11 year wait for the ultimate dream season
If you're originally from the Midwest like me, the point system in the West can be very frustrating. I want to hunt big game every year in my state without having to take a loan out to hunt! This can be especially frustrating since I’m used to $30 over-the-counter (OTC) deer tags from where I grew up in Minnesota.
For years, I was annoyed that I hadn’t drawn any tags in Nevada and made sure to tell everyone that “there wasn’t any animal dumb enough to live in the desert, only we are.” I would quench my hunting thirst by going on a yearly deer hunt in Nebraska, which was — and still is — a great place to hunt both whitetails and mule deer. It helped satisfy my need of being outside while giving me a taste of being back in the Midwest chasing whitetail deer; it also allowed me to adapt to the West by chasing mule deer across the rolling canyons.
As the years passed, I found myself enjoying the spot and stalk method of chasing mule deer compared to the static of a deer stand. I enjoyed the exercise and anticipation of what may be around the next bend.
Fast forward many points and over eleven years later and the day that I had been waiting for finally arrived. I was fortunate enough to draw three western tags in 2015: an elk, antelope in Nevada and antelope in Utah.
August Nevada antelope hunt
My first Nevada big game hunting trip was about to happen and, from what I was told by Lorenzo Sartini (goHUNT Founder), it would be one of the funnest hunts I would ever have. He was right. Chasing antelope around in 110 degree heat in the middle of the desert may not sound that fun, but, trust me; it was quite the experience. These animals are fast yet graceful, tough but delicate.
We had glassed over quite a few bucks opening morning and hunted hard before we spotted an old non-typical buck over 400+ yards away that I hoped would soon have my tag on it. I felt comfortable with the shot in that range and decided to take it.
In a split second, I had harvested my first Nevada big game animal. You can see more photos from this great hunt on the article Lorenzo wrote called 3 Tags, 3 Hunters - 243 Inches of antelope horns.
September Utah antelope hunt
The second tag I drew was a Utah antelope tag. I was really starting to think my luck was turning around since this tag was very hard to pull. I was excited for this hunt for the simple fact that it couldn’t have been more opposite than my Nevada antelope hunt experience. I was going to be hunting at an elevation of 7,000’ to 10,000’, while chasing antelope in the woods. How cool is that?
I set out during the afternoon of opening day with my friends, Heath and Rich. We spotted a really nice buck in the open meadow with about eight does and watched him for a while at 250 yards before he decided to walk right at us. We couldn’t believe that he was closing the distance on his own! Within a few minutes he was no more than 60 yards away. At that point, we had a choice to make: end the hunt within a couple hours of getting out in the woods or test our luck at trying to find his bigger brother. We decided to hunt on, second-guessing that we might have just passed on one of the bigger bucks in the unit. We hunted the rest of that night and did see a good amount of antelope, but nothing that held a candle to the one we passed earlier. Needless the say, I didn’t get much sleep that night.
The next day we decided to go back and see if we could find that same buck. We looked everywhere and couldn’t find him. What did we do? I started thinking as we drove off to fill up with gas.
We came to a “T” in the road and were taking a right to head into the gas station a few miles ahead. We looked over and noticed a lot of activity in the meadow to our right. Sure enough there were antelope and one in particular was running back and forth chasing off bucks and keeping track of his does. This looked promising.
We drove onto a dirt road to get access to the meadow. We slowly stalked in and viewed the action taking place. We quickly saw four bucks and their pursuit of a few hot does with one in particular. The largest buck in the meadow was running back and forth to fend off the other bucks to protect his prize. We watched this unfold for about 45 minutes while dissecting the bucks in the meadow. This antelope buck soon became our focus. The more we looked at him the more we thought he was bigger than the one we saw the previous day. After more studying, we all agreed that he had tall curled tips and deep cutters that flared out at 45 degrees. He was definitely in his prime.
It proved to be difficult to get set up on him since he wouldn’t stop running. Eventually, he chased the doe through the woods and I thought that was it. We’d lost him! About five minutes later, I looked behind us and the doe that he was chasing was 30 yards away. We kept looking and couldn’t find him, but when we turned our heads back to the meadow there he was — within range and broadside. It was the perfect time to get a shot. I raised up and took it. The shot rang true and I had my mountain antelope on the ground.
November Nevada elk hunt
The third and most likely coveted tag I drew was my Nevada elk tag. I understood the magnitude of the opportunity in chasing big bulls, which could be a once in a lifetime experience. We all know how work can get in the way of planning and time restrictions so I leaned heavily on my goHUNT INSIDER Unit Profiles and relationships within that organization as well as my friend and guide, Brad Lloyd, at 7L Outfitters — A goHUNT Business member. This put me in the right situation with the unit choice and season.
Knowing that drawing a premier elk tag in Nevada is likely a once in 30 year experience I wanted to make sure I gave myself the best chance at success. Hiring a guide doesn’t assure anyone of harvesting an animal, especially on a public land hunt, but I also knew my time constraints and Brad Lloyd and the team at 7L Outfitters were tremendous in trying to make my dreams a reality.
My hunt started in early November. I had just returned from a business trip to Florida. I shot my rifle a few times to make sure the gun was still sighted in and headed up for the hunt. It was cold and snowy. I was freezing, but it was just right for hunting.
On the first morning, we spotted some spike elk, cows and a few small bulls. It was a great start to the hunt and I was excited about what the evening would bring. I kept thinking to myself as we were glassing this spectacular country, “Man, what if I spotted a true giant, a 400” bull?” I tried to stop myself from thinking that way since I would be ecstatic with a good representative bull if given the opportunity. It’s not like 400” bulls just grow on trees. Most people, including myself, have ever seen one on the hoof in the wild.
That evening was much of the same; we were seeing a lot of elk and, in particular, a lot of bulls, which was great.
The second morning we spotted some cows when we came across a good looking bull. We watched him bed down and grabbed the spotting scope to get a better look. He was impressive all the way through except for one small detail: he didn’t have G3s on either side. Other than that he would have been the one we were looking for and I would have tried to make a stalk on him.
That night, my friend, Cole “Tug” Nay, came up to help for the evening and the next morning’s hunt. We posted up and glassed a bald mountain side and instantly saw some elk. There was a good looking bull right at the top and, with the sun going down on the horizon, we knew that he was definitely one we wanted to catch up with in the morning. We knew he wouldn’t go far so we backed out in anticipation of the next morning.
A morning that changed everything
The third morning couldn’t come soon enough. Brad and I branched off in hopes of getting a closer look at the bull from the night before and Tug went a few drainages to our east to glass that country. The sun came up and, sure enough, the bull showed up. We watched him for over an hour and realized that he wasn’t what we thought he was the night before. It took some wind out of our sails. Brad and I looked at each other and had the same reaction without saying a word, if it were words it would have probably went something like this, “dang it, that sucks, let’s get out of here and go try and find another.”
Just then, Tug radioed us. He said, “Stop whatever you’re looking at. I think I just spotted a monster!” Tug doesn’t use the word “monster” much so I knew he meant business. He told us to head up a canyon to our west; he could just see the tops of a bull but he said that he looked big.
We packed up as quickly as we could and headed that way. Little did we know that the bull was miles into the deep and think mountainside. We couldn’t see him, but relied on Tug’s direction. It took us hours to sneak through the mountainside as quietly as possible. To be honest, it felt like it lasted for days. Finally, we caught a glimpse of him.
Brad said, “He’s a shooter.”
The bull was feeding on a mountainside about 400 yards away. The wind was in our favor and, although he was wary, he didn’t sense our presence. We set up on the sidehill with a small window to take a shot.
It was all happening so quickly but at the same time it was difficult to get a steady rest on the steep mountainside. I decided to try and cut the distance a little more since he didn’t know we were there in order to get more comfortable. Brad, being the great guide that he is, obliged, although I think he probably wanted to throw me off the mountainside at that point in time. We crept up a little more and got within about 350 yards. At that point, the bull had left his opening and was behind some thick brush. He only had to travel a few more steps up the mountain and he would disappear. I thought to myself, “If I just blew my chance on this bull I may actually throw myself off this mountainside!”
I still couldn’t get settled in a good shooting position so we decided to back out again to get a better angle. At this point, we were at roughly 408 yards. I finally got steady (as much as you can on a mountainside) and waited… and waited… and waited. I needed him to take one step forward to take a shot in the small window I had. It took this bull 45 minutes to take that one step, but I am thankful that he did. I had my window and pulled the trigger.
It was a hit! The bull was dazed. I quickly chambered another round and squeezed off another shot, just missed! Fortunately, I was able to shoot a third round and got a great hit; it looked like vitals for sure. The bull went up the mountainside while we watched him bed down. We were excited, yet guarded, as we knew how tough and majestic these elk were. We laid low for almost two hours in order to let things settle down. We couldn’t see his head anymore so we thought it was all over. We packed up and headed across the canyon to the other side of the drainage.
I was excited about the possibilities of putting my hands on this elk when, all of a sudden, up he jumped! We couldn’t believe it. He was hit hard but was incredibly resilient. He went into some thick cover across the canyon; all we could see were the tops of his antlers. I settled in at the top of the mountain, gun steadied on a tree branch, waiting for him to take another vital step like before. Brad went to my left to see if we could get a better angle, but before he left, he said, “If that bull takes a step you drop him.” Absolutely, I thought to myself as I slightly threw up in my mouth from the thought of losing this bull (that didn’t actually happen).
Luckily, after another 20 minutes, this bull took his last step and, when he did, I fired. It was over instantly; the way that every hunter wants it to be for himself and, especially, the animals in which we hunt.
Brad and I yelled out in excitement as I worked my way over to him. He had me stand by while he went up to the bull and gave the thumbs up. By that time, Tug had worked his way over and at around 10 a.m. we had our hands on this amazing animal.
We took a bunch of photos and enjoyed the moment.
As we started the real work of getting the bull off the mountain his antlers seemed to consistently grow. It seemed we had misjudged to shear size of this bull. What did I just do? I was actually very reserved since I was grateful for the complete team effort to get this bull on the ground.
Three guys, a brisk 5.5 mile pack out and roughly five hours later we were back at the truck. I think that was the closest I was to crying as a grown man from exhaustion (I am sure Tug and Brad felt the same way). But as soon as we got those packs off and cracked a cold one, the excitement started to build. It was going to be a fun night in camp with the whole crew. Getting back to camp everyone was overly excited at how big this bull ended up being even with a completely broken off G1. He was a true Nevada giant; one I could only dream about and now it was a reality.
As a guy from the Midwest, I finally got it after all these years. It may take time to pull your tags in the West, but they can truly present the chance to chase an animal of a lifetime.
As I woke up early the next morning still glowing from the day before I couldn’t help but think of the team effort it took to get this bull. From dissecting the goHUNT Unit Profiles to the crew at 7L Outfitters and my friend Tug, it truly came full circle on what hunting and the outdoors is all about: family, friends and creating those memories for life.
Follow-up notes from Brady Miller:
Shortly after Casey shot the bull, he stopped by the goHUNT office and gave us a chance to stare at this monarch. Pictures do not do this bull justice. After talking with Casey since the fall of 2015 and hearing him tell his story, I can tell how passionate he is, and how he deserved a bull of this caliber. This bull is truly what dreams are made of!
To put things into perspective, this bull would have likely been in the Top 10 typical bulls ever taken in Nevada if it wasn't for the broken off G1 on the left side. This bull is very symmetrical with only 6 2/8" difference.
Above is a photo of the unofficial score sheet from a B&C scorer. If this bull would have had a matching G1 it would have gross scored 415 1/8". To this day, there are only four bulls that have netted over 400" as a typical and 12 that net over 390" in the Boone & Crockett record books. After the 60 day dry period and an official panel review, this bull would have likely been in the Top Ten due to very little deductions. Even though that broken G1 wrecked this bull's chances of being in the 10 Ten... it is still a giant bull and one that any hunter would be proud to have. Score is only a number, and memories from this hunt will last forever. Congrats again, Casey!