Last weekend, I missed a bruiser almost directly beneath my stand. If you read my previous article, you can count and that makes two beautiful bucks with some degree of injury still hiding out in the area. The beautiful typical 4x4 was still in velvet and he never meandered or gave me a broadside look until I came to full draw. Struggling with the angle and at leveling my bow, I put the 20 yard pin in front of his rib cage and let loose. Devastated, I watched my arrow thump him in the rump, missing his spine and leaving the trophy buck indignant. He shuddered but didn't take a step! I grabbed for another arrow and promptly removed my entire quiver. As I fumbled to extract one more piece of precious ammo, the 175 plus monarch took a few steps and disappeared from the last of my shooting lane. I watched helplessly as he and his six teammates, a sea of velvet antlers, melted into the junipers and buckbrush. Moments later they climbed out of the steep canyon to my right, their leader ominous as he stared back at me from mid hill, my arrow jutting skyward from his generous rear, glaring at the little wasp who'd dared to sting him. I felt more like an ant at that moment. He teased me with a glimmer of hope as he balked at jumping the fence with the rest of the herd, instead opting to circle back down into the canyon. I heard a crash as he skidded down the hill and then a loud "twang" as he somehow made contact with the fence. Hoping to find him tangled up with some barbed wire, I snuck into the spot where I'd last heard commotion and found my arrow neatly pointing towards his escape route. There was blood on my two blade rage but it only traveled about three inches up the shaft. A glob of blood roughly the size of a quarter lay on the other side of the fence. I spent the rest of the day trying to track him across the shale and rock to no avail. The next day, I headed up to where I knew they liked to bed, only to glass the other six bucks traveling right past my previous stand location! Dumbfounded, I set up ambush at the top of the ridge where they had escaped the day before, only to have them cross out of range as the youngest "scout spike" had me pinned from about 10 yards away. Unable to move without spooking the scout, I had to watch my bow hunting dreams again elude me and I suppose it was at that exact moment that I started to conjure up my plan to return for the last weekend, stubbornly refusing to admit defeat.
|Perseverance pays off for the author on a nice high-desert muley|
Tred Barta loves to say that he learns more from failure than he ever would from success and I think it is true. Losing two bucks taught me a ton. I love to practice with all kinds of different set ups and even tried to simulate shooting from a tree stand. But I never practiced shooting straight down and it cost me a 175 inch class buck. Upon experimenting with this angle, I realized that there is only a small window where you can make an accurate shot. Trying to shoot straight down and to either side will leave you "out of bubble"; a risky shot at best. I've also learned how to "range" any possible obstructions with my pins to avoid deflection. Even though In hindsight, I probably should've passed on both of the earlier shots I had taken and probably will if presented with the same looks in the future. Nevertheless, my misses and painstakingly bloodless tracking sessions made me question the effectiveness of an expandle broadhead and for my last hunt, I switched to a cut on contact and was ecstatic with it's performance. One trick is to use a rubber O ring between the tip and the shaft that allows the broadhead blades to be lined up with the fletching. Set up this way, my point of impact was nearly identical to a field point which was what sold me on expandables in the first place. I didn't like that they could open in the quiver or field at the moment of truth or that, after shooting them once, they are basically useless. The Montec G5 is simple and bulletproof. I could've picked up my bloody arrow and shot it again if necessary. Re-sharpening is simple and the extra five bucks will pay off after your first shot.
Driving home after dropping the body off at Enoch Wood's (seriously?) butcher shop, I felt a huge sense of relief at having sealed the deal on my last trip. I wondered briefly how I would've felt if I hadn't filled my tag but I already knew that I couldn't have stayed home regardless. Yes, I feel a twinge of remorse at having two nice bucks slip between my fingers but I find solace in the fact that they are tough as hell, they are and always will be part of the food chain and I came to realize one simple fact: you can't kill em if you don't shoot.