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Never take anything for granted and learn from mistakes

In preparation for our upcoming bear hunt, I (as in the past) have been keeping a journal of notes of things to remember to take along and things to do before we go: licenses, gear, maps, clothes for warm and cool weather, and such. Of course, as usual, we’ll probably end up with twice as much as we need, but more is better.
I was talking recently about some experiences that most hunters would rather forget: the missed shots. So I thought I would share mine as a lesson in humility. Whether we care to admit it or not, we are not perfect. We can blame the weapons, blame the wind, blame the stars, but all in all we just miss. As long as we learn from them, we can use our mistakes as a positive experience.
Probably the one hunt that haunts me the most happened many years ago on my own property. It was early November, and the deer rut was on full throttle. I had set a ladder stand near a key crossing near a ravine, creating a pinch point of deer travel. I hadn’t had a lot of compound bow practice, so I took an older crossbow with me. No problem, right?
I settled into the stand just before sunrise, and of course the deer never show for at least 30 minutes, or at least that's what we had been told. Like I said, this was many years ago.

Anyway, no more had I settled in when I heard him coming up behind me. As I turned slowly, there he was, the largest rack I had ever seen up close headed directly at me.
I knew if I moved, he would spot me, so I held still right up until he nearly brushed against my ladder. I don't really know if you could have called it buck fever, but I found him in my crossbow scope at nearly a point-blank, straight-down shot. At that range in a scope, you cannot tell what is shoulder or what is butt. All you see is brown.
I did this one other time in Africa when I tried to shoot my zebra stallion at 50 yards with my scope cranked at 12 power: nothing but white. I did manage to take that zebra with shots of 150 and 220 yards.
But back to my story. I rushed the shot (panicked) and saw the crossbow bolt sticking in the ground. The buck ran about 80 yards and stopped. I did notice his tail was down and not up, which a lot of times indicates a wounded animal. I scrambled for another bolt, but he trotted away, out of sight.
I waited about 15 minutes, walked to where he had been standing and found a few drops of blood, but they disappeared after only a few yards. I searched for about an hour with no sign. Crawling back in my stand, another buck came, and it happened again. Only this time the buck wasn't quite as big, and I had learned my lesson.
As he cleared the stand at about 20 yards, I placed the bolt right through the “boiler room." He ran about 20 yards and flipped end over end: my consolation buck.
But that’s not the end of the story. A couple weeks later my neighbor called to tell me one of my friends shot the monster buck at nearly point-blank range with his 20 gauge as the buck ran right at him. The deer landed at his feet. When they turned the buck over to inspect him, there was about a 4-inch cut in his back from my arrow, missed by an inch of a spinal shot. With a wide, heavy 10-point rack, we both estimated the antler score to be in the 180s.
Life is like that. We make stupid mistakes. We get careless and fall sometimes. Isn’t it a blessing to know we have a Heavenly Father who not only is willing to forgive us, but also pick us up and set us back on the right path again. We just need to remember not to take him for granted and learn from our mistakes.
God bless.

Published: August 11, 2017
New Article ID: 2017170819998