Meet Donnie Vincent, a Bear Hunter Who Gives a Damn About Nature

Donnie Vincent is our unabashed man-crush this winter. The guy gets dropped off via helicopter in the most remote places in the world and spends the next month traversing the wild by foot, hunting, doing conservation work, and making epic films. He sleeps in a floor-less teepee, his down jacket doubles as his sleeping bag, and he’s been hunted by a pack of wolves.

donnie vincent bear hunter conservationist interview 1
Courtesy of Donnie Vincent

Vincent’s latest film, The Other Side presented by Otterbox, tracks his time spent meditatively hunting grizzly bears. The Manual met Vincent— a mixture of a Zen practitioner, romantic literary poet, and gritty outdoorsman— to talk about what it means to be a bear-hunting conservationist, the problem with trophy hunting, exciting ways for us to get into the wild, and the best wilderness gear.

The Manual: Isn’t being a “bear-hunting conservationist” oxymoronic?

Donnie Vincent: Bears and conservation go very well together. Take black bears, who number in the million. Should you hunt them selectively, looking for old boars (male bears) who are not contributing to the population, you can open up resources for other bears. We kill cannibalistic bullies, as old boars kill cubs for food and so the female comes back and he can breed her. Killing bears can reduce stress on cubs, sows, food resources, and gives me an opportunity to engage in the wilderness and fuel myself with clean, lean protein.

donnie vincent bear hunter conservationist interview 5
Courtesy of Donnie Vincent

TM: What is your hunting creed?

DV: It’s only engaging and good if you hunt with the highest of ethics and constantly ask, “Am I leaving this place better than I found it, or at least the same?”

TM: Did your dad teach you to be an outdoorsman?

DV: My father was not a hunter, but he housed the kit of a hunter. His drawer with hunting knives never saw an animal. My grandfather got him a book subscription to Outdoor Life and they sent magazines and hard-cover books about hunting, wildlife, and ammunition. It’s literally my first memory, sitting in my father’s library going through these books and wanting to go to Alaska and the Southwest to engage — not for trophy, kills, or skins, but to be a part of the wilderness.

TM: Do you remember any authors you liked?

DV: Jack O’Connor, a literary professor in Arizona. He wrote so romantically about his wife, the wild, pulling a trigger, and watching the bullet pierce an animal. I wanted to chase these feelings.

donnie vincent bear hunter conservationist interview 4
Courtesy of Donnie Vincent

TM: When you finally got into the wild, was the experience romantic like the books?

DV: Decades later I realized taking an animal’s life is serious business and there’s great sorrow that goes along with it. Men didn’t reveal that they had a sensuous or compassionate side and they never revealed insecurities about hunting. As I started engaging in hunting, I opened up to feeling — the rain on my face, the fear, being out of my element in a place I’ve never been, having become a sort of executioner in this idea of predator and prey.

TM: What’s the difference between conservationist hunting and trophy hunting?

DV: With trophy, you get ultra-wealthy, fat, extravagant guys who believe the things they hang on their wall define who they are as a man. They’re loud, boisterous, and go through the world like a wrecking ball. They mount a bear in their library and make it look like a beast to tote to their friends how “I beat the beast!” This is so far away from connection with wilderness and connection with food.

donnie vincent bear hunter conservationist interview 2
Courtesy of Donnie Vincent

TM: Where is your favorite remote spot to travel?

DV: The Arctic circle. There are no people, few airplanes overhead, and I get to melt into the tundra and spend time with wolves, caribou, moose, the Northern lLghts, blizzards, rainstorms, and winds. I stayed for 25 days last August and watched the natural movement of grizzly bears going into hyper-eating for hibernation.

TM: And you just got back from a trip in the desert?

DV: I came from an island in northwest Mexico called Tiburón. It’s a desert island populated by bighorn sheep, coyotes, jackrabbits, scorpions, and rattlesnakes.

TM: What gear do you bring?

DV: Clothing, mostly Fjallraven and a lot from Woolrich, centering around goose down, a lot of wool, and high-quality rain gear. I’ll only have two to three underwear and socks for a full trip, and wool doesn’t smell. I bring a Kifaru teepee so I can go in and out without taking gear off (the floor of a tent would get dirty), and a little wood stove. Also essential to my kit are Otterbox dry bags and coolers. Otter makes the best dry bags, keeping gear dry until you need it, allows us to stay in the wilderness for much longer periods of time. Same with their coolers, they are very best in class. Obviously, I don’t carry coolers to the top of the mountain, however they are vital in every base camp I’ve ever been in. Keeping our meat chilled after a successful hunt is in line with the highest level of our ethics.

donnie vincent bear hunter conservationist interview donne otterbox
Courtesy Sicmanta Multimedia

TM: How do you stay physically fit to spend months unassisted in the wild?

DV: I go to the gym three days a week and push weights to have a foundation of muscles — this is functional strength, not glamor — coupled with engaged hiking- 3-5 miles a day, really pawing at your feet and engaging my core, finding hills, wearing a backpack with weight. I’ll trail run about 3-7 miles powering up long, steep hills. Also, yoga to balance my mind and flexibility.

TM: How can we be more like you and connect with the wild?

DV: Start slow and find a good mentor. If you can’t, find a good library. Start doing little trips, even if you’re in the city. There’s a Metro Bow Hunting Certification in Minneapolis here you go into city parks and shoot deer where there is a major population. Work on your craft as a huntsman, starting with rabbits and squirrels, then birds, and maybe deer from there.

Culture

How Downhill Ice Cross Racer Cameron Naasz Gets Ready for a Red Bull Event

We spoke with Cameron Naasz, reigning two-time Red Bull Crashed Ice champion and professional ice cross race, about what it's like to rush downhill on a pair of skates — and win.
Auto

Lamborghini’s Rage-Filled Huracan Performante Spyder Is Your Own Personal Anger Translator

With the top down and engine wailing, the Huracan Performante Spyder is the untempered emotion we all long to express.
Fashion & Style

The Converse Chuck 70 Gore-Tex Collection Keeps Style In and Water Out

You get all the original style of the classic Chuck with the added benefit of being waterproof.
Outdoors

The Best Ski Brands and Our Top Men’s Gear Picks from Each

The number of ski brands has exploded in recent years. How do you know which ones are the best?
Auto

Subaru Teases a Killer New WRX STI S209 for American Buyers

There’s almost no information. There’s just a promise for the gnarliest S-modelto ever grace the shores of the U.S.
Auto

Camp in Style with FIM Caravans’ Migrator Off-Road Travel Trailer

Take your bedroom, kitchen, and shower everywhere you need them.
Outdoors

Expert Tips for Foraging Edible Plants in the Wild

It's easy to identify the plants we can stomach, but it takes practice. Before trekking into the wilderness you have to become “ecosystem literate.”
Outdoors

A Comprehensive Guide to Different Helle Knives and Their Uses

Helle makes knives for near everything, including lades for fishing, whittling, and protecting yourself against hyenas.
Travel

A 71-Year-Old Frenchman Is Crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a Giant Barrel

In true French style, he's packed foie gras and bottles of wine to boot.
Outdoors

WhiSki Poles Are the Perfect Place to Store Your Booze on the Slopes

It's a ski pole. It's a flask. It's ... well, it's a ski pole flask. And that's brilliant.
Outdoors

Nestbox Turns Your SUV Into an Off-Grid Camper in Minutes

The only thing missing is a bathroom, but there are shrubs and spackle buckets for that.
Outdoors

The Best Snowboarding Brands and Our Top Men’s Gear Picks from Each

Whether you’re an old school ripper or a weekend warrior, the one thing that binds veterans and newbies alike is the allure of gear.
Fashion & Style

Tracksmith’s ‘No Days Off’ Line Makes Running in Winter Warm

This apparel makes it fun to run outside in the snow ... which is insane.
Outdoors

The Best Winter Camping Gear to Pack This Season

If you're looking to head out on your first winter camping expedition, we recommend that you look past your usual gear to a more substantial packing list.