Just stay in the game

Have you ever had one of those seasons when nothing seems to work out? No matter what you try, you just can't get it done. How you deal with a season like this will likely dictate your success.

Regardless of how long you hunt, you can still have a slump season. Because there are so many things that can potentially go wrong, it’s surprising we ever harvest a deer. From equipment loss and failure to tactical errors and poor timing, we must learn to overcome these obstacles if we want a successful hunting season.

For my father and me, this just happens to be one of those seasons. I was out of town for the first three weeks of bow season. I thought that might be a good thing because my absence in the woods would have the deer comfortable during prime time.

I guess that was just wishful thinking.

I entered the woods to find myself a bit out of step. It seems like the deer know exactly what I'm going to do and react accordingly to avoid me. On my first trip into the woods, I jumped three does not 100 yards from where I had intended to set up. They ran dead center through the entire woodlot, snorting their distress call. They basically told every deer in the neighborhood that there was danger nearby.

That in itself could have ruined my hunt, but it gets worse.

I entered the woods to find that the wind is swirling. It was blowing out of the west one minute, to switch directly out of the east another. Within minutes, I had experienced wind from every direction. I never set up and headed home thinking, is this the start of a bad season?

I learned years ago that when the wind is swirling, you should just go home. In most cases, you have a better chance getting a deer with your car than with your bow on days like that. The trick is not to let it get you down.

When I was young, I would skip hunts out of frustration. If something went wrong the day before, I would let it get me down and not want to go the next. Over time, I have learned to accept failure and focus only on the next day. With the rising of the sun comes a new chance, and what happened yesterday typically doesn't matter. I say “typically” because equipment failure is a bit harder to shake off. I know of several people that have accidentally cut their bow string with a broad head. This will likely keep you out of the woods for days, unless you have a spare. My father lost his bow release this past Saturday. He only had Sunday left to hunt; so rather than buy a new one, he decided not to go.

Personally, I have ruined many hunts by simply forgetting gear. On occasion I have forgotten my gun or bow. Once I headed home for my gun and on my way into the woods, I shot a nice eight point buck. Had I gotten mad and not gone back, I would have never shot the deer.

On another occasion, I left my bow on the front porch. I drove out to Preston from Norwich and had to head back. I decided to go close to the house rather than drive back. I shot a doe within half an hour of setting up. Once again, not letting myself give up helped me be successful.

When you almost get a shot and something goes wrong, you will experience a range of emotions. You start off discouraged, then move to frustrated and finally start second guessing your set up. You go through the shoulda, coulda, woulda scenarios for days or even years. A change in inches can mean the difference between success and failure. A single twig or sapling can deflect an arrow and ruin a hunt. You will likely remove the obstacle and wonder why you hadn't done it in the first place. I missed one of the biggest deer I have targeted because of a strand of barbed wire. I felt there was enough room and took the shot. The arrow was deflected to the ground and landed at the bucks feet. I cut the wire and continued hunting. Only a few days later, I arrowed my best bow buck. Once again, not giving up allowed me to be successful.

Sometimes you will experience an entire bow season blunder. I recommend brushing it off and grabbing the rifle, shotgun or muzzle loader and get even. Regular gun season opens this Saturday, November 15. I'm ready to even the playing field. Good wishes, and never give up.

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