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Whitetail Lessons: Rainy Days

Over the years I have made plenty of errors. They used to leave me frustrated and disillusioned, but now I treat them as blessings in disguise. That’s because each blunder has highlighted a glaring weakness in my approach to bowhunting deer, and over time my efforts to overcome these inadequacies have not only made me a better woodsman, but a better deer hunter as well.

Such as one fall, I couldn’t wait to get back into the woods. The rut was about to break wide open near my home in upstate New York and I had just the spot to go, but when the weekend finally rolled around, bad weather dominated the scene. High winds coupled with occasional heavy rains kept most bowhunters at home near the fire.

Nonetheless, when dawn broke Saturday morning, I was pussy-footing along the edge of an overgrown field looking for deer and trying to stay out of the wind and rain. This particular abandoned farm was known to harbor some prodigious bucks, and I was sure that with the rut now in full swing I had a chance of at least seeing one of the wide-racked beauties.

I was not to be denied, for almost immediately a white flicker caught my attention. A doe, with her flag held at half-mast, was zigzagging across the goldenrod field eventually passing within 25 yards or so of my kneeling position. And right behind her was a 130-class 8-pointer, weighing in at over 200 pounds on the hoof.

I remained kneeling, but when the buck trotted by I figured he was a little over 25 yards away. Since he was oblivious to my presence, I decided to pass on the open shot and instead duck-walk along the edge of the field in an effort to stay even with the buck. Surely he would eventually swing closer to the edge of the woods giving me an easier shot.

Well, it didn’t work out that way. He didn’t swing in closer to me but rather looped farther out into the field. And then he sped up so I couldn’t even stay even with him. I was suddenly left with only one option, and that was to take a longer shot at a rapidly disappearing animal.

The buck stopped momentarily to look for the doe, and when he did I put my 40-yard pin on the buck’s chest and released a plastic-vaned aluminum shaft. I can still hear the “pift-pift-pift” of the arrow striking the rain drops as it sped towards the deer. By the time the broadhead arrived at the scene, however, the buck had switched ends, jumped 10 yards back, and was now looking in my direction as the arrow sailed harmlessly out into the goldenrod field. When the broadhead hit the dirt, the buck snorted and then bolted for the far side of the field.

I never saw him again, but that encounter left an indelible impression. Today I take the first killing shot offered and never wait for a better one. And as far as hunting during a thunderstorm, I’ll wait for the rain to stop before I step afield. I could have just as easily had a bad hit on that buck and then lost the bloodtrail in the heavy downpour.

I’ve made quite a few blunders in my day, blunders that have cost me some nice deer. I have also learned some valuable lessons from my mistakes in the field, lessons that have helped me tag plenty of other nice deer.

What about you?

Read more lessons learned.

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