Bowhunting isn’t all trophy shots and taxidermy bills. It also involves lots of hard work, disappointments and sobering realities.
And even though we often wish bowhunting were easier, its realities make it incredibly fun. Its special blend of season-long suffering make success sweeter and stories more interesting.
Whether this was your first season or your 20th, you likely encountered your share of bowhunting realities. Given that misery loves company, let’s look at some of the challenges we all face.
You Might Not See Deer
You’ve spent hours scouting, and you reviewed a daily deer parade on your trail cameras. You think you’ve found the perfect hunting spot. But when you finally sat in that magical stand, you saw nothing.
You’re not alone. Beginning and veteran bowhunters often pick great hunting spots and see no deer. That doesn’t mean your hunt was a waste of time. You likely experienced other sights and experiences of great value. Maybe you saw a beautiful sunrise or enjoyed the antics and sounds of squirrels and songbirds.
Deer-free days are also learning experiences for improving as a bowhunter. They provide opportunities to problem-solve. Maybe the winds were wrong or the deer’s food source changed. If you can figure out the reason deer avoided the area, you’ll learn valuable information that boosts your odds later.
It’s also possible it’s a great spot but the deer just didn’t follow the script. Bowhunting involves gambles and playing the odds. It offers no guarantee you’ll see deer or get a shot. All we can do is evaluate each situation and make the best guess about where to hunt. The more time we spend in the woods, the more we increase our odds of success.
If you’ve ever descended from a treestand and found your arrow covered in dirt instead of blood, you know what it’s like to miss. Missing doesn’t mean you’re a bad shot or that you should throw away your bow. It just means you’re human.
Still, we can all improve and shoot more confidently the next time. If you missed a shot this season consider taking archery lessons and trying competitive 3-D shooting. Both activities will make you a better archer and prepare you for your next opportunity.
What’s a Trophy?
Magazines and TV shows make it seem like every woodlot holds big bucks. That’s just not true.
Bucks grow large antlers when they benefit from age, genetics and nutrition. In many regions, deer simply don’t have access to those three ingredients. But even in areas that do, arrowing a mature buck requires lot of work and some luck.
Big bucks are really cool, and seeing them in the wild is a fantastic experience. But they aren’t what makes bowhunting great. Don’t define hunting success by the size of the deer you arrow. Define your bowhunts by the experiences and challenges nature provides. Getting close to an animal and arrowing it with a bow takes great skill. That’s why any animal taken with a bow is a true trophy.
How You’ll Feel After the Shot
You’ve achieved your ultimate goal and you’re ecstatic. Don’t be shocked if you’re also solemn and even a little sad. Such mixed feelings are natural after you’ve taken an animal’s life. You probably need to take a minute to absorb the moment. Everyone processes these situations differently, and it’s tough to predict how you’ll feel.
Bowhunting often throws us curve balls, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. If it didn’t, we would too easily focus on results rather than the entire bowhunting experience. Hunting should help us interact with nature more richly and intimately. When you see bowhunting as an experience, not just a personal conquest, you’ll find it far more rewarding.