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2014 season: 5 things learned

The 2014 will be another hunting season I will not forget. In January, I was fortunate enough to hunt Coues deer in Mexico and later, bowhunted mule deer all across the west.
 

Brady Miller's 2014 Mexico Coues deer buck
Mexico Coues deer buck from January.

I took home two exceptional archery bucks, created amazing memories and made many friendships along the way.
 

Brady Miller's 2014 Nevada mule deer buck
Nevada archery mule buck from August.

I am already planning and preparing for ways to make the 2015 season even better. At the close of each season, I am always reminded of the things I could do better the next year, or things that helped me be successful. Here are five things that stuck out in my mind after looking back on 2014:

1. Take the time to enjoy the small things on a hunt

On any hunt, photographs are the main way to preserve the memories. I enjoy taking photographs to document my hunts from start to finish. Photos allow me to share my hunt with others and look back on things later down the road. I made it an effort this past season to document more of my hunts through photos and look for ways to capture the small details of each hunt.

Backcountry scenery

Taking the time to snap quality photos on a hunt is always the hardest part. When you are in the middle of a hunt, the last thing you might think about is capturing a photo of a rock formation, the sunset, your gear, or even your camp setup. 

Bow with sunset

I am always trying to find new ways to evolve as a photographer. Each season I challenge myself to become more proficient with new techniques and new ways to capture a hunt through photos. I would suggest that everyone should at least carry a camera in a pocket or in the hip belt of your backpack. I’ve learned that if you keep your camera buried in your backpack, you will end up of with a lot of great trophy shots, but very little details on all of the days prior to your harvest. 

2. Remember that family always comes first, even when hunting

This year I drew one of the best trophy mule deer tags in Montana. I hunted the area hard during the opening weekend of the archery season, but I never laid eyes on a quality buck to put a stalk on. The last week of November, when I could have gone back to my unit, I was given the opportunity to hunt with my dad and brother in a different area of Montana. I decided to give up my special-draw mule deer tag and instead, help them hunt for mule deer.
 

Bryce Miller with his Montana mule deer
My brother with his 2014 Montana mule deer.

It was a tough decision, and I know some people may think I am crazy for giving up a tag, but I don't get to hunt with my dad and brother very often and family means a lot to me. I know my dad and brother greatly appreciated the help, plus the laughs and memories we created during that week are ones I will always remember.
 

12 year old Bubba with his first mule deer
12 year old Bubba with his first mule deer.

My brother was able to harvest his best-ever deer, plus I helped a 12 year old take his first-ever mule deer. Seeing the smile from that young hunter, and getting to hunt with him all week made giving up that special-draw mule deer tag worth it even more. 

3. Quality optics go a long way toward finding animals

I have always been the type of hunter that packs extremely light on my hunts. I take the time to analyze each part of my gear selection and try to buy the lightest gear, or leave extra items back at the truck that I know I can live without.

15 power binoculars

This was the first year I have taken two pairs of binoculars on on my hunt, and I can honestly say I don’t know how I ever hunted without a pair of 15x binoculars.

Taking an additional pair of binoculars on a backcountry hunt may seem excessive, but the amount of game I have been able to pick up with the 15x binoculars mounted to a tripod, makes the additional weight very worth it. 

15 power binoculars on tripod

I have been using Zeiss Conquest HD 15x56 binoculars on all of my backcountry hunts. These binoculars weigh in at 45.7 ounces, but are worth every ounce in my opinion. I was able to dissect the terrain much easier than my 10x binoculars mounted to a tripod. I could probably get by without the 10x42 binoculars around my neck, but I still feel they are worth carrying for when I am on a stalk and need to confirm the location of the bucks.

4. Carrying a dedicated digiscoping setup is essential for capturing video and pictures

In the past, I have played around with many different digiscoping setups. I have tried many different models, from bulky mounts for cell phones, to clumsy point-and-shoot camera mounts with multiple adjustments. At one point, I even tried to balance a small camera on the end of my spotting scope to capture photos. In the end I decided to just leave these digiscope setups at home and forgo taking digiscoping photos.

Digiscoping setup

This year, I finally decided to get a truly dedicated digiscoping setup. I am currently running an Olympus Tough Stylus TG-3 camera with a Tines Up Scope)cam adapter. This setup has opened my eyes to the fun in digiscoping again.

Scope cam digiscope mule deer buck

I have been able to take hundreds of photos of different bucks this year, and used it a bunch for capturing summer scouting photos of velvet mule deer bucks in Nevada.  

5. Pack goats are a backcountry bowhunters best friend

I have been known to go (extremely) off the beaten path during the majority of my hunts.  My close friends can attest to this, some even call me crazy, dumb or enjoy telling me to pack the salt and pepper due to the distance I am away from the truck when I harvest. 

Pack goats

This year I was able to utilize pack goats for getting into the backcountry. Dave Loescher was gracious enough to allow me to use two of his goats. I have always wanted to get pack goats, and this just sealed the deal for me. 

Vinny the pack goat

These goats kept our legs fresh on the trip to my hunting spot, but they really shined on the trip out of the backcountry when we were loaded down with deboned mule deer. The goats were able to carry a bunch of our camping gear for us, leaving us to carry our personal gear and meat. 

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