Within the confines of our day-to-day obligations like going to work, doing the dishes, and yard up keep, we all share a beautiful similarity: passion, a burning feeling inside us displaying a love dedicated to that thing that drives us, that thing that interrupts our thoughts in the middle of our day. Passion is as important to our well being as oxygen. Passion motivates us to push past our limits for improvement. When you pinpoint your passion, share it with others, help others, give back to others, and add value to as many people as you can. I was able to share my passion with a friend for the past nine months and top it off with a four-day spot and stalk mule deer hunt in western South Dakota. I gained more than I ever gave.
Back in February of 2014 I started training a man named Nick. Nick had a passion for running and let me tell you he ran a lot. He had run several marathons in the past and it was nothing for him to trek a quick 10 miles for a workout. He had began to weight train and wanted to take his physique to the next level. I was excited to get him started and we set out with a goal to build some serious muscle. Working with Nick for several months on a strict training regimen and more food in his diet than he new what to do with, Nick succeeded with his goal of building muscle and changing his physique. The journey was much more than a physical appearance though; we were able to build a friendship and a trust with each other. Seeing his progress only motivated myself to work harder on my own goals. My passion was rubbing off on him, and at the same time was refueling my energy I had in my day-to-day work. By sharing my passion for fitness with Nick, I was receiving value back from him, not in the sense of a monetary value, but something much more important. A personal value, personal growth within myself, I was receiving from my client a value of compensation that wasn’t measured in money but by how well I serve someone.
The weeks went on and I continued to learn more about Nick, turns out Nick and his brothers are avid archery hunters! I couldn’t believe it, two of my passions in my life, fitness and the outdoors we both shared! Nick and his brothers have been hunting whitetail for many years and have been respectively successful. He continued to tell me how he wanted the chance at harvesting a mule deer. I knew I would have to share that experience with him in western South Dakota. We planned the dates and before I new it we were headed west on October 16th with Nick’s brother Frank to pursue mule deer for four days!
On our first night we hiked in two miles on a piece of public land and set up shop along some yucca plants on the south side of a hill. We glassed for several hours; finally with only 45 minutes of light left to hunt for the day a nice mule deer buck was spotted. A traditional 4×4 as wide as his ears worked his way down a cut bank into the bottom of a grassy draw to feed. We quickly made a plan of attack and decided Frank would put the stalk on the deer as Nick held back at the end of the draw incase the buck would escape in that direction. We ran down a hill and right back up the opposite side to cover a half-mile. The buck was now just 300 yards over the next knoll feeding on some remaining green stands of grass of the fall season. We crawled slowly through the fireweed making our way over the crest of the knoll. I spotted the buck 80 yards away still feeding. I motioned to Frank to close another 15 yards behind a big yucca plant. He continued the crawl and made it to his shooting position. Knocking an arrow Frank looked back at me and smirked as though he couldn’t believe this was happening in the first three hours of his first mule deer hunt. I whispered, “Mechanics, pick a spot.” He nodded and drew back his bow. He rose up to shoot and the buck turned and bolted up the hill he had previously came from faster than Frank could release his arrow. The buck was bigger than we thought and Frank could only let down his draw and watch the beautiful deer bound his way over the hill and out of sight. Franks smile was from ear to ear and he said right, “If I don’t shoot a deer on this trip, that made it all worth it!” I gave Frank a high five and we started the two-mile hike back to the truck. Frank had already felt the passion of the hunt, the pursuit of the animal, the journey it takes in order to get within shooting distant. Harvesting the animal is only part of that journey.
Two mornings later and a few more stalks in the book, the temperatures had dropped and gave us a bitter frosty morning. Right at first light we spotted a respectable mule deer buck feeding all along the bottom of a thicket. Nick grabbed his bow and had that look in his eye, the same look he had nine months prior when he told me his goals to improve his physique. It was that look of passion, that look that said, “Nothing will stop me.” I knew we had a good opportunity to kill this buck. Nick was ready to put in the work on a long patient stalk. We worked our way across a couple valleys to put ourselves within 120 yards of the feeding buck. The sun was just cresting at our backs, and we had nearly no wind for cover noise. The buck continued to feed down the draw and we followed as the opportunity presented itself. Nick, myself and my brother behind the camera weaved through freshly fallen leaves trying not to make a noise as we closed the distance on the buck, finally we had gotten to what we thought was 50 yards away. If we crested the next knoll he would be there, it’s where he was feeding only 60 seconds before. We crested slowly but the buck wasn’t in sight. We thought the buck must have continued feeding around the next corner of the creek, so we continued our stalk slowly. Out of nowhere the buck busted from his bed only 25 yards from us where we had last saw him only minutes before. Nick quickly drew his bow back but could only watch the buck bound up the creek and out of sight. First thoughts are we just wasted hours of work getting close enough to harvest a buck, but then our senses kicked in, it was truly the exact opposite. The work put in to get close enough to watch each breath of the deer on that 25-degree morning, and to study him. Thinking back to each carefully placed step, makes a blown stalk completely worth it.
Nick and I topped off our nine months of hard training and nutrition with a tremendous stalk, I was able to share my passion for fitness and spot and stalk mule deer hunting with Nick, giving him a new experience, a new opportunity to learn about the outdoors. Nick, just like his brother Frank, was smiling from ear to ear with the opportunities the four days presented. Miles and miles were put on the boots and hours of glassing the beautiful landscapes of South Dakota.
The end of the weekend gave me the opportunity to reflect back on the opportunity for myself as a whole, the opportunity I had to share my passion with Nick and how the weight training rubbed off on him, how it changed his physique positively, and then finally how that opportunity led to sharing a new challenge for him. For me being able to share that passion with him and he will be able to share his newly found passion with others. Trying to help and serve others will add positive value to not only their life, but yours as well is the lesson that was reinforced at the end of those nine months.
By Jordan Miller. Originally published in the December 2014 issue of GunUp the Magazine.