Q&A: Chris Pratt Talks Hunting, Tanning, and Squirrels

the Parks and Recreation comedian and co-star of money ball (and star of jurassic world) has become a major Hollywood actor, but remains true to his love of all things outdoors.

Outdoor life: How did you start hunting?
Chris Pratt: Hunting is in my blood. My dad and my uncles hunted. I didn’t hunt much as a teenager, although I longed to. Since I played football and every weekend in the fall consisted of games or practices, I was forced to listen to my friend’s hunting stories out of jealousy. I became passionate about big game hunting when I moved to Utah to film the television series Everwood in 2003. I lived there for four years, had the time and money to really get involved and became completely obsessed.

OL: What is your favorite place to hunt?
PC: I have a secret place in Utah that is my favorite place to hunt. It is bordered by a CWMU to the north and a county that prohibits hunting to the south. It is protected, private, beautiful and abundant. Every year I get a combined bull and dollar tag there and I usually fill it out.

OL: What is your favorite animal to hunt?
My favorite animal to hunt is probably the elk. There’s nothing like the sound of a cornet bull tearing through the cold air at first light. And that smell is unmistakable. Once you experience its musk in nature, there is no going back! A close second would be a vermin hunt. I love long range shooting and I’m not sure there’s anything quite as exciting as calling predators.

OL: If you’re going to go hunting, what’s in your truck?
PC: I have an old beat up compass that I inherited from my dad. It is the last remnant of his career as a hunter. I take him with me on every hunt so a part of him can be with me. Gear-wise, I don’t mind paying a few bucks more for American-made hunting gear. I’ll always carry my Leatherman Wave, Surefire LX2 Lumamax flashlight, and Danner boots. I have a beautiful J. Behring knife that was also a gift from my wife.

I shoot a Ruger Model 77 Mk II .338 Win Mag with 4-12x50mm Leupold Vari X III glass. He packs a punch and is dead right at 500 yards. It is the perfect gun for my Northern Utah combo hunt for Rocky Mountain Elk and full-bodied Mulies.

If I am hunting coyote, whitetail or antelope, I use my Winchester Model 70 25 WSSM with 4-12x50mm Swarovski crystal.

My favorite gun might be my Savage .22/.250 with a Nikon Monarch 6-24x50mm glass. It’s such a flat, fast and accurate gun that you can shoot all day without feeling it the next day. It is perfect for ‘yotes and marmots. It’s the perfect hammer for Big Boy whack’a mole!

OL: What would your dream trophy room look like?
**** I’ve spent a lot of time fantasizing about the trophy room of my dreams. I would probably start with a 20 foot tall stone fireplace. The stones would come from a river that runs through the property my house is on. (We’re dreaming here, right?) It would have a pool table, a Big Buck Hunter video game in the corner, a wet bar, a big-screen TV, and plenty of comfy couches. The walls would be covered with the trophies I already have, but trust me, there should be enough room for more!

OL: With Parks and Recreation Y money ball, You’ve had a break year. Do the boys at the hunting camp treat you differently?
PC: I hunt and fish with the boys I grew up with. They treat me like they always have. Thanks god! It’s important to nurture the friendships you had as a child. 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 is so much more to escape from. That’s probably why I appreciate it so much.

OL: Hollywood isn’t exactly known for its nature lovers. Is it ever weird being on the hunt, but involved in a non-outdoor industry?
It is true that there are not many hunters in Hollywood. That said, the people I’ve talked to about it are really fascinated by the subject. I think I’ve changed some minds about the sport. It’s pretty amazing how little people know about hunting. Most people don’t even realize there are seasons or labels. They do not understand the regulations or the conservation benefits of hunting. They tell me a lot: “Well, as long as you eat the meat, I don’t care.” However, I have to be honest with them. My passion for hunting is not simply the result of a need to feed myself. There are supermarkets for that! I’m not going to eat groundhog 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 don’t judge him. We just disagree and move on.

OL: How do you balance work and play?
Being outside, listening to the world wake up around me: I get rid of all the stress that comes with my job. And I guess it’s like that for everyone. Whatever stress the normal world creates for any nature lover can be washed away for a while in a tree stand or duck shelter. Some people fast, others go on a cruise or visit a day spa. I go out into the woods with a rifle or a bow. That is my release.

LO: Your interview on Conan about squirrel hunting practically went viral. Is it safe to say that the squirrel is an underappreciated meat? What is the best way to cook them?
I love telling people that story! It scares them. Especially here in Hollywood! But I have definitely eaten more exotic meat than squirrel. Possum stories come to mind, but I’ll save those for another Conan appearance! As for cooking them, I brine them for a few days and then fry them with spices.

OL: In that Conan clip, you also say you were a junior taxidermist when you were a kid. Do you still like something?
PC: I haven’t tanned in a long time. The last thing I did was a coyote. It didn’t turn out very well, and I felt like I wasted skin. Since then, I have taken all my trophies to a professional. But when I retire one day, I realized that tanning is a trade that I can really get into.

OL: Describe what a “good hunting day” entails.
PC: On a perfect hunting day, I walk through the woods an hour before sunrise with the wind in my face. I am completely unaware. The darkness gives way to a deep blue, the last stars twinkle. I hear the squirrels wake up, the birds sing good morning. With months of preparation at my disposal, I chose this location. I know they are here. As the sun peeks over the horizon, I find that my preparation is paying off. The perfect side shot is presented in a monstrous trophy. I find the unsuspecting thug through my scope and take the shot. He takes two steps and falls dead dead. I take a moment to feel it all: the pride, the excitement, the remorse, and the gratitude. I say a prayer and give thanks. I radio my friends, who are all very jealous, and head towards the fallen beast. And on this perfect day, I smile, noting that he fell less than two feet from a well-worn four-wheel track.