September 06, 2016
At first glance, it would seem to be a long way from the small-game-filled woodlots and uplands of Ohio to the bear-rich tundra of Alaska and the African Savannah where Cape buffalo roam. For adventure bowhunter Tom Miranda, however, the distance is only as long as the small-game trap lines he learned to run as a youngster. Those early lessons would pave the way toward a hunting career the likes of which haven't been seen since the days of the legendary bowhunter Fred Bear or big-game hunting writer Jack O'Connor.
If Bear set the original bowhunting standard by traveling the globe to hunt big-game animals and find unparalleled adventure depicted in his TV programs and his acclaimed Fred Bear's Field Notes book, Miranda has taken that concept even further, successfully arrowing a Super Slam of all 29 North American big-game animals along with successfully bowhunting the Dangerous Six big-game species in Africa.
What's more, he has had a cameraman in tow all along the way in an effort to record all of this worldwide bowhunting adventures for his outdoor television programs, DVD series and a couple of superb books. Traveling the world this way has led to a highly-successful television career for Miranda as he hunts, videos and produces Territories Wild with Tom Miranda and Adventure Bowhunter with Tom Miranda shows for Outdoor Channel and the Dominant Bucks and Whitetail Slam programs for Sportsman Channel. All of this hunting excellence and camera work found Miranda standing in rarefied air few other bowhunters have ever experienced.
"In February 2016, I earned the coveted SCI (Safari Club International) world hunting award," said Miranda. "I am one of five bowhunters who have accomplished it [this goal] and I was able to get all the hunts and kills on video [for viewers to see]."
How Trapping Helped Me
While it's hard enough to accomplish all of these bowhunting feats by themselves, it's much more difficult when a cameraman gets added to the mix. But thanks to woodsmanship skills Miranda learned as a small-game trapper of raccoons, muskrats and minks while growing up near Columbus, Ohio, the longtime adventure bowhunter has been able to get the job done.
"Successful trapping is all about getting the target animal to step in a specific place," said Miranda, who eventually became a professional and government trapper in places like the upper peninsula of Michigan and the rangelands of South Dakota.
"Learning animal habits and signs is paramount to success," he added. "Bowhunting is the same as bowhunting is all about understanding animals and learning how to get close enough to seal the deal.
"Just as muskrats are different than foxes, and deer are different than brown bear, learning animal habits helps both trappers and bowhunters."
While there might not seem to be many parallels between running a trap line in the American Midwest and pursuing dangerous game on the African Savannah, there are similarities in Miranda's eyes.
"Predators must be looked at differently and in bowhunting dangerous game, the element of surprise is important as is learning to set up a scenario that can protect the hunter, like a natural barrier, etc.," he said.
If the lessons are familiar, Miranda admits he still has to pinch himself when thinking about where it all started and where it has all led.
"Adventure bowhunting is stepping outside your comfort zone to hunt an animal you've never seen in a habitat you've never been [in]," he said. "It's the adventure of new cultures, habitats, animals and challenges. The biggest hurdle is a person's mindset that white-tailed deer and elk are the only species worthy [of bowhunting]."
Another hurdle to overcome is understanding that the education process is a never-ending one regardless of how much big-antler success a hunter, like Miranda, has previously found.
"I never dreamed [I'd do any of this]," said Miranda, who is now a longtime Florida resident. "Originally, I was a trapper who liked to bowhunt. When my [first] TV show was accepted by ESPN in early 1992, you can bet I was in for an education.
"The first thing I learned was 'do what you do best and don't look back.'"
As he filmed his television show and began to find more and more adventure away from the whitetail woods he still loves hunting to this very day, it didn't take long for Miranda to see he loved seeking and finding excitement on difficult and far-flung hunts.
"I always loved the adrenaline hunts whether it was the altitude or dangerous animals," said Miranda. "Case in point, my first hunts toward the Super Slam included mountain goat and brown bear."
Somewhere in the journey, Miranda decided to try for the Super Slam, and to get it all on film, something no other bowhunter had ever accomplished.
To do so was more of a long and difficult journey rather than an exciting one-time destination.
"My mentality is that it's great to have big goals, like a Super Slam," said Miranda. "However, that goal is a lifetime achievement. It takes lots of little goals and little wins to stack up the experience and miles that it takes to eventually arrow all 29 North American big-game animals."
And like most other things in life, Miranda has discovered the riches of the journey often outweigh the lure of the destination.
"Because any huge goal takes so much work over such a long period of time, once you've accomplished it, it's almost surreal," he said. "It's almost a dream that it's [finally] over and you won."
Thanks to Miranda's goal of capturing all of the hunts and big-game animal harvests on video, it's a lifetime of bowhunting adventure he and others can relive.
"My goal was to capture all the arrow impacts on video and to make a DVD on the Super Slam," he said. "Adventure Bowhunter Quest for the Super Slam is the first and only Super Slam DVD with all of the hunts, all of the impacts, etc."
In making that DVD, Miranda found himself courting danger and adventure that even Fred Bear hadn't found in all of his exploits.
My Most Memorable Hunts
"One of my most memorable animals was the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in the Canmore bow zone of the Canadian Rockies," said Miranda. "It was minus 30 to 40 degrees and we found two feet of snow at 10,000 feet during the month of November.
"It's still the hardest bowhunt I've ever done and it was the defining point in me seriously going after and completing the Slam. Also, it was my first wild sheep of the sheep Grand Slam, and taken in such tough conditions, I knew if I could do that, I could get the Super Slam [accomplished]."
Another memorable big-game harvest was Miranda's huge Alaskan brown bear.
"I shot my first brown bear early on and it aired on my ESPN show," he said. "It was exciting as we had great footage and I remember how nervous I was. There's nothing like bowhunting dangerous game."
That sentiment was echoed when Miranda recounted some especially on a dark and lonely nights spent deep in the wilds of the African continent.
"My Mozambique leopard is very memorable since I did five separate safaris in my quest of arrowing a leopard," said Miranda. "It's a hard fought trophy with a bow. In the blind, it's a spooky feeling to know that while you are waiting in the dark for the leopard, there are elephant, hippos, lions and snakes all outside your blind. And when the leopard comes in, everything has to be perfect or you will not succeed."
While Miranda acknowledges many of the hunts he has been on are both difficult and expensive, he resists the notion that the average bowhunter can't find his or her own adventure.
"Start small and do a pronghorn hunt in Wyoming or South Dakota," said Miranda. "Plan well, look for a bowhunting outfitter [with a good track record] and relish all aspects of the hunt, not just the kill itself. Adventure bowhunting is [ultimately] all about the experiences."
Once a bowhunter gets a few successful hunts under their belt, the sky is literally the limit in a world filled with outdoors adventure.
"As you graduate up, look for areas of the world that intrigue you," said Miranda. "Look at it as a vacation into the wilds. For instance, as I'm answering the questions for this interview, I am actually in Spain right now bowhunting Roe deer. And, like most of my other adventures, the people and the culture here are amazing."
For a journey that started in the woodlands of Ohio, bowhunting and seeking adventure around the globe has led to a lifetime of memories and superb outdoor television programming for Miranda.
"All of my hunts are memorable to me," he said. "But here's a little perspective. It took me 13 years to complete the archery Super Slam of the 29 big-game animals in North America. And it took me 18 years to arrow all of Africa's dangerous-six animals."
If Miranda is forced to narrow the list of memorable hunts down to one, he admits there is a solid candidate for him to consider.
"My hunts for elephant, hippo, leopard, polar bear, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, and Stone sheep were all memorable," he said. "But it's hard to forget my hunt for a desert bighorn sheep, which was my 29th North American big-game species. When I arrowed that sheep, it earned me both the archery Grand Slam of sheep hunting and the archery Super Slam of North American big game."
Accomplishments like this might seem to be a long way from an American hunter from the Midwest, but they really aren't far away for a man who can keep learning and dreaming throughout the journey.
Just ask Tom Miranda, a bowhunter who has climbed from the trap lines of Ohio to some of the loftiest and most adventure-filled places the hunting world has to offer.