7 replies [Last post]
Offline
Joined: 12/19/2005
Posts: 10
Hard Lessons Learned

This forum has provided me with so much information on a relatively new passion for me that I feel compelled to share my recent experience on the "one that got away" and the lessons I learned from it in hopes that my experience might help another hunter not repeat the same mistakes I made that cost me a very, very nice Mulie buck!

I've primarily hunted whitetails from a stand and subscribe to the "only take a shot if it's the right shot" theory. Thus every buck I've taken I've felled with one broadside lung shot. Perhaps this lead to a bit of overconfidence in my shooting skills or simply a dose of buck fever caused the heartache I'm about to describe.

My father-in-law and I were hunting in north central Nebraska on the look out for a "wall hanger" mule deer. We had both already gotten nice whitetails on his property in southern Nebraska and were hunting a 10,000 acre tract that a friend of his owns that is essentially not hunted. After a couple of days of riding the canyons and seeing some decent bucks I spotted a very nice buck with a herd of does. We stopped the pickup and I got out. The deer was 80 yards away (or so) and standing broadside staring right at me.

I shouldered my rifle, steadied (so I thought) and took an offhand shot (note: we had gone to Cabelas before our trip and I contemplated getting a shooting stick/rest but passed...lesson number 1: better to have more gear than you think you need) . The deer flinched but it was clearly from my bullet passing over him not from my bullet hitting him. He began to trot away and I reloaded and shot again...this time making sure to hold down. This time he flinched because he had been hit....took on a noticeable limp...went ten yards under a cedar and laid down. By this point my father-in-law was braced across the top of the pick up with his 270 and had the deer in his scope.

The deer still had his head up and I thought he was simply bleeding out. My father-in-law relaxed and I walked up to within 30 yards of the deer (lesson number 2: don't approach until it is clear the deer is completely down). I was tempted to put a finishing shot in, or have my father-in-law do it from his braced position but I thought that I had the deer through the shoulder so we both passed. I shouldered my rifle to look at the deer through my scope and he hops up and heads into cover and up over the hill on three legs. I realized that I hadn't hit through the shoulder but through the hock. (lesson number 3: never assume).

I pursued the buck up and over the hill (turns out even a 3 legged deer is faster than I am...haha) and spent the next four hours (until dark) combing the area for any sign of the deer. I caught one last glimpse of my 3 legged buck trotting after his does but couldn't find him in the cedars nor could I find a blood trail.

I went home that night sick over not only losing my deer but also with the knowledge that I had wounded an animal and wasn't able to recover it. Several hours of searching the next morning yielded no result.

Next year when I head back after my first mule deer I will:

1. Bring a rest of some sort, shooting sticks or the like and only shoot from a braced position, never offhand.
2. If I ever wound a deer and have any question as to whether it is down BEFORE I approach I will put a finishing shot in (if it's head is still up).
3. Never, ever, assume again that I'm as good a shot in the field as I am at the range.

Looking back on things, it seems so simple, but my self discipline deserted me in the heat of the moment. In any event, hopefully this post will help prevent someone from making the same mistakes that I did. Thanks again to all who write on these forums.....how many days till the season opens again????

Offline
Joined: 09/15/2006
Posts: 35
Hard Lessons Learned

Sorry about your tough luck! Sounds like you are aware of your mistakes however and are headed in the right direction. For me there is nothing tougher than wounding a animal and it getting away. Shooting sticks are a must in open country, i personally have used them with good results. Better luck in 07!

cowgal's picture
Offline
Moderator
Location: Colorado
Joined: 03/10/2002
Posts: 1787
Hard Lessons Learned

Thank you for sharing your story. Hopefully the experience will bring success to you in the future.

Offline
Moderator
Location: Kentucky/ Colorado
Joined: 06/23/2005
Posts: 1747
Hard Lessons Learned

jvc58dke, Thanks for sharing. Hopefully he will make it and you'll get him next year.

Don Fischer's picture
Offline
Moderator
Location: Antelope, Ore
Joined: 03/24/2005
Posts: 3205
Hard Lessons Learned

Welcome to the site.

A good example of why to learn to shoot from prone, sitting and kneeling position's. I've never used stix when deer or elk hunting and the number of off hand shot's I've taken in my life, with a rifle, you could count on the fingers of one hand. Stix and bi-pods are not the answer although they will force you into better shooting positions just to be able to use them. Ever seen a set of stix or a bi-pod for shooting off hand?

My most used shooting position is sitting. I can drop into it with all stress relieved. Kneeling is second most used and third steadiest. Prone is steadiest but first it takes more time to get into and then I usually find things like grass or rocks in the way. Or I end up laying with my head pointing down hill to much to shoot well at a target across a small gulch or whatever.

Learn to use sitting and kneeling well. Out fooling around, I take my stix, home made. And they certainly help. But when deer or elk or any game hunting where I do a lot of walking, they are just one more thing to carry. A bi-pod hanging on the front of the rifle throws the balance of the rifle off and adds weight that still must be carried just to have it avaliabe for the prone shot I find hardest to set up for.

Offline
Location: Idaho
Joined: 02/28/2006
Posts: 162
Hard Lessons Learned

If you can drop to a knee, 80 yards is a chip shot. Also practice standing shots a lot even if you never plan to take one. Hunting doesn't always go as planned. Stand in your house with your rifle (unloaded of course) and hold your rifle up until your arm starts to shake. That will strengthen those exact muscles if you do it 3 or 4 times a week. That story gave me stomach cramps. He probably didn't live much longer. Hock hits make them easy prey for predators and a lot of times other hunters. Just don't give up, be out there next year.
Hank

Offline
Joined: 12/19/2005
Posts: 10
Hard Lessons Learned

Hank,

Thanks for the advice on the exercises...will definitely employ that practice. On the stomach cramp issue...trust me...I have regular nightmares....hopefully will be cured by next years hunt!

Offline
Location: Arizona
Joined: 04/25/2007
Posts: 12
Hard Lessons Learned

Oh Man! What a bummer! Sorry to here. Keep your head up and do better next year. Good luck!

Related Forum Threads You Might Like

ThreadThread StarterRepliesLast Updated
Hard Lessons Learnedbnow0707301/04/2007 00:11 am
Early Hunt Weekendrookie in kansas310/01/2007 21:07 pm
Mistakes made may help newbiesredrider1110/26/2006 18:58 pm
WOOHOO!yankeehunter1010/04/2008 19:42 pm
Great Huntwaltor1980611/13/2008 15:43 pm