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Greg Miller Celebrates 50 Years of Bowhunting

After a half-century of bowhunting whitetails, I'm not giving up! And neither should you.

Greg Miller Celebrates 50 Years of Bowhunting

The author states that, as long as he can continue to do things at his own pace, and still enjoys doing what he’s doing, he fully intends to continue bowhunting. (Photo courtesy of Greg Miller)

I was recently having a conversation with a fellow from my hometown, and the topic turned to bowhunting whitetails. After a few minutes of back and forth discussion on the subject, the guy suddenly asked me how long I’d been chasing whitetails with archery equipment. I quickly calculated the numbers in my head and then told him that my bowhunting career has spanned more than 50 years.     

To be honest, I’d never really spent too much time thinking about all the time I’ve spent in pursuit of whitetails — until I saw the guy’s eyes go wide. Then he blurted out, “Wow, you’ve been bowhunting whitetails for more than a half-century. Now that’s impressive!”

At last count, I believe I’ve hunted whitetails in 21 different states. And I’ve been successful in 17 of those states. A lot of the time I’ve spent being this type of bowhunting “road warrior” was the direct result of having to capture enough video content to produce the mandatory number of episodes needed to air a show on a major outdoor television network. My son, Jake, and I did just that for a number of years.





Prior to the big-time outdoor television market appearing on the scene in the early 2000s, I was spending a great deal of time during the fall attempting to get footage for some well-known deer hunting videos. Along with being a member of Hunter’s Specialties Prime Time Bucks team, I also did some work for Realtree’s Monster Bucks videos.

And then in 2003 I went to work filming hunts for North American Whitetail TV. But after four years I resigned to start a deer hunting show with my son. Over a span of years from 2007 to 2018, I did anywhere from 12 to 14 hunts each season for our show, the vast majority of which were bowhunts.

This encompassed a time period of just four months (September through December). With almost all of the hunts lasting a week, including travel time, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that I spent a lot more time away from home than at home during those four months.

It’s my humble opinion that the reason I was able to sustain the type of pace needed to be an effective “run and gun” deer hunter, especially at my age, was because I always tried to keep myself in good physical shape. While I’m no longer a runner, I can still walk — and I do a LOT of walking pretty much yearround. I’ve also worked hard to keep my weight in check over the years. And there are some other equally important steps I’ve had to take to ensure I’d be able to continue to do a number of out-of-state bowhunts each year.

Water and Food on the Road

A number of years ago I discovered that I have a definite sensitivity to drinking water from some other parts of the country. Unfortunately, I learned about this sensitivity the hard way. Within a day or two of ingesting such water I’d find myself spending as much or more time in a bathroom than doing just about anything else.

Luckily, there was an easy solution to the problem. I simply started carrying several cases of bottled water with me on all my deer hunts to foreign lands. I also refuse to drink camp coffee that has been brewed with local water from those foreign lands.

Now, a hot cup of coffee is just the way I’ve preferred to start my day for a whole lot of years. As a remedy for this situation, I began carrying a small one-cup coffee maker on all my hunting trips.

Another thing that’s become apparent in recent years is that my stomach isn’t nearly as food friendly as it once was.  Put simply, there really isn’t anything quite like good ol’ home cooking. This isn’t to say, however, that the food I’ve been eating on the road wasn’t good. It was just different. Regardless if it was served at a deer camp, at a restaurant or by a fast food joint, my system absolutely knows that it didn’t come from mama’s kitchen.

So, for do-it-myself bowhunts, I prefer to either bring along food from home or stock up on grocery supplies upon arriving at my destination. I also carry a small charcoal grill with me on all my do-it-myself hunts. Trust me when I say that grill has paid for itself many times over the years.


Hunting from the Ground Floor

Back when I first started bowhunting for whitetails, which was in the late 1960’s, I had no problem climbing a tree and then standing on a branch for hours in hopes that a whitetail would meander within range. I also didn’t have any problem climbing to heights that would make a squirrel nervous.

But while I’ve long been a strong proponent of bowhunting trophy whitetails from an elevated position, I find that I’m no longer quite so fond of climbing trees and even less fond of heights. What’s more, the portable tree stands I’ve used over the years just don’t seem to offer the space I now need to remain comfortable and observant for any length of time. (Due to major back surgery five years ago, I now have a bunch of hardware in my spine, which severely hinders my ability to ever be totally comfortable on portable tree stands.)

And if there was no other option than to hunt from an elevated position, then my preference would be to do so from a ladder stand. But to be very honest, nowadays I’d much rather hunt from a ground blind wherever and whenever possible.

Now I’m not going to lie here. I had more than my share of doubts when I first weighed the decision to spend more time hunting from ground blinds. However, the introduction of pop-up blinds some years back changed my mind along those lines. And two factors in particular really sold me on hunting from ground blinds. First and foremost was the comfort issue. Sitting on a good chair (rather than a stool) enabled me to spend a lot more time hunting than when I was occupying a tree stand.

It’s the second factor, however, that really convinced me I needed to spend more time hunting from the ground. And that factor was the huge adrenaline rush I felt the first time a big whitetail walked within bow range at ground level. Truth be told, the instant and somewhat serious case of buck fever I experienced darn near cost me a golden opportunity at that buck. Fortunately, I was able to gather my wits and put an arrow squarely through the trophy deer’s vitals. On that day I became forever hooked on hunting from ground blinds!

An Awesome Run & Gun Partner

I’ve tossed around the words “I” and “me” a lot in this article, but the honest truth is that my deer hunting career might well have taken a much different turn some years back if it hadn’t been for a very important person. And that person is my friend and longtime run and gun partner, Matt Tande.

Matt and I first hooked up back in early October 2009, when we made a trip to western Oklahoma, where he filmed me on a bowhunt for whitetails. We learned a lot about each other on the 15-hour drive to our destination. And then after a successful hunt had loosened us up a bit, we learned even more about each other on the 15-hour drive back to our home state of Wisconsin.

One of my most fond memories of working with Matt happened during an early season bowhunt in North Dakota back in 2010. The two of us had gone straight to our North Dakota destination after a very successful bowhunt in eastern Montana. Unbelievably, I managed to arrow a beautiful 140-class 10-point whitetail on just our second evening in North Dakota.

greg miller celebrates 50 years of bowhunting
The author’s long-time “run and gun” partner, Matt Tande, took this gorgeous 10-point North Dakota whitetail during the 2010 archery season. Matt’s addition to Greg’s filming crew proved to be a huge asset. Finding the right hunting partner can keep your head in the game when the chips are down. (Photo courtesy of Greg Miller)

With four days still remaining on our schedule, I told Matt to see if he could get comfortable shooting my bow. Fortunately, Matt is right-handed, and his draw length and preferred poundage were identical to mine. After letting loose a few arrows at a target, I could clearly see that Matt was up to the task. So the next day we drove to a nearby county courthouse where I purchased him a North Dakota non-resident archery tag.

A couple evenings later found Matt and I perched on tree stands in a large oak located in a thick river bottom area. About an hour after getting settled, a gorgeous 10-point buck sauntered within bow range. Matt waited until the deer had cut the distance to 15 yards before sending an arrow through its vitals. It was just an incredible experience to witness, and one made even more special by the fact that I managed to capture it all on video.

Without a doubt, the greatest assets Matt has brought to the table are his youthful enthusiasm and vast knowledge of big whitetails. He never wants to admit defeat, and it seems he’s always able to help me come up with a game plan for dealing with an uncooperative buck. I can’t imagine what my career would have been like had I not hooked up with Matt all those years ago.

Dealing with Serious Injury

Over the course of the last three years, I’ve managed to severely tear the bicep tendons in both my left and right arms. Now I don’t know if anyone reading this has managed to tear a bicep tendon, but if you have, then you’re well aware of the severe pain and discomfort such an injury can cause. You’re also fully aware of the significant loss of strength that results from a torn bicep tendon.

Even though it’s been very tough to do, I’ve continued to hunt with a vertical bow since injuring my bicep tendons. However, after a recent experiment with trying to draw my compound bow (which was set at a mere 50 pounds) didn’t go very well, I’m strongly considering switching to a crossbow.

Now I know full well that some reading this might consider the use of a crossbow to be “unsportsmanlike” or maybe even “cheating.” I admit to harboring similar thoughts myself at one time. But now, after being smacked in the face with the reality of either using a crossbow or calling an end to my archery hunting career, I’ve made my choice. Put simply, I’m gonna do what I have to do to continue chasing my all-time favorite game animal for as long as possible!

greg miller celebrates 50 years of bowhunting
The author rattled in and arrowed this brute Illinois whitetail during the state’s 2005 archery deer season. Greg finds it hard to believe he has been on more than 100 out-of-state bowhunts since this photo was taken. (Photo courtesy of Greg Miller)

Adjusting to the Situation           

One of the hardest parts of adapting to a different hunting style in recent years is that part of my brain often insists that I’m still able to do a lot of the things I used to do. But thankfully, another part of my brain usually comes to the rescue and says, wait just a minute here. You know darn well you’re no spring chicken anymore. So how about we back off and give this a little more thought!

And along with part of my brain helping me make wise choices, there are more and more times when another part of my body makes it very apparent that there are certain things I shouldn’t be doing. Those reminders almost always come through in the form of pain. Lord knows it’s taken me a long time to figure it out, but I’ve finally come to the conclusion that if part of my body hurts while I’m doing something, then I probably shouldn’t be doing whatever it is I’m doing. Or I should get someone to help me do it.

I have to admit that I’m going to miss those days when I spent the fall months living like a wandering bowhunting gypsy. There are just so many special elements of such a lifestyle that could never be described or captured — not with words on paper, not through personal narration and not even on video. It’s something that simply has to be experienced firsthand.   

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Though a small part of me still believes I could spend the entire fall running & gunning for whitetails, my saner self knows that I can no longer do it. The weeks on end away from home, the wear and tear of nonstop road tripping, eating someone else’s cooking, sleeping in strange beds and the pressure of trying to put good deer on the ground truly is a game designed for someone younger.

But don’t for one second think this means I’ve hung up my bowhunting hat. As long as I’m able to do things at my own pace, and make the decisions regarding where and when I want to chase big whitetails, I fully intend to keep my hand in the game. After 50-plus years of doing so, I’d honestly feel lost if I couldn’t continue to pursue what I believe to be the grandest big game animal of all.

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