A Bowhunter’s Moment of Truth

Some bowhunts come down to one quick chance, while others provide numerous opportunities for success. Either way, how you perform during a moment of truth determines whether you’ll punch a tag.

A Bowhunter’s Moment of Truth

The author (left) enjoys guiding bowhunters in the West, and elk are one of his favorite species to pursue.

Bowhunting is a game of slim odds. Of course, that is one of the reasons we are called to it, the challenge it offers. Regardless of the quarry you pursue — bow in hand — if you get one chance on any given hunt, you’ve done your job. How you compose yourself when provided that chance may just define the success of the hunt.

Having guided elk hunters in the West throughout my adult life, I have seen many bowhunters miss their one chance. Of course, I have also seen several hunters make the most of any and every chance given. In the majority of cases, however, what seemed like the one chance turned out to be the ugly reminder of just how challenging it is to be a bowhunter.

Of course, the challenges can be overcome. Although it is true, it’s also all too cliché to say patience and persistence rule the day. Patience and persistence will get you to the next day/stage/phase of the bowhunt, but ensuring you take care of business when your one chance presents itself is far more important to your overall success.

Elk Misadventures

On a bowhunt for elk that I guided several years ago, my client and I enjoyed several misadventures. After the third consecutive day of following a bull from its all-night feeding locale to no avail, we finally had the advantage on the fourth day. Well prepared, we laid in wait ahead of the bull.

The bull’s constant bugles confirmed his approach. As the bull came into view, I caught movement in the opposite direction. The movement continued our way. Seconds later, a coyote blazed right past us, followed by a mule deer doe, obviously defending its newborn fawn. As luck — or lack thereof — would have it, the two ran right into the oncoming group of elk, dispersing them in every direction. We almost had our one chance.

On a more recent bowhunt for elk that I guided, we had another one chance eliminated by the smallest of oddities. Opening morning found us in a bugle-filled arena with bulls in every direction. However, as elk do, they evaded our efforts and went straight up a mountain. We followed.

Several hours later, on our return trip down the hill, I paused and sounded a bugle. Immediately, a bull in the bottom returned my call. As quickly and quietly as we could, we made our way back down the mountain. On the way, I bugled periodically to keep tabs on the bull. Finally, we were ready to make our stand.

Having closed the distance, a low-volume bugle brought the bull in on a run. As the animal topped out of the small ravine, I noticed a small aspen branch adorning its massive set of antlers. The bull was a mere 6 yards from the bowhunter who knelt a few yards in front of me. He drew and released the arrow, which hit in the rocks below and left of the bull. A small aspen sapling just in front of his bow had caught one of the blades of the mechanical broadhead, causing the misdirected arrow. Was that our one chance and we failed?

On each of the aforementioned hunts, the final outcome was a successful one. In fact, both bowhunters overcame several almost-chances to connect on mature 6-point bulls. Yes, patience and persistence was involved, but each also was overcome with a sense of dedicated focus when their actual one chance arrived.

Make It Count

You never know what might be thrown at you on a bowhunt, but you can bet it will be thrown at you. If I can offer any advice, it’s this: be prepared, remain persistent, maintain your patience, and when that one chance finally arises, make sure you make it count. When you do, make sure to let me know about your success.

If there is a topic you would like to see highlighted or expanded upon in the pages of Bowhunting World or you would like to send me a note, please do not hesitate to send me an email (darren.choate@grandviewoutdoors.com) with your thoughts.

Best to you!


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