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.

Dawn was still a half-hour away when I caught a trio of bucks working their way across the prairie a mile in the distance. I could plainly see that one of the bucks had a recordbook rack, so I kept tabs on them until they bedded down along a fence line.

I marked the location in my mind, then circled around to get the wind and the rising sun in my favor. A half-hour later I was standing in the thigh-high weeds looking for those bucks.

Suddenly one of the smaller bucks stood up and walked over to a nearby drainage ditch to bed down again. I then glassed the grass in front of me, spotting the rack of the better buck bedded down about 30 yards away. It was amazing how well his antlers blended in with the dead grass. I wanted to shoot him in his bed, but I could not determine if his body was to the left or right of his rack. I figured I had plenty of time to make up my mind, so I knelt down to ponder my predicament. I knew the buck was not going anywhere soon.

Then Providence took over because for some reason the buck chose that moment to stand up and stretch. He looked over in my direction, but could not see me because he was looking directly into the rising sun.

I slowly came to full draw and put my 30-yard pin behind the buck’s “elbow” without alerting the buck. He just stood there looking around like he was at a church social. Then doubt filled my mind. Was he 30 yards away, or was it closer to 35 or even 40 yards? At the last moment I raised my pin above the deer’s back and, you guessed it, sent my broadhead sailing harmlessly over the buck’s spine! I later paced off the distance from my orange marker (I was learning already) to the crushed vegetation in the buck’s bed—30 yards on the nose.

Today I know better than to raise my pin. Once I estimate the yardage I do not change my mind. I simply trust my instincts, and shoot. I also practice estimating distances from a kneeling position as well as standing up right and while sitting in an elevated platform. That kind of practice helps, but it is not good enough. I have learned to also practice yardage estimation while looking over uneven terrain as well as open fields. Indeed, animals sometimes appear smaller standing out in a hay field than they do in thick cover. This phenomenon can fool you into believing the critter is farther away than he actually is, which, of course, can lead to a miss.

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?

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