A Huntatarian is a person who solely eats meat they hunt themselves. And this movement started by A.J. Neste and his partner Matt Katsolis is turning their passion into a business.
In business it’s been said, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” And for photographer A.J. Neste, his “why” is starting a movement with the launch of his new company, Huntatarian.
I first met Neste and his business partner Matt Katsolis on assignment for a story in Void Magazine’s Food Issue. Void photographer Logan Bowles and I were taken deep into the woods of Bunnell, FL where we experienced first-hand about the importance of solely eating what you ethically hunt, otherwise known as a Huntatarian.
“Huntatarian has become a mission for a better understanding of where your meat comes from. It’s not so much getting your food from the outdoors but having a relationship of where your food comes from and how it lived prior to the hunt.” Neste continued, “I don’t want to hold the hands of my children praying over our dinner and not know where it came from.”
Usually very private on his hunts, Neste decided a couple months back to change things up by bringing along a few GoPros.
“I’ve never videotaped myself hunting as it’s very private and I tend to freak out when I get successful on a hunt. But I had a bunch of GoPros lying around so I decided to bring them along and see what happens.”
That turned out to be a wise decision because it was one of the most active days Neste has experienced out in the woods. After passing on two young bucks playing nearby, Neste spotted a mature buck and decided to take the shot.
*Warning: This video contains footage of a live hunt with parts that may be disturbing to some viewers.
After tracking down the animal, Neste cleans it, disposes the carcass properly and stores the meat to be used in the near future. After this particular hunt, he decided to edit the video and just “put it out there” for friends and family to enjoy.
The response however was enough to give Neste the nudge he needed to finally launch the Huntatarian lifestyle his family has already thrived on.
“I received texts, calls and emails from people wanting to get outdoors. I couldn’t believe the response. Here I am just a wannabe-redneck and my friends who aren’t want to try it out and start feeding their families their same way,” said Neste.
After years of debate and fear of launching something only to half-ass it, the decision was made. Official Huntatarian social media networks on Facebook and Instagram were launched with a website and webisodes on the way.
For webisodes, Neste along with Katsolis’ Jacksonville Beach film company Interpret Studios have planned cooking segments showing how to prepare post-hunt meals while avoiding a gamey taste. Also planned for the brand are various cooking spices, guide books and even a clothing line to reward fans for sharing hunting stories.
But in a modern society used to voicing opinions on their social media platform of choice, Neste knows hunting has a PR battle in today’s landscape as we’ve seen with stories such as Cecil the Lion.
“It’s weird nowadays hunting is considered rare when not too long ago, everyone was a hunting to survive,” said Neste. But there’s a difference in big game trophy hunting and living off the land.
“I tend to shy away from trophy hunts. I go after the mature animal with a big body because I can’t eat antlers. I’m a harvester and instead of showing trophy kills, we want to show the hunt by respecting nature and the importance of getting away from the computer and getting outdoors.”
Neste goes on to say becoming a Huntatarian was about taking the concept of hunting a step further. “I find the trails. I select the animal. I butcher it. I know what the animal ate and how it was treated. I know how it was packaged and how it was cooked. Now my prayers over dinner are heartfelt and free of worry,” said Neste.
Neste knows there are challenges to getting newcomers associated with the lifestyle but welcomes it with open arms.
“No matter if you live in California or New York, hunting can be done anywhere. It’s not something that should be done by everyone but for the people who want to, I’m here to help them along the way.”
Huntatarian’s “Why” is about bringing awareness on how to hunt, being ethical in your hunts and sharing our lives outdoors. They’re not inventing hunting. They’re just showing us how to go back to our roots, the right way.