Posted on May 8, 2014
This Bowhunting Gal Strikes Serious Silver While Hunting the High Country of Nevada.
Looking through the binoculars, I could see two mule deer bucks. They weren’t monsters but one of them had a respectable rack. My wife, Shelby, without hesitation said she wanted to give it a try.
I’m fortunate to have married a woman who’s become quite a hunter. When we married, she had never hunted. That was 16 years ago. After a few years of going with me on trips, usually videoing the hunt, she wanted to try it and now she’s hooked. She will readily profess that she doesn’t have the bug as seriously as I do but, nonetheless, she has become a bowhunter.
This past year we had scheduled a fairly busy fall with hunts in four states. When I mailed off our applications for deer permits in one of the toughest units to draw in Nevada, I figured we would earn a bonus point to be used in the future when our schedule wasn’t so crowded. Resident archery tags issued in this unit number is less than 50, so the odds of drawing are slim. I should note that ranchers are given additional tags (landowner tags), which they can sell to residents or non-residents and they usually sell for $6 to $7,000. It’s the state’s way of reimbursing the ranchers for crop damage done by wildlife.
Over the years, we’ve been lucky at drawing tags. Two years ago, Shelby drew the only archery elk tag for the mountains west of Las Vegas. She took a 310-inch bull on that hunt. That same year we both drew desert bighorn sheep tags for the same unit, even though we applied separately. Both of us took nice rams. Once again, good fortune shone on us and we drew deer tags for this coveted unit.
Having lived in Las Vegas for over 20 years, I’ve developed friendships with other hunters and guides. One of those is Gary Gallegos, who assisted us on our sheep hunt. I talked to him about the unit we drew and he was anxious to help us again. He knew the unit well and has hunted or guided in it for many years. We changed our schedules around so we could take advantage of our good luck and made plans for me to hunt the early part of the season and Shelby would hunt later.
Big Bucks Galore
The first day of my hunt helped me to understand why this unit was so highly sought by trophy hunters. We saw bucks, nice bucks, 160-inch-plus bucks. I’ve been fortunate to have taken four Pope & Young bucks and was determined to take an above average buck or eat tag soup.
Gary and I hunted for eight days and couldn’t close the deal on any of the trophies we wanted. I did see the largest mule deer of my life, but he was 400 yards away and moving further when we saw him. The buck had an honest 34-inch spread.
I had more than my share of stalks and reasons things went sour. Once as I stalked a buck, an unseen eagle which must have been eating a rodent on the ground flushed up and spooked the deer. Another time, a couple of bucks were working within range but they walked into the rising sun. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t see to attempt a shot.
Now it was time to concentrate on a deer for Shelby. Weather is often a big factor when hunting and this fall was no exception. Between my hunt and Shelby’s hunt a week later, it rained virtually every day. The result—the dry countryside turned green. Grass grew everywhere and the deer no longer went to clearings to feed. The mountains we hunted are covered with cedar trees and spotting a deer is tough if they don’t leave the cover.
Shelby has several whitetails, an elk, a black bear and the sheep to her credit, and Gary and I wanted to help her add a mulie to the list. So we were committed to working hard to make her hunt successful. Once her hunt began, we saw deer every day. Shelby tried some stalks and she allowed me to try some as well, even though it was her hunt. The weather is miserably hot in Nevada in August. The temperature got into the 80s and deer movement was limited to early morning and later evening. We hunted the afternoons but they were not productive. Despite the tough conditions and the thin air at the 8,500-foot elevation, Shelby didn’t complain.
We spent many hours sitting behind our tripod-mounted binoculars glassing hillsides over and over, straining our eyes trying to spot a patch of fur, a glitter of a horn or a twitching ear. A quick word about binoculars; many hunters preach the importance of good optics and I second that notion. This year I bought a set of 15×56 Swarovski binoculars. After using them I am sorry I wasted so many years using less powerful optics. If you can do it, by all means consider buying some quality binoculars if you’re going to hunt the West.
On the fourth day of Shelby’s hunt I spotted the two bucks mentioned earlier; they were a long ways off. Later, we calculated they were 1.48 miles from our glassing spot. We hopped on our four wheelers and closed the distance until we were 400 yards from the bucks. Our plan was for Shelby and Gary to make the stalk, and I would watch through the binoculars and guide them to the deer.
Initially things went well; Shelby and Gary closed the distance to 60 yards or so and set up for a shot.
The deer were feeding and moving towards the ambush spot they had selected. As I watched, the plan seemed to be working as the bucks moved closer, but then a doe came out of the brush and also moved toward the Gary and Shelby. Things became intense as I watched and hoped the doe wouldn’t spook and spoil everything. She cooperated and moved off in a different direction. The bucks continued moving closer.
When the bucks were at 40 yards, Shelby drew her 42-pound bow and released an arrow. The shot was high, striking the buck in the spine and dropping it in its tracks. She quickly followed up with another shot and the buck was hers. I was so proud of her; I couldn’t get there fast enough to give her a hug. The buck had a 27 ½-inch spread; a nice first buck for anyone. She was excited to say the least and I was proud and thankful to share the moment.
“An unseen eagle which must have been eating a rodent on the ground flushed up and spooked the deer.”
“The weather is miserably hot in Nevada in August.”
“When the bucks were at 40 yards, Shelby drew her 42-pound bow and released an arrow.”
The author’s wife, Shelby, shot this great buck in the high country of Nevada. The shot was from 40 yards, using a 42-pound BowTech bow, Carbon Express arrow, and Magnus 100-grain Buzzcut broadhead.
The region hunted was expansive and warm during the early August opener.
Long-range glassing and lots of patience is the only way to locate deer in such massive country.
The author’s friend and local guide, Gary Gallegos, knew the deer area well and assisted the author and his wife during the hunt.
Text and Photos by Roy Keefer