It's the one thing that no hunter wants to talk about: Missing or making a bad shot. In my case, I had a taste of both! It's not something any hunter is proud of, but what I have come to learn is that it is a part of bow hunting. It's not something you go back to deer camp and proudly announce to everyone. Instead, you sheepishly leave your stand thinking of what went wrong. Unfortunately, those questions will plague you for a very long time, especially if it was your target animal. Those questions are still haunting me a year later.
Last year on the opening day of archery season in Michigan, I sat my best spot and knew I had a very good chance of seeing at least one of the three shooter bucks I had frequenting that location all week prior. I was really hoping for the 4.5 year old 9 point to show up.
I hunt in Michigan where 650,000 hunters go into the woods every fall and annually under 20% of the bucks harvested are even three and a half years or older, so seeing a 4.5 year old in the daylight was rare to say the least. I wasn't in my stand for more than 30 minutes when the deer starting pouring into the field. After watching all of the does, fawns and young bucks feeding in the cut hay field for an hour or so, I noticed they started to watch the woods intently off to my left and within minutes, out came the giant 9 point heading my way. Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to encounter! The 9 point walked broadside in front of me at 20 yards and I was shaking so bad I thought he would hear my knees knocking! I drew back, set my anchor point, aimed and released my arrow. Although the shot felt great, he didn't even budge, I had missed. I had shot right over top of him. He looked around a little and kept eating. Anxiously I nocked another arrow and waited for another shot. In the meantime, another shooter walked out and was standing right next to him, upping my anxiety level 200%! When the buck presented another shot, I took it and watched my arrow make contact! I could not believe my eyes, but as he ran off I instantly had the fear that I had shot too high.
I got down quietly and left as I knew it wasn't a perfect shot and we wanted to give him time. Unfortunately, by the time I got home it was pouring rain. Adding yet another dilemma to my already dismal situation. That night, we received over 1.5 inches of rain so a blood trail was not even an option. We called for dogs and were told that much rain in that short of time would have likely washed most of the scent away. We found my arrow completely intact about 150 yards away. My fixed blade broadhead contained only a few pieces of meat on the backside of the blades suggesting the arrow was pulled back out of the entry hole leaving no exit wound, another indication of a high hit.
Many tears were shed over missing the buck of a lifetime in Michigan. I did not see that deer again the entire season in person or on camera so I feared the worst and was determined to keep looking for a deadhead come spring. After countless searches and many miles walked uncovering nothing, I was ecstatic to hear the news that a family member finally found his shed about a quarter mile away from where I shot him. Now that I know he survived, I will be back on the same farm in October hoping for redemption!
Missing him took the wind out of my sail. I had no desire to hunt for the entire month of October. After talking with fellow hunters, I found out that if you haven't missed, you haven't hunted enough! It was so comforting to hear that almost everyone has a story of missing or something that went wrong when the conditions seemed perfect! Missing is not something you read about on social media or see much on TV. All that you see are pictures of hunters holding their trophies, smiling from ear to ear and when you blow an opportunity as bad as I did, it seems like there are millions of successful harvests helping rub salt into the wound! It's not discussed because no one is proud of the fact that they made a mistake! I have learned that it's OK to miss! I have learned so much from that one situation and I hope to grow from it and become a better hunter. Failure makes us stronger as people and as hunters. The support I gathered from fellow hunters made me realize it's only human to miss or make mistakes and we can only grow from those mistakes. Most importantly, when you are out in the woods this season and something doesn't go right, remember that life is about growing and learning from our failures. Take those mishaps and make yourself stronger for next time. Good luck this season!