Rocky Mountain Meat Hunter Interview

Since I started this blog a year ago, it has been a goal to interview other dedicated outdoorsmen and women from around the country.  For the last several weeks I have been corresponding with Todd Toven, or better known as the Rocky Mountain Meat Hunter from his growing YouTube channel.  I have enjoyed his videos and especially his faith and love for Christ are extremely evident.  One night I decided to shoot Todd a message to see if he would be willing to answer a few questions.  I really have to thank Todd for taking a few minuets to answer these questions since he and his family have literally just welcomed a new baby into their family.  His story is incredible and has inspired me to chase after the Lord more. Enjoy.

Me: Where did you grow up, and did you come from a hunting family?

I grew up near Erie, Pennsylvaniajust a few hours from where you live.  My family hunted & fished.  All of our relatives hunted & fished.  I was raised eating wild game.  We ate whitetail deer and rabbit.  We also ate lots of trout.  It’s funny that you would ask this question as I just wrote a blog that touches on how I learned to hunt back in Pennsylvania.  Here’s the link:  My whole family, including my mom, hunted for deer.  I have 2 brothers.  My dad took all the boys small game hunting.

Me: What was your first kill?

Todd: I think my first kill was a chipmunk with the Daisy BB gun.

Me: What brought you out west permanently?

This will take a few minutes…

I was a college Senior in 1994.  One of my best friends from Pennsylvania had recently moved out to Colorado Springs.  Greyhound was having a great sale that summerI think it was $68.00 each way, anywhere in the country.  I bought the roundtrip ticket for about $140 and headed west.  I will never forget the moment I first saw the Rocky Mountains.  Our bus was headed down I-76 through the high plains of Northeastern Colorado when I saw these huge dark images on the horizon.  Another hour passed and I finally realized I was looking at the Rocky Mountains.  I was in awe.  I spent the next week visiting every attraction from Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods to the Royal Gorge and the famous Pikes Peak or Bush Rodeo.  I was hooked.  I went back to Pennsylvania to finish up College and could not stop thinking about Colorado.  I actually went to Barnes & Noble and sat on the sofas looking through Colorado coffee table picture books for hours at a time.  It became an obsession.

At the time, I was very immature and made lots of bad decisions.  My thought process was controlled by girls and relationships and a quest to find true love.  I met a young lady from my hometown and broke my parent’s hearts by moving in with her within the first month.  A few months after that, I sold everything I had and we moved to Colorado.  The move only lasted 2 weeks.  We gave up and moved back to Pennsylvania.  At roughly the same time, I got my girlfriend pregnant and then our relationship started to fall apart.  I can’t stress how immature I was at that time.  Also, our relationship was not based on the right things.  For all of these reasons and others, we broke up.  I was heartbroken.  I felt truly lost for the first time in my life.  On top of that, I had full realization that I was about to become a father, my child would be raised in a single-parent home, and that this is how I was starting my adult life.  I was so scared.  Continuing with selfish decisions, I signed the visitation and custody rights away to my ex-girlfriend and walked away.  The court liaison gave me my child support bill and my new life as a “deadbeat child support paying” dad was underway.

What’s next, you wonder?  I started dating another girl on the rebound one month later.  Again, I lived for myself and my enjoyment.  I was scared and I ran to accompaniment.  Since I only liked to make decisions based on my feelings and in reaction to what was happening to me that particular day, we decided to get married a few months after meeting.  That’s where my life started to change.  In a nutshell, this woman, who’s now my ex-wife, was a follower of Christ who was not following the Lord with all of her heart at the time.  Even so, she spoke passionately to me about her love of Jesus and my need to have a relationship with him.  After we were married, I picked up some gospel tracks that I found in my mother-in-law’s attic.  I started reading them every night.  I started asking questions.  I asked my wife about heaven and hell.  I asked her what the difference was between God and Jesus.  I asked her about salvation.  I asked so many questions and kept reading.  Three months later, I felt the Holy Spirit call my name and I repented of my sinful life and cried out to God to save me from both my earthly torment and the eternal torment that I was now learning of for all people who choose to not follow Jesus.  

You’re wondering where Colorado comes into this story, right?  It’s coming.  I still had the desire to move to Colorado and we did just that a year and a half later.  I worked as a computer operator for a major Christian ministry in Colorado Springs.  Life was good but there would be more trials.  Nearly seven years into our marriage, my wife left me.  She ran off with another man. She filed for divorce.  My life was once again in turmoil, but not for long.  This time I turned to Jesus.  I started reading the bible every chance I had.  God opened doors and I started to play drums at various churches across the city.  For the first time in my life, I had friends who invested in my life and I in theirs.  God gave me forgiveness for my wife.  We’re talking complete and total forgiveness that could only come from God.  It was a process that happened over the course of a few years.  I had to yield to God and put one foot in front of the other.  I had to make the decision to do this day after day, year after year.  God rewarded it.  He changed my life.  In the process he also delivered me from a nearly 20 year addiction to looking at pornography.  Total deliverance.  Thank you, Jesus!

So there I was and still am in Colorado.  That’s the short story!!

Me: What do you do for a living out there?

After being alone for a few years and doing it God’s way, God brought the woman of my dreams into my life.  We’ve been married for over 6 years.  God truly started my life over.  I am a stay-at-home Dad for our 3 children, and 4th who should be arriving any day now!  In addition, I’ve worked as an adventure guide for about 11 years.  I work for Adventures Out West as a guide doing Jeep 4×4, zip line, and hiking tours.  I also “try” to generate income with my Rocky Mountain Meat Hunter business venture.  I sell camo and other hunting/outdoor-related apparel, create hunting and outdoor-related videos, and write blog articles on related topics.  

Me: What was your first western big game kill?

Todd: My first kill was a huge cow elk with a rifle.

Me: What has been your most memorable hunt out there?

Todd: They are all memorable.  My Youtube videos contain the nitty gritty details, but they are all special. Nothing is ever perfect.  It doesn’t matter how you plan your hunt.  Hunting plans are always changed by sickness, weather, equipment failure, equipment being stolen, or the simple fact that you have a family and job(s) back home that you need to return.  The key is to never give up.  If you go home early, you won’t be successful.  If there is another hill to climb, climb it.  If you can get up each and every day and hunt with the expectancy that you will see animals and be successful, success usually takes care of itself.  It sounds cliché but it’s worked for me.  I’ve been blessed to have taken elk 5 out of the last 6 years alone on the same mountain!  

Me: What is your favorite animal to chase and why?

Todd: Definitely, the Rocky Mountain Elk.  I hunt mule deer and pronghorn whenever I get the opportunity but there’s something about elk hunting that’s differentway different.  The sacrifice to be successful is far greater than hunting other animals.  Sometimes you walk 10 miles a day for 5 straight days.  We are talking walking between elevations of 9,000-11,000 feet above sea level.  You make it through the long days, cold nights in a small tent, eating energy bars and beef jerky, not getting a shower, being away from your family, losing a few pounds a day, and then you kill one.  That’s where the real work begins and you’re now embarking on gutting and deboning an animal that is over 500 lbs. and often times several hundred pounds more than that!  It is such hard work, that it becomes addictive to become successful at it.  The meat is among the leanest of all red meats, they are massive to behold, and I learn something new about hunting them each and every year.

Me: Who are your outdoor heroes?

Todd: We don’t have cable or satellite, so we miss out on all of those Outdoor Channel shows.  This is probably a good thing since I find plenty of ways to occupy my time.  Of the shows & videos I’ve seen I would say that I do not have any outdoor heroes.  I enjoy something about most every hunting personality out there but I am at the point in my life where I don’t have heroes anymore other than Jesus Christ, the original Superhero.  Having said all that, I think Michael Waddell has a great personality and is fun to watch, I respect Cameron Hanes and his “never give up” attitude and his commitment to physical fitness.  I also spend a good amount of time walking, running, and lifting free weights whenever I get the chance.  When I first started elk hunting, I bought all the Primos Truth Big Bulls DVDs.  Well, back then they were VHS tapes!  I enjoyed them and learned a lot about elk hunting.  Will Primos seemed like a likeable and genuine guy.  I watched those early on.  I met a guy in the mountains a few years ago named Aaron Couette.  We exchanged phone numbers.  This guy is a beast.  We hunt together from time to time.  He was kind enough to help me pack out meat once and he never lets anything stop him.  I’ve seen him hunt with a high temperature, chest congestion, sore throat, and other ailments.  One time he was only a few weeks removed from a PCL tear repair surgery in his knee.  He was hiking up 11,000 ft. mountains with crutches, elk bow hunting!  He was moving fast too.  Seriously, anytime I’ve been around him, he pushes me by example.  Very inspiring.  

Me: Do you prefer solo hunts or hunting with other people?

Todd: That is a catch/22.  Solo is my method of choice but I just turned 40 and I know I won’t be able to do it alone forever.  Over the past few years, I hunt alone about half of the time.  The other times, I hunt with partners who go their own ways during the days and we meet up at night back at the base camp.  From time to time, I’ve had friends who didn’t hunt bless me by coming along just to take video and offer companionship.  I do love hunting alone and it is my primary method.  There’s just something special about pursuing an elk, harvesting it, and bringing it home all by yourself.  It’s not about bragging rights as I’m fully aware that God makes it all possible.  There’s just something special about hunting alone.

Me: Do you hunt mostly public land or a mix of both public and private

Todd: I hunt on public land exclusively.  I’m not fortunate enough to have any friends who own ranches, I don’t have the $5,000-$10,000 it takes to go on the absolute best guided western hunts, and I’ve found success sticking to public land.  It is also more rewarding to take home an elk with a tag that cost you $48.00 as opposed to a fully guided out-of-state hunt which would empty the average guy’s savings.  

Me: What’s your favorite bow or gun?

Todd: I don’t have any favorite weapons.  I know I’m a bit weird that way.  I’ve got friends that only use their Matthews bows and others who have custom rifles made to their specifications.  My favorite weapon is any weapon I can accurately shoot and kill big game animals with successfully!  My main elk rifle is a Winchester Model 70 in 7MM Rem. Mag.  I bought it at Wal-Mart 11 years ago for about $450 or so.  I actually bought it on lay-away.  Do they still have that?  I have a Bushnell scope that is in the $100 range and it’s not the best out there but that $450 rifle and $100 scope have taken down 6 or 7 elk in the past 10 years.  Good investment.  Obviously, I’d use a better scope if I could afford one, but the money just hasn’t been there yet!  I killed my first elk during archery season using a $200 Alpine Archery bow shooting 44lbs.  You read that right.  It’s all I could afford and it got the job done.  In my opinion, some hunters spend way too much on weapons and then don’t bother to learn how to become a successful hunter, a successful stalker, and most importantly a hunter that doesn’t give up regardless of the odds.  I have a relatively inexpensive Savage .270 that I’ve killed a bunch of pronghorn and mule deer with.  A very kind archery store owner up in Washington traded me a new Martin Pantera bow a while back in exchange for some of my camo apparel.  That was a blessing.  I have a few other rifles and handguns as well.

Me: Any dream hunts?

Todd: Anything in Alaska.  I have read and watched extensive materials on hunting in Alaska.  I guess that would be my dream.

Me: Your approach to hunting as in caring about just the meat in particular is something you best note on your YouTube videos, take me though that mentality, how that become your trade mark.

Todd: Growing up, I recall my dad frequently saying “We’re not trophy hunters, we’re meat hunters.”  That was the truth.  He said “You can’t eat the horns.”  Once again, true unless you’re talking about the antler velvet hormone spray that is the current hot topic on ESPN!  I have met so many people that will hold out for just the right bull and they have frequently ended the season empty handed, saying “I could have got a smaller one last week, but I was holding out.”  That struck a chord with me early on.  When I first started, I went about 3 or 4 years where I only killed one elk.  During those long winter months of not having any 100% organic protein rich elk meat in the freezer, I realized and made it my unofficial motto that “meat matters most.”  Sometimes I’m blessed with a big bull, sometimes I’m blessed with a big cow.  Other times, I’m blessed with an average size bull or cow.  In the end, meat is meat.  That’s just how I roll!  

Me: Although you don’t care much for  antler size, what has been your best animal in that regard?

Todd: In all honesty.  Nothing that would impress the majority of the people reading this.  They all are medium size racks if you compare them with the elk that people see taken on private ranches on TV.  I finally had my first skull boiled and bleached and have it on the wall from last fall.  I enjoy looking at it and my youngest daughter points to it and says “EEEEELK!”

Me: What prompted you to start Rocky Mountain Meat Hunter?

Todd: Several years ago, I took the camera along on a hunting trip.  I just filmed myself cooking, stalking, and hunting.  One day, I was exploring this trendy new site called YouTube and saw that anybody could upload videos.  I immediately knew that I didn’t have trophy hunts to excite the mainstream and I was very low budget.  I also know that everything I do is useless unless God is behind it.  All these earthly accomplishments will vanish one day and we certainly won’t be taking them with us when we die here on earth.  I decide to make my username praisehisawesomename and figured I’d just be the guy that I was, the simple guy that God created who happens to like to hunt elk and see what happens.  I figured out how to do a rough edit of the video and posted it.  

I started to get lots of views.  Within a few days, I was receiving a few hundred views a day.  It was exciting.  I later gave myself the name Rocky Mountain Meat Hunter and would eventually create merchandise, start blogging, marketing, etc.  Last fall, I was even invited to give a seminar on elk hunting at a Sportsman’s Banquet up in the mountains.  It was an honor and a blessing.

Me: Something that I have taken away from your videos is that Christ and your relationship with God is just a constant part of you and your videos, take us through that.

 Todd: In a nutshell, I have gained many things in my life and lost everything in my life a few times.  I’ve held high paying jobs and have almost been homeless at other times.  In the end, nothing mattered without Christ in my life.  He gave me a reason to live, to never give up, and to live for him.  He touched my life through miracles when I was down and out doing things for me that only a loving God, a God who actually created me and knows innermost parts, could do.  Through the work of Jesus on the cross, we are free to live a life not chasing sin but running from it into the arms of a loving God where we will spend eternity.  

Me:Honestly I wish that major outdoor programming would showtheir love for Christ more, if you could say something to the outdoor industry to challenge them in that way, what would you say?

Todd:I just wish that individual men, who happen to be Christians, would put Christ before earthly success and fame.  The networks can do what they want.  They do it well.  We can’t expect that a network that isn’t owned by a follower of Christ to express our valuesour beliefs.  We as Christians can, however, Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. That’s from 1 Peter 3:15.  I know what I was like before Christ.  I know what God did for me.  I’ve seen what he has done for others.  With gentleness and respect, I’ll tell anybody that will listen.

Me: Let’s talk family, you have young kids right now, What are their ages and names?

Hannah is 5 & ½, Aaron is almost 4, Natalie just turned 2, and our fourth child is a boy.  We’ve named him Jesse Tate, he arrived just few days ago!

Me: How are you getting them interested and involved at a young age?

Todd: To some extent, they don’t have a choice.  They are little kids.  We put elk meat on the table, they eat it, they like it, and it’s sort of like that.  They see me talking about hunting and get excited.  Hannah asked for a bow for Christmas so we got her a Bear Archery 1st shot children’s bow.  They talk about elk hunting frequently and how much they want to do it.  Hannah will often say, “When I’m eight, will that be old enough?”  It’s precious.  As the kids get older, I’ll be able to take them shooting BB guns, hiking in the woods, and other stuff like that.  I am truly blessed.

Me: Do you take them on hunts at all?

Not yet, they are too young.  My wife, Kim, went hunting with me several times before she became pregnant with our first kiddo.  She had a good time.  Now she has to be home with the children when I go hunting.

Me: How would you encourage other hunting families to get their kids interested and involved at a young age?

Todd: Since my children are all too young to hunt and I have yet to raise any hunters, I’m probably not the best person to answer that question. I know that I really enjoy elk hunting and spend a certain amount of time preparing for and doing that each fall.  Even though our kids are too young to hunt, our two oldest have already asked when they can start.  Sometimes they walk around the house saying “I’m going to kill a really big eeeeeeelk!”  I guess my excitement for elk hunting & the outdoors is rubbing off on them.  I remember how excited I was to imagine myself hunting with my dad while growing up.  I remember how my imagination ran wild as I looked through Field & Stream and Outdoor Life magazines while waiting for my dad to get his hair cut back in our hometown.  Children have wild and vivid imaginations and we can take advantage of their enthusiasm by getting them involved at an early age.  Some parents schedule their children’s early years with so much youth soccer, tee ball, ballet, boy scouts, skiing lessons, play dates, and events there’s not any room left for hunting & fishing.  It’s not their fault, it’s what their parents did.  If hunting and fishing are important to you then make it a priority to do it with your children.  Then, there’s a great chance they will grow up enjoying it.  There’s a great chance it will become an important part of their lives as it has in yours.

Me:Does your wife enjoy game meats?

Yes, she really enjoys it.  We have pretty much not had to buy any red meat in at least 5 years or more.  When cooking anything that requires red meat, it’s either elk, mule deer, or pronghorn at our house.  My wife likes it.  The kids like it.  Chicken is currently the only meat we have to buy at the grocery store and it literally disgusts me that we have to pay money for it.

Me: What is your favorite dish to make?

That’s a tough one.  I have been cooking for a long time.  My mother was an excellent cook when I was growing up.  During college, I worked for a four star catering service and would marvel at the various dishes the chef prepared.  After college, I worked as a line chef at various chain restaurants ranging from TGI Friday’s to Applebee’s.  Working as a prep cook, I remember the first time I was introduced to cilantro 16 years ago.  That opened up lots of possibilities!  I eventually became a good cook and really enjoying cookingand eating!  I do lots of Italian and Mexican cooking.  Whether it’s making spaghetti with homemade sauce and elk meatballs or quesadillas with homemade pico de gallo and pronghorn chorizo, I do a little bit of everything.

Me: Does your wife allow you to hang antlers and furs throughout the house

Yes, she does.  However, since I’m a meat hunter with very little money to break even, that’s never been a problem!  I can’t fathom having $1,500 available to spend on a nice bull elk shoulder mount.  I paid $200 to have a European mount of my elk last fall.  That was a stretch financially but it looks very nice above the fireplace.  I have one elk hide that I had tanned with the fur on.  I can’t find the right place to display it.  Other than that, I have lots of sheds I’ve collected that are in my hunting closet.  We both like rustic home decor so we have various oudoor-themed things around the house.  My wife has taken many great outdoor photographs over the years so we also have a few of her Glacier National Park pictures framed and hanging in prominent places around the house.