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Clay Hayes’ ‘Ascent’ is Another Gem of a Film


Clay Hayes has done it again. He’s created a film that speaks to the hunter and adventurer in each of us. ‘Ascent’ is that film.

Ascent is the latest film by traditional bowhunter Clay Hayes. It’s a good one, too. The film has as much to do with preparing for and documenting the psychological tangents of the hunt as the hunt itself. Taking a mule deer is almost secondary.

“There’s time when an empty freezer sets your priorities,” says Hayes. “And then there’s other times when you can afford to look at inefficiency and adversity as virtues. As something to be sought out and embraced…rather than avoided. This is the story of one of those times.”

Ascent makes a perfect bookend to Hayes other film, ‘Untamed’, which I’d encourage you to watch.

Killing is the least part of the equation, says Hayes’ hunting partner Chuck Boggs. It’s really about the hunting, about overcoming adversity, about immersing oneself into the wild.

The hunt takes place in the steep, brutal mountains of Idaho. “It’s challenging,” says Twisted Stave crew member Boggs. “And typically people who are bowhunters, they enjoy a challenge.”

“When you do that. When you throw up that level of uncertainty,” Hayes remarks, “and build this huge challenge up in front of yourself, and when you are able to top that, when you’re able to overcome that…it’s such a feeling of accomplishment.”

“I think eventually you just come to realize,” he says, “that how meaningful something is to you, on a personal level, is directly influenced by how hard it is to get.”

After hunting for several days Hayes comes to realize that this mule deer hunt is tougher than he expected it to be. Getting close to the animals is very hard in this mountainous and brittle country.

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So he decides to try a different tack. He assumes the posture and presence of a non-predator, almost casually and nonchalantly moving through the country, so that the deer will become accustomed to his presence.

“There’s a lot of things that have to line up that are out of your control,” Says Hayes. “If luck isn’t with you that day, it’s just not going to happen.”

He arrows a good healthy mule deer buck – not a monster – and reflects on the journey. “We all choose our own mountains,” he says. “whether it’s the nature of the country we choose to hunt in, the nature of the animal, or the efficiency of our weapons. Hunting is about overcoming adversity.”

“I think there’s definitely something to be said about taking that more difficult path. You know, if you hunt like this you’re probably not going to end up with the biggest buck on the mountain. But, that’s alright. Because it’s not about the hero picture from the top of the mountain. It’s about how you get there. It’s about the ascent.”

Like what you see here? You can read more great articles by David Smith at his facebook page, Stumpjack Outdoors.

NEXT: ‘Untamed’: A Traditional Bowhunting Film Celebrating Life

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Clay Hayes’ ‘Ascent’ is Another Gem of a Film