropriate safety equipment, wearing proper hunter clothing, and being aware of our surroundings and others before shooting.

What do you know now about hunting that you wish you knew when you first started?

I wish I had spent more time practicing my “weaker” skills rather than always letting someone else take the lead while on the hunt. For example, my brother has always been good at game calling, something that was never one of my strongest skills. It would have been beneficial to practice and improve upon my skills more often instead of letting him always game call. Additionally, I grew up hunting deer over bait. I wish that I had focused on learning a different style of deer hunting and learned more about natural deer movements when I was younger. I would have liked to know more about resources and educational materials that are available for hunters, too. Project ChildSafe’s Hunt S.A.F.E. campaign is a helpful reminder to prioritize firearms safety, responsibility and education – something that is important regardless if you’re just starting out as a hunter or are very experienced.

What advice would you give to someone interested in learning more about hunting or trying hunting for the first time?

First, if you’re interested in trying or learning to hunt, you should go and spend time with people who are familiar with hunting. It can be hard to do if you did not grow up in this community, but it is incredibly helpful to learn from seasoned hunters. One tactic is getting involved with local conservation groups. You don’t have to be an expert to join. Just get involved, pull your weight in the group and learn from the experts around you – and the people there will respect your efforts and help you along your learning journey.

Secondly, you need to realize that there is a huge learning curve. It’s good to go into it with humility, since not all hunts will be exciting. There will be many disappointing hunting trips in which you won’t get anything – but that happens to everyone, especially for lifelong hunters.

Why do you support Project ChildSafe and firearms safety?

Nine years ago, I wouldn’t have felt that I had anything significant to contribute to the firearms safety conversation, as I practiced safe storage by habit. Having children, however, reframed safe storage in my home. Firearms safety is something that my wife and I actively plan, discuss and think about every day. I want my kids to be responsible gun owners and enjoy firearms when they grow up, but with that comes practicing firearms safety. It is my goal to constantly reinforce this message by my behavior and set a responsible example.

Project ChildSafe is a great program and resource to raise awareness around the importance of firearms safety. It also provides resources for different lifestyles and for those who may need help starting the conversation with their children about firearms.

Project ChildSafe wants to promote S.A.F.E. hunting and remind outdoorsmen and women to Store your firearms responsibly when not in use; Always practice firearms safety; Focus on your responsibilities as a firearms owner; and Education is key to preventing accidents. For more tips to ensure a safe hunt, check out Project ChildSafe’s hunting checklist and toolkit and take our Hunt S.A.F.E. quiz!