Big Buck Video: Bowhunting Mistake Results in Heartbreak

What bowhunting lesson will you learn after watching this close-range encounter with a big buck in Alberta?

Big Buck Video: Bowhunting Mistake Results in Heartbreak

Bowhunters can learn from every close-range whitetail encounter, especially those that don’t end with a punched tag. Such is the case with the video highlighted below.

The host of ON Earth Outdoors is pursuing whitetails in early November. He doesn’t specify where, but based on other videos on his YouTube channel, I think it’s safe to say he’s in central Alberta. He does mention that elk are sharing the woods with whitetails, which further indicates it is central Alberta.

A few comments before you hit “play” on the video. Although the host has posted only 11 videos (at the time of this writing), his skills in filming hunts are top-notch. Turn up the sound on the video below and simply listen. I love the sounds of the whitetail footfalls on the dry/frozen leaves. There’s little to no wind. Just listening to the deer walking makes me long for whitetail season again!

As you’ll see, the host rattles in a big Canadian whitetail — love the chocolate rack! (Fast-forward to the 7:28 mark of the 13-minute video for some cool rattling-in-a-coyote action; the big buck appears at 9:41.) FYI: He’s using a Knight & Hale Pack Rack. I’ve used the same tool many times through the years with good success. The Pack Rack is inexpensive, compact and sounds decent. Does it put out the same robust fighting sound with maximum volume like you can accomplish with real antlers? No. But real antlers are a hassle to carry in the woods, especially if you’re talking about a rack from a 130-inch buck.

The title of this article teases a mistake and the resulting heartbreak. The host blames his high hit on forgetting to aim at the bottom third of the buck’s chest. The buck jumps the string. I don’t disagree with his assessment, but I think there were other factors, too.

In my experience, a whitetail is far more likely to jump the string when it’s stopped vs. walking. At close range, I always try to shoot a buck that is walking rather than stopped. A walking buck must first stop to get all four of its hooves on the ground before it can crouch and then flee (i.e. jump the string). In other words, a stopped deer has a headstart with string-jumping.

Next, this buck has busted the host — it’s looking right at him in the treestand (video screen-shot above). Not good! I’ve replayed this part of the video several times and best I can tell, the host either bumps something in the stand while drawing his bow, or his arrow falls off the arrow rest and crashes into the bow shelf. Almost everyone today shoots a full-containment arrow rest, so the latter seems unlikely. Whatever the case, it’s loud, and the buck hears the strange sound and pinpoints the hunter.

In the host’s defense, he’s self-filming, which makes it tremendously difficult to shoot a walking buck and capture the footage. Re-watch the video: Had he not been filming, the time to draw would have been before the buck hit the opening, then he could have shot the buck when it was fully relaxed and slowly walking through the opening. In other words, instead of drawing his bow, he had to babysit his camera. Not easy.

After the shot, what sounds like the buck crashing to the ground in the distance must be the buck’s hooves smashing through the ice of a frozen pond. The host doesn’t explain in detail what occurred when he took up the trail.

If you can watch the video on a laptop, try this: Go to the 12:30 mark and place the tip of a pen or pencil on a spot one-third of the way up from the bellyline, right over the back edge of the near front leg. Hold the pen in this exact spot, then hit “start and stop” and watch where an arrow placed here would have hit the buck. In my tests, such an aiming point (if executed correctly) would result in the broadhead striking the very top of the lungs, or still being too high to be lethal. In fact, you would’ve had to aim on the bellyline itself, where the leg joins the body, to penetrate both lungs with the way this buck moved.

Some bowhunters would say that the lesson to be learned from this video is to aim for the bellyline when you expect a buck to jump the string. I disagree 100 percent. What happens if the buck doesn’t jump the string? Then you’ve just wounded a buck with a hit too low to be lethal.

I know this is a tough pill to swallow, but in my opinion the best move is to not shoot if a buck has busted you — even if the buck is broadside and well within bow range. The risk of a marginal shot is too great. Maybe the buck will relax and give you a better opportunity. And if it doesn’t, at least you didn’t make a marginal hit.


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