Jason Matzinger Interview
Jason Matzinger was on his way out of the Alaskan bush when I managed to connect with him. He was departing from a grueling 12-day hunt for a grizzly bear with an unpunched tag in his pocket. Magzinger, 37, is the real deal. As host of “Into High Country” on Sportsman Channel, he has forged a career around enthralling the masses with a high-definition look into his exciting life.
Question: You didn’t get your bear. What happened?
Matzinger: It was a tough year for bears up here. Alaska has had an unseasonable amount of rain this year, making it hard for the bears to catch salmon. Most all the bears we saw were up high eating blueberries at the very top of the mountains. I was confident we could make it happen, but our guide wasn't nearly as ambitious as us. I did manage to take a beautiful white wolf, which is a lot more rare than killing a griz, so that was awesome!
HI: An Alaskan grizzly hunt is a pinnacle of bad-assery for any adventure hunter. How did you get started in hunting?
Matzinger:I was born and raised in Bozeman, Montana, and I’m so lucky for that. My father has always been an avid hunter, so I was exposed to it at a very early age and quickly became obsessed with the pursuit of most every animal in North America.
HI: Where are you shacking up these days when you’re not traveling?
Matzinger:I'm one of the lucky ones who have been able to stay in Bozeman and make a living here. Hopefully I never have to leave. I think it's a great place for my boys to grow up and the hunting opportunities out my door are endless, which is so important for the way I make my living filming and documenting my adventures.
HI: You didn’t always film hunts for a living. What did you do to pay the bills prior to running around with a camera?
Matzinger:My family owns an electrical contracting business in Bozeman called Matzinger Electric, so naturally right out of high school I went to trade school; after 4 years, I received my Journeyman Electrician license. I also guided in the fall for elk and mule deer. That's really where my love for filming started. I knew what I was seeing on a daily basis was amazing and would rival anything that was currently on TV. After building up a giant collection of material, I made a proposition to a handful of companies in Bozeman including Schnees Boots, Sitka Gear and Montana Canvas, and they supported my plan. I'm thankful for the support they continue to show me to this day. Without them, I never could have swung this hair-brained idea to host a hunting television show! I've been full time at this going on 9 years now. I feel blessed everyday for the opportunity to tell our story as hunters. I take a tremendous amount of pride in producing “Into High Country” as well as working closely with conservation organizations like RMEF and MDF.
HI: Speaking of conservation, it’s clearly a central part of your message. Let’s hear more about how you’re supporting conservation in some of your recent work.
Matzinger:Doing conservation pieces is really fulfilling and satisfying to me, and it makes me feel like I'm making a difference somehow. That's all I want is to show people—especially non-hunters—why hunting is absolutely essential. Hunters truly are the very first conservationists and we still lead the charge to this day! I host and produce two series for Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation: “Elk Country Chronicles” and “Hunting Is Conservation.” I’m also producing a 1-hour documentary titled #PROJECTMULEDEER for Mule Deer Foundation. It will be very similar to my last documentary, #PROJECTELK, which I produced for RMEF last year.
HI: Yes, there was a lot of buzz around #PROJECTELK. You did an awesome job with that film.
Matzinger:#PROJECTELK was the most fulfilling thing I've ever produced, simply because of the enormous amount of research and data we collected to not only arm the hunting community with a better argument, but also to open the eyes of non-hunters. It hit the nail on the head and the support has been overwhelming! A new film about bear hunting is now in the works; I hope it will open people’s eyes about the reality of bear hunting, and why hunting is essential for the future of bears and all habitats.
HI: Do you ever plan to do much hunting beyond the West?
Matzinger:I can't really ever see myself branching much outside of the West. That’s where I'm most comfortable and confident, and I love every aspect of hunting out here. I would love to hunt all over the world at some point, but I can really only be credible in the West where I actually know what I'm talking about [laughs].
HI: What’s your proffered style of hunting?
Matzinger:I absolutely love spot-and-stalk style hunting of any sort—bow or rifle. I love the thrill of the chase and pushing myself as much as I can to get it done. I understand that treestand hunting is absolutely essential in certain areas of the country, but it just doesn’t fulfill me like hiking in the mountains.
HI: Do you have a favorite species that you like to pursue?
Matzinger:This is a tough question! I love bear hunting in the spring, elk hunting in September, mule deer hunting in November, and mountain lion hunting throughout the winter.
HI: Between the #PROJECTELK production and your years of personal experience, you’re one hell of an elk hunter. What’s the best bit of advice you can offer to HI members who hunt wapiti?
Matzinger:If I could give one tip, it’s that just sitting back and studying the animals in your hunting area all season long will teach you more than my show, a magazine or anything else ever will.
HI: Leave us with some final words of wisdom.
Matzinger:If I could share one message with the entire hunting community, it’s simple: Be respectful. Be respectful to the wildlife we so dearly love to pursue. Be respectful to your fellow hunters and their opinions and methods. Be respectful to the non-hunting community. We have an opportunity now more than ever to recruit new hunters because of the organic food movement, and we need to recognize that and embrace it. Be respectful.
Editor’s Note: Learn more about Jason Matzinger at IntoHighCountry.com, and keep tabs on his adventures as they unfold by following him on Facebook.