Top Deer Hunting Mistakes

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bowhunting from a tree stand
Never assume anything; especially that you have a certain shot “in the bag”. Whitetails are very unpredictable; no matter how much we like to think we can predict their actions. Harvesting one with archery tackle is a unique, and sometimes difficult, task. “Counting your chickens before they hatch” can complicate matters even further. Hunter shown wearing Mathews Lost Camo.

Looking back this deer hunter had only himself to blame because he chose to do all of my practicing at ground level; even though he planned to hunt exclusively from a treestand. Not the best decision. As a result, he never gave a moments thought to bending at the waist; simply because he had failed to make it part of his daily shot process.

He quickly learned that in order to get the most out of his practice sessions they needed to resemble the “real thing” as closely as possible. It does little good to shoot arrow after arrow on a flat, comfortable lawn, at known distances, if a hunting shot will likely be taken from 15 feet off of the ground, at a whitetail standing on the downhill side of a 45 degree mountain slope.

Lesson Learned: If you hunt from a treestand therefore you should practice exactly how you plan to hunt----from a treestand.

In The Pit

As a deer hunter watched a clueless buck make his way closer to his tree stand, he couldn’t help but think of the previous year and the tag he had filled from the exact same tree. “I’m going to make it two in a row”, he uttered under his breath. Hauling back the bow string he settled into his anchor position and waited for just the right shot……but it never came.

Just at the last second the buck took a few steps off of the abandoned logging road he was walking on. This turned him slightly quartering away and put his vitals further downhill; just over the lip of the road and nearly out of sight. In his heart the deer hunter knew exactly what his next move should have been. Unfortunately, he let his head cloud his judgment and made a very immature, selfish decision. Those feelings were confirmed as he watched my florescent yellow arrow nock slip quietly through the paunch of the unsuspecting 8 point. As the wounded buck moved away with an obviously painful gait I felt a strong sense of shame.

Now, he could continue weaving this tale and somehow try to justify or give validity to his decision. This deer hunter could tell you that he thought it was a shot he could make. You don’t want to experience the same ill-feeling he felt that crisp October morning. The one that settles in the pit of your gut when you know you’ve compromised your ethics and forced a shot that was wrong; simply because you didn’t want to loose the opportunity to fill a tag or live up to the mostly unattainable “image” of what a lot of folks think a successful bowhunter is----which is exactly what he did.



If it can go wrong, often times it will. However, you can lower the effects of “Murphy’s Law” by paying strict attention to the “little things”. For example, seemingly harmless actions such as; wearing your hunting boots while driving to your hunting ground, shifting your weight in a noisy treestand, or taking the easiest route through the woods, all play a roll in the eventual outcome of your hunt. Hunter shown wearing Mathews Lost Camo.

That morning, with the release of one arrow, this deer hunter came to understand that what waits downrange isn’t made of foam. There are blood and consequences involved every time the bowstring jumps forward. In this case, the bowhunter simply let the pressure to perform influence his decision to take an otherwise poor shot. While he is not proud of how he handled the situation, he can say that what he found at the end of the faint blood trail taught him a lot about himself and the bowhunter he didn’t want to be.

You have to realize that in today’s society, where those who consistently put horn on the ground are quickly elevated to “rock star” status and looked upon as elite bowhunters, it is tempting to sometimes bend your own principles in an effort to try and keep up; especially if a trophy buck is involved. However, you might have learned that, while entertaining, little of what you see on TV today resembles “real world” deer hunting. Therefore, trying to emulate it is a futile effort and will only bring about disappointment; eventually sucking the sheer enjoyment out of most bowhunting ventures.

Lesson Learned: There are consequences to you actions/respect yourself, respect the game, and everything else will take care of itself.

Fool Me Twice

The first time a deer hunter laid eyes on him he magically appeared some 25 yards away; standing broadsided among a crowd of oak trees. Thrilled at the opportunity to fill his tag on opening day with such a fine whitetail buck, he quickly came to full draw and sent a carbon missile directly beneath his chest and into a bewildered, rotten stump.

The second time he saw his “white whale” he was perched in the same tree two weeks later; only this time he was ready. He spotted him 100 yards out as he made his way through the subtle funnel; feeding on acorns that were falling like rain. Not wanting to blow his second chance at this particular buck, he made certain everything was “right” before taking the shot. With the angle perfect, and the distance a mere 10 yards (I could actually hear the acorns crunching in his mouth), he slowly came to full draw.

There is an unmistakable sound an arrow makes when it collides with rock and loose soil. And for reasons still unknown, that sound symbolizes the outcome of his shot that morning. All he could do was watch as the luckiest buck he had ever met bounced away from him for the second time; unscathed and obviously laughing every step of the way.

To this day this deer hunter can’t figure out what happened. He did everything right; bending at the waist, picking a spot, squeezing the trigger, etc. Still, he missed. If there was any solace to come out of the whole situation, it was that he had fooled this mature buck not once, but twice; due in large part to access routes and other low-profile methods. They say the third times a charm. Unfortunately, he never got to test that theory with this guy.

Lesson Learned: Coming to full draw guarantees nothing. Don’t loose focus in any aspect of the game because no matter what the situation, a buck isn’t going on your wall or in your freezer until your tag is actually on him.

Mr. Murphy

To this day he is one of the largest bucks this deer hunter ever tried to come to full draw on; which makes this lesson even harder to bear. We say “tried” because he never did get his bow string back on him. The truth of the matter is the entire doomed outcome of that fateful hunt rested entirely on his shoulders...literally.

Deep in the clutches of a late November daydream, this deer hunter slowly turned his head only to see the biggest buck of his life headed directly toward his tree stand position. Given the path he was on, the monarch would be within easy bow range in a matter of seconds. Regrettably though, he could not have foreseen the events that were about to transpire.

In his excitement to get settled into his tree stand, he had neglected to check that his safety harness would not impede his ability to draw his bow in certain directions. This would prove to be a costly mistake. As the 10 point trophy buck inched closer, he began pulling on the bow string. At about 3/4 of the way back he felt his elbow strike the harness. He could not come to full draw! His mind turned to gravy as he tried to reason his way out of the dilemma.

As if following a sinister script the buck stopped precisely in his shooting lane; staring directly at him. The deer hunter stood motionless; awaiting his next move and contemplating his. It was the definitive chess match. Suddenly, the behemoth put his nose in the air, and as expected, caught the scent of a hot doe bedded directly upwind of his position. Unfortunately for him, he was about to deliver his finishing move.

As he turned and began to move uphill toward her, the bowhunter quickly loosened his harness----just enough to reach full draw. “The game isn’t over yet“, he thought. However, to his utter disbelief he watched as the buck walked the entire distance tucked safely behind a large oak tree; only to emerge after he was well out of bow-range. As the happy couple moved slowly around the ridge two words echoed in his ears....check mate.

Lesson Learned: Murphy and his Law will always be lurking nearby and both should be given their due respect. Therefore, do everything in your power not to give either of them an opportunity to influence the outcome of your deer hunt. The Devil is in the details.


Now, you may think that perhaps this deer hunter is somewhat resentful about having made all of these blunders. Well, in all honesty he is not. Not in the least. In fact, it is just the opposite. You see, each one of them is responsible for making him the bowhunter he is today. And for the most part, that’s a guy he doesn't mind facing in the mirror each morning….he can live with that.



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