Highs and Lows of Hunting With my Bow

It’s been an interesting few weeks. Deer season has been open for archery only and I, along with my wife and my cousin, have been trying very hard to harvest animals with our bows for the first time. I’ve had everything I need, the gear, the time, and some great locations to hunt in, but the experience has been a mix of excitement and frustration.

Sitting in frost being one of the less pleasant parts

Sitting in frost being one of the less pleasant parts

I have been out most often by far with my cousin Garry, and over the course of a few outings we very quickly established some favorite spots and most likely areas to see deer in. On one field in particular we have found heaps of tracks and trails showing that many deer are frequenting the area. It’s this field that we have focused most of our hunting time in.

Oh yeah, this is a good sign

Oh yeah, this is a good sign

My wife and I have seen a number of deer running away when driving up to the field or walking trails, and I had spotted several while I was sitting one morning, though they were much too far away to do anything but watch. All of this has been very exciting and is definitely part of the thrill of hunting. I knew it was just a matter of time before one of us got a chance with our bows.

The weather has been mostly nice, and as always it has been a joy to be outside sitting quietly and watching the world wake up. It’s an experience you don’t truly appreciate until you’ve done it, and even without seeing any deer it is a relaxing and enjoyable time.


I could watch this every morning

To add to the excitement, I’ve had an interesting relationship with a big black bear and her cub. They live inside the main clump of bush that I watch, and so I’ve had the privilege of seeing her almost every time that I’ve gone out alone. I’m not sure what it is with me and bears, they are never around when other people are with me, however all summer long I run into them when i’m out alone in the bush or I’ll even see them often on the shore from my kayak while i’m fishing.

We got off to a rocky start, her and I, having first encountered each other mere yards apart in the near pitch black after sundown while I was walking back to my truck. We gave each other a good scare that night, though I suspect only one of us peed a little.

We’ve developed an understanding since then, however. I’ve learned where she likes to come out and cross the field in the evenings so I can give her some space, and she doesn’t eat me. It’s fair and reasonable, I think, and watching her wander around a few dozen yards away every evening has helped break up the boredom while I sit waiting for deer to show up.

It doesn't take an expert to figure out where they are crossing

It wasn’t hard figuring out where she liked to cross

Finally, towards the end of archery season, after sitting out for hours on end through frost and wind and rain, it happened.

Garry and I were out for the evening, on a nice clear day, and some deer finally walked out in front of me. I was sitting on the backside of a little hill, looking at a treeline and with a small stretch of field between. They walked out right where I was hoping they would, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect opportunity.

A great location

A great location

I sat patiently and watched them walk around for a little while as they slowly worked their way further into the field, and close to my hill. With my rangefinder I picked out one doe at about 60 yards, a long shot for me to be sure, but a distance for which my bottom pin was set for and had been perfectly accurate on a target.

Opportunity knocks

Well, hello there

I came up to my knees, got on target, and let fly. I missed horribly, the arrow went nowhere near the doe and only succeeded in startling it. I ducked back down behind the hill, annoyed but chalking it up to a combination of nerves and being a distance I probably hadn’t practiced enough.

Luckily, the noise only startled them for a moment, and they very shortly returned to grazing. To my delight, the biggest doe in the group began making her way towards the hill, at an angle that would have her walking past on my left side. I could see where she was headed, and every step she took put her closer to me and lined her up perfectly broadside to me. Finally she was within 30 yards, and I drew up on target again. This was the absolute perfect circumstances for a shot, and I missed horribly again. The arrow flew off about 10 yards in front of her nose and stuck into the mud, scaring her and all the rest of the deer away back into the bush.

This was a crushing moment, and since Garry was still in his spot across the field, I had another hour before sundown to sit and stew over it. As I sat and sulked and thought about the problem I pretty quickly figured out what had likely gone wrong. I had slightly adjusted my sight to the side just before the season, and although I tightened it back up to what I thought was a secure fit, I also realized how much the bow had been jostled around and banged against other things in the back of my truck. It became pretty obvious to me as I thought about it and looked at my bow that the sight had been knocked off my zero, resulting in bad shots to the left at both distances.

When I hunt, I am not used to missing, and in nearly a decade of hunting I can count on one hand the number of animals I’ve shot at and missed. My accuracy with rifles is consistently good on both targets and animals, and although this was my first chance to shoot the bow at an animal, I have been target shooting both recurve and compound for many years. To have any shot lined up, never mind one as perfect as you could ask for, and then to miss, is for me, the absolute most frustrating experience in hunting. The fact that I have a hard case for my bow which would have prevented this, and chose not to use it, just makes it all the worse.

It was a terrible way for me to end my archery season, however I can’t ignore the lessons learned. My bow is hung up until next year, and my muzzle loader is now sighted in and ready to go. I took the time to practice with it at the gravel pits and to be doubly sure that the sights are still where I set them, and I will be doubly sure that I protect it when i’m transporting it. Time is running out to stock the freezer, and next time an opportunity presents itself, I won’t miss.


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