Elements – Bowhunting Mule Deer in Nevada

Elements

  • 7 hour drive one way just to scout
  • 13 mile hike in the dark for scouting trips
  • Over 10,000 ft of elevation
  • Over 100 miles hiked in pursuit of this buck
  • Left camp each day at 5 a.m. and returned to camp after 8:30 p.m.

Elements tells the full story of a high country mule deer hunt in Nevada and the lengths that hunters go to in order to find and harvest the buck that they have been scouting for months. This documentary was filmed and produced by our friends at goHUNT.com.

Watch now and read below for the behind the scenes hunt story told by the hunter himself.

Elements from goHUNT on Vimeo.

Milky-way-night-photo In a matter of hours I was navigating the last band of cliffs. Just one more ledge to drop down. I crept to the edge, located the buck and my mind went on autopilot. At this point, the world seemed to stop. I ranged the bedded buck, set my slider sight and came to full draw…

Brady-Miller-bow-practice In the spring of 2014 I had just moved to Nevada and applied for the 2014 draw as a non-resident. Luck was on my side as I pulled an early archery tag for mule deer. The spring and summer was spent shooting my bow and tuning out any inconsistencies. I was trying to get accustomed to shooting in the Las Vegas heat. Shooting a bow and sweating was a new thing for me.

Summer Scouting

Scouting-the-backcountry As the summer progressed so did my scouting efforts. I spent a lot of time researching the units on my computer and narrowing down areas that looked promising. Like always, Google Earth was my best friend.

The unit I decided to hunt was over six hours one way from my house. Since I was swamped at work after starting a new job I only managed to head up to the unit and scout on two separate weekends.

Mountain-sunset Scouting trips were very taxing — both physically and mentally. On Fridays I would leave Las Vegas in the evenings after work and drive straight to the unit, arriving between 2 and 3 a.m. I preferred hiking in the dark to avoid the heat, but this put a lot of strain on my body since I was sleep deprived and cramped from sitting in my truck for so long.

Large-two-point-mule-deer-buck It took me a little while to locate the quality of bucks I was after. Finding deer was easy, but finding deer bigger than fork horns or 3×3’s was difficult.  Finally, on my second scouting trip I found the perfect bachelor group. Six bucks in total with a couple of shooter bucks, the biggest being a 180” 4×4.

The Hunt

Day 1 – August 9, 2014

Image-2 Our film guy, Mather, flew in from Seattle and we started our long drive. Some side information: Mather lives at an elevation that is barely above sea level and this would be his first major backpacking trip. I was a little nervous. After meeting up with Dave Loescher, we hooked up the trailer carrying his two pack goats, Pedro and Vinny, who would each carry 35 lbs. of gear to help lighten the weight. Once we parked the truck, we had 13 miles to hike and lots of elevation to climb. Darkness crept up on us. We put on headlamps and continued to pound our heavy feet into the ground as we inched our way up the mountain. We had only made it five miles when severe fatigue plagued Mather. He was suffering from altitude sickness and could barely hike another step. His speech sounded like someone who spent a long night at a bar.

Backcountry-cooking-stove I really wanted to push on so I could glass opening morning, but we had to rest here for the night. I dug into my pack and pulled out some altitude pills and gave Mather the rest of my water and some electrolytes.

Electrolytes-for-the-hike

Day 2 – Opening Morning.  August 10, 2014

We were on the glass early this morning trying to locate other bucks. We had not yet reached my main hunting location so I was trying to make the most of the morning by glassing nearby ridges.

Dave-with-pack-goats We finally had our packs back on and continued to hike and climb elevation until we reached our camp location for the next eight days. I dropped my gear, grabbed my spotting scope and binoculars, and headed out for some evening glassing. Within 30 minutes I spotted what I was looking for — all of the bucks I scouted were still hanging out in the same basin! My anticipation levels went through the roof!

Gathering-snow-for-water Nightfall came. We gathered some of the goat panniers and anything else that would hold snow and headed out in search of water. In the glow of our headlamps, we filled four panniers with snow and carried them back to camp for filtering. Water is everything on a hunt like this. We were very fortunate to have water available.

Day 3- August 11, 2014

The entire day was spent watching the bachelor group of bucks. Like smart deer, these bucks bedded in the worst location that did not offer a high percentage stalk. So instead of pushing it, we decided that we should just sit back and watch them all day.

Afternoon-thunderstorm Just as the evening glassing was underway we got slammed with a storm. In a matter of minutes it went from overcast to zero visibility. We started to get pelted by hail and then the hail turned to a downpour. Disappointed, we headed back to camp.

Day 4 – August 12, 2014

Morning-coffee-and-oatmeal Another morning and another quick cup of mountain coffee and oatmeal. We quickly gathered up the goats and worked our way to our glassing knob. Like the previous day, the bucks were in the same basin, but had moved their way up into the rocks, bedding below a single tree. After they situated themselves for the afternoon, we devised a plan of attack. I would head around the basin and make my approach down a steep rock cliff toward the bucks.

Once above the bucks I slowed to a snail’s pace, took of my shoes and slipped on my extra pair of wool socks. The stalk was picture perfect: I had a cliff band to my right that helped conceal me and hide the noise of my stalk.

I poked my head over the cliff to get a reference of the bucks. Just another 10 yards and I would be in position for a shot. I slowly nocked an arrow, ranged the buck and tried to calm my nerves. Once at full draw, I leveled my sight and started to bring my bow down on the deer. The steep angle was getting in the way and causing my lower limb to hit a rock. I let down my bow and leaned slightly forward over the cliff. My shot went off over the top of his back. I was crushed! It was a long hike back up the avalanche chute and around the basin to Dave and Mather.

Back at camp, I joked around with Dave and tried to shrug it off to help boost my moral. I tried to put the missed opportunity behind me.

The afternoon was once again spent getting rained on. Each day rain and unseasonably cold temperatures plagued us. The rain turned to wind and behind the wind was a giant lightning storm. This storm was amazing and frightening at the same time. Here we sat at over 10,000 feet near the top of a mountain with nothing around us. Throughout the night we had storm after storm hit us. The lightning was incredible to witness in my tent.

Day 5- August 13, 2014

Basin-fogged-over We all woke up to fog soup. All of the basins that held bucks were socked in by fog. We could not glass, which meant we were stuck hanging around camp, filtering water and waiting for the fog to clear.

Day 6 – August 14, 2014

Heavy-morning-fog Another morning of rain and more fog. On this morning we had off and on glassing ability because of the fog and low-hanging clouds. We were once again able to locate the bachelor group. As luck would have it, the smaller bucks split away from the three large bucks and the buck I had been scouting all summer was working toward a rock ledge above the other deer. The large 4×4 bedded and the stalk was on. I dropped down through the fog layer and entered the basin below. Throughout the stalk I had to wait out the fog because I could not see the landmarks below me. The fog was helping me stay concealed, but I was also worried that the bucks might get up and change position without me knowing.

I dropped my pack, took off my shoes and put on my wool socks. I pressed on hoping the buck was still in his bed. After pushing my way through the willows, I neared a series of cliff bands that I needed to navigate through. The first section was relatively easy, but the last band was very technical. I had to place my bow on a cliff edge and lower myself down, then reach up, grab the bow and lower it again. Once on a safe ledge I was very close to the buck.

I crept to the edge and located the sleeping buck. At this point the world seemed to stop and my instincts took over. I ranged the bedded buck, set my slider sight and eased the limbs back on my bow settling the string against my face. I came down on the buck and the release fired, sending the arrow on its way. The arrow hit hard and it was over. This was the buck I had been scouting for all summer and I could not have asked for a better outcome.

Shortly after the shot, I was overcome with emotion. I laid on my back and let the moment soak in for awhile before hiking back up to my pack for my shoes.

Mule-deer-buck-from-above

Brady-Miller-archery-mule-deer-buck It took awhile for Dave and Mather to pack up the camp and meet me down by the buck. We exchanged a bunch of high fives and pats on the back. We all earned this buck.

Close-up-of-velvet-antlers This was a hunt I will forever remember. The mountains, the pack goats, friendships, and the elements all made this a dream come true.

Punched-mule-deer-tag

Velvet-antlers-with-tag

Comments

  1. Cool story and video. Goats are an awesome idea!

    Reply

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