It was the best of bowhunting days. It was the worst of bowhunting days. It was finally living a moment I’ve been waiting for for about eighteen years, only to see it disappear and vanish into oblivion – as if it were only a dream – in the blink of an eye. It was awesome. It was horrible.
They say there are moments in life that truly define us, and I don’t think hunting is any different. There are plenty of moments within our hunting careers that define us as hunters and, as in life, how we handle those moments, especially the negative ones, is what truly defines what kind of hunters we are. I had one of those moments this past week.
On Sunday night I was living a dream for approximately ten minutes. Not everyone’s buck-of-a-lifetime, but my buck-of-a-lifetime so far, was slowly, after being spooked off a nearby ridge by who knows what, working his way into one of my shooting lanes. I had the camera in the perfect position, I was positioned perfectly, and I was able to draw on him without him having any clue I was anywhere near. As I came to full draw, though, instead of walking straight across my shooting lane, and presenting a perfect broadside shot, he walked a path which put him quartering to me. I had to hold….and hold….and hold at full draw before he finally turned slightly to his right and presented a decent shot. I debated about letting down – about letting down and seeing what would happen – but I was so afraid that if I did, the moment would pass forever. I settled the pin behind the front shoulder, took a deep breath, lodged my shaky, knobby knees against the seat of the stand, and proceeded to make an absolute rookie mistake.
I dropped by bow arm.
When I replay the moment over and over I can totally feel myself do it. I can recall being perfectly behind the sight pin, slowly squeezing the trigger and, in the heat of the moment – with all of the anticipation of what could be – dropping my arm and looking to see where the arrow would go before it actually got there. A classic rookie mistake.
There aren’t any excuses. I simply missed. And watched the arrow pass harmlessly underneath him, the red tracer lighting the way. It wasn’t because of lack of practice. It wasn’t because I don’t shoot enough, or because I haven’t shot at a deer before. It was simply because, in the moment of a lifetime, I was completely rattled and didn’t take my time with my shot.
These are the moments that define us as hunters. I’ll get a lot of ribbing for missing – you can be sure about that – and I filmed probably the most honest segment of my filming career after missing him. But one thing I will not do is let this moment go without learning my lesson. I’ll take my time when it happens again – and it will happen again – and instead of using the moment as a negative, it will drive me the rest of the season.
Honestly, though it sucks that I missed, it has rejuvenated my bowhunting spirit. It was horrible. And awesome! And I can’t wait for my next chance.