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Discovering A New Passion

By Amanda Perez

As Amanda Perez crouched behind a cluster of trees, she could hear a bull elk bugling in the distance. She and her hunting partner had been following him for several hours, trying to get close enough to get a good shot, but as she got close to the last known position of the bull elk and his herd, the eerie siren of another bull elk caught them off guard and sent a chill down their spines.

“We both spun around in shock looking back over our shoulders,” said Perez. “We had literally just come from that direction and couldn’t figure out how he had gotten behind us without either of us noticing.”

Brand new to hunting, Perez had been fortunate to draw a cow elk tag in the very first year she applied for Nevada’s big game draw. Unsure of who to turn to for guidance, word quickly spread around the office that she was in need of a mentor. It wasn’t long before one of her coworkers, Lance Murray, offered to help with her inaugural hunt. She was thrilled and hoped his experience as an avid hunter would help increase her odds of success, but she was a little weary about spending a potential nine days in the field with someone she didn’t know.

“We had been hiking and scouting for six days all over the area just north of Ely,” she said. “Other than the first day, which coincidentally was the day before the season started, we had not seen anything other than one lone bull elk. I was getting tired and frustrated, but Lance was helpful in keeping my spirits up and mind focused on the end goal. I just couldn’t go back to the office empty handed.”

The “office” she is referring to is the Nevada Department of Wildlife headquarters office in Reno where Perez has worked as an administrative assistant since 2021 and a volunteer since 2015. She explains that working with so many people who are passionate about wildlife, hunting, fishing, and the roles they play in conservation, is what helped guide her decision to become a hunter.

“You can’t listen to their stories and not get at least mildly interested in trying it for yourself,” said Perez. “The best part is seeing the glimmer in their eyes as they describe their favorite hunts. I love hearing their stories about time spent in the field, hiking all over Nevada, and hanging out with their family and friends. It just got to a point where I had to experience it for myself.”

Ever since Perez was little, she always strived to be an independent and self-sufficient person. The thought of killing an animal was difficult for her, but the desire to achieve food self-sufficiency helped her to get past that barrier.

After six days of hiking, scouting, and sweating, Perez now found herself between two competing bull elk. Murray suggested that one or both males would likely be traveling with females, and that Perez should get ready to take the shot should the opportunity present itself. His guess was correct as the bull that was behind them came out of the trees with two cow elk in-tow. The sweet scent of sagebrush dust slowly began to settle as Amanda got into her shooting position with her rifle resting on her pack. Slow flashes of buckskin showing through the trees collected in her scope, and the crosshairs bounced with the elevated cadence of her heartbeat. One female turned, hesitated, then stepped broadside and presented a clear shot for Perez at just over 100 yards. As Murray whispered final instructions, she took a deep breath, steadied to the scope, and squeezed the trigger.

“Lance took a picture of me right after just looking off into the distance. I was in a state of shock because I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I finally accomplished the goal I set for myself. It was such a surreal moment,” she said. “So much had gone into that moment from the advice I had received from coworkers and friends, to preparing for the hunt, to the six days of searching. I was relieved, excited, and happy. It was just so much to process; I didn’t know how to think or feel in the moment.”

Unfortunately for Perez, she didn’t have much time to enjoy the moment as the sun was setting and they still had to harvest the meat from a 500-pound cow elk. She explains that they were working until after midnight harvesting the animal with only one headlamp and a flashlight for light. They packed some of the meat out in the dark and stored the remaining meat in a nearby tree. After the two-hour trek back to camp, and after only a few hours of sleep, they returned to the site where they packed the remaining meat out.

“I was exhausted and tired, but we still had a good deal of meat left to pack out,” said Perez. “We didn’t want to take multiple trips, so we stuffed everything into our packs and started hiking out. I’m only about 120 pounds, so carrying an 80-pound pack out was extremely difficult. Whenever I would sit down to rest, Lance would have to lift the weight of my pack in order for me to get back on my feet. By the time we got back to our vehicle, I was wrecked.”

Since her first hunt, Perez has been hooked, successfully harvesting on an antlerless mule deer tag she got during the first-come, first-served process, helping a friend on their cow elk hunt, and even going turkey hunting in Oregon.

“Every hunt has been very different but also special in their own ways,” said Perez. “Hunting is not just about the act of harvesting an animal, there’s so much more to it. The anticipation of drawing a tag, scouting the area, seeing amazing landscapes, camping with your friends, the thrill of the hunt, and enjoying a meal with the meat you earned. I definitely wish I had started this pursuit sooner in life. If you’re ever interested in trying out a new activity or accomplishing a specific goal, never let barriers or challenges hold you back from achieving those goals.”

"Hunting is not just about the act of harvesting an animal, there’s so much more to it... I definitely wish I had started this pursuit sooner in life."