rong When Shots Go We go to the range all year to get comfortable with our gear and confident

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1 tactics&technique rong When Shots Go These blunders happened to us. Here s what we learned and what you can do to avoid them. By We go to the range all year to get comfortable with our gear and confident with our skill to put a bullet or a broadhead into the vitals of our prey. But sometimes things still go wrong: Wind drift fools us, tricky angles send a bullet or arrow astray, mental lapses occur. Even the savvy and practiced hunter can make a bad shot because, well, stuff happens. But because good hunters also pick apart their mistakes so they hopefully avoid them in the future, we ve spent time analyzing our bad shots. Read on as we commiserate about some of our errant shots and explain what we learned from our mistakes. Maybe our lessons will save you from learning the hard way. Photo: 58 American Hunter September 2009

2 Photo: Jeff Johnston Wind Drift Can Be Tricky Frank Miniter, Executive Field Editor What Went Wrong: We landed in Namibia and checked the scopes on our muzzleloaders, a Knight Long Range Hunter and a Knight Vision. They were sighted in dead-on at 100 yards. We knew that with 150 grains of Triple Seven the 325-grain Hornady LEVERevolution bullets we were shooting would drop about 12 inches at 200 yards where they would still pack 1,150 ft.-lbs. of energy roughly the ballistics of a The Long Range Hunter grouped at 1.5 inches at 100 yards and 3.5 at 200 yards. We decided 200 yards would be our cut-off point. The next morning we spotted a group of kudu. We stalked to 400 yards, then started crawling. Janneman Brand, our outfitter, used his wooden shooting sticks to part vegetation as we stalked. When at 210 yards from the kudu, a bull caught us. Janneman put the shooting sticks up and I came up behind him in a maneuver we d practiced. Shoot if you can, he urged, the bull won t stay long. The crosshair was steady, the drop just 12 inches, the wind negligible. Boom! Smoke washed over the Kalahari and the kudu went down, but then was up and running. I was baffled, though not upset. The shot felt good. Then Theo Kwe-Kwe, our tracker, was at the spot where the kudu had fallen. He was frowning. Theo showed me the track and Janneman translated he thought I d broken its left shoulder, that the bullet had hit too far forward. I felt the wind in the bottom. We d shot from the protected shade but I noticed that in the sun it was gusting to 10 mph. At 200 yards that would blow the 325-grain bullet about 10 inches. I hadn t compensated enough. I reloaded, feeling sick. Theo pointed with an up-and-down motion, indicating the kudu s line of travel, and we were off. I could see hoof prints in the sand and then Theo found specks of blood that continued in a trickle. We followed through a maze of brush and grass and walked up on wildebeest and springbok and herds of hartebeest under the hot, midday sun and it would have been glorious if I didn t feel so stupid. Hours later we slipped up on the bull. We could just make out its backline in the thorns and I sent a bullet smashing in and the bull bolted out dead on its feet. Lesson Learned: Theo was right about the first shot. It strayed too far forward and broke the shoulder. The wind drift had fooled me. Now I tape an index card with bullet drop and various wind drifts at different ranges to every rifle I tote where a 200-yard-plus shot is possible. Wind is a powerful force. Few hunters realize how much effect wind has on bullet flight; for example, a 20 mph wind at 90 degrees to the bullet will move a Federal Premium.300 Win. Mag. shooting a 200-grain BTSP 10 inches and a 30 mph wind will push that bullet 15 inches. Also, while the wind might be calm in a protected spot where you are shooting from, it might gust 10 to 20 mph out in the open where an animal stands. Gauge it as best you can by checking weeds or leaves near the animal to see if they are swaying. 59 American Hunter September 2009 American Hunter September

3 Of Treestands and Shooting Angles 20' yards 10 yards 20 yards Kyle Wintersteen, Senior Associate Editor What Went Wrong: A memory I ve tried hard to forget begins with me sitting in a hedgerow in Illinois. It was about noon on a frigid, post-rut day when three does passed directly under my stand. I picked one out and pressed the trigger. It was hit hard and would not go far or so I thought. I sat a while longer, then descended my stand to track the doe with Tim Richardson of Richardson Farms Outfitters. The blood trail was not difficult. Pretty consistent with a lung hit, Tim said. I agreed, that is, until we found a spot where the doe had evidently bedded and gotten bumped. I was nauseated. The next morning, after an astounding job of tracking by Richardson and his guides, we recovered the doe. To my horror, I d shot it in the front knee and it bled out during the night. How could my shot have gone so awry? Lesson Learned: Shoot again if you are concerned your first shot was not true. My rifle was a Traditions Express Double an over/under, twoshot muzzleloader but I was so confident of my shot that I didn t follow it up. I should have. If you make a poor hit, wait several hours before you track the deer. Thankfully, my doe re-bedded and died about 100 yards from where we d bumped it. But you never want to jump an animal and possibly lose it. Remember: If in doubt, back out. The shot angle might have messed me up. From a stand 20 feet high, a deer standing 10 yards from the base of the tree presents a decent 34-degree shot angle. But when a deer is closer, as this doe was, the angle becomes more severe, and the sight picture to the kill zone starts to shrink dramatically. Looking almost straight down on the doe, I might have subconsciously aimed too far on the outside of the deer s shoulder, and thus missed the deer s chest cavity completely. I should have planted the crosshairs higher on the doe s back, just off its spine at the junction of the shoulder. Wyoming Mystery Miss What Went Wrong: On the Wyoming plains, I lined up the crosshairs on a 160-class whitetail with a big blob for a right G-4. He was 150 yards away, standing still as a statue. Surprisingly, there was no wind. I m on him, ready, my cameraman whispered. I took a deep breath and pressed the trigger. Dust kicked up 2 feet over his back. You shot over him! my astute partner hollered as I frantically jacked in another.270 round. You ve heard that a missed animal will get confused and run straight at you. Well, it hardly ever happens. Hardly. This buck turned, churned at us and stopped. I shot at his chest and camera guy screamed, I didn t see where that one went! The buck jumped straight up, sprinted 50 yards closer, froze and looked back. I shot him through the heart and the film man made another perceptive observation: You got him that time! I looked like a rookie on that show, but so what, we all miss sometimes. But this one bothered me. I was shooting a tackdriving custom rifle that cost a month s mortgage payment. A day earlier at camp, I had shot the.270 at the range; it printed three shots into a quarter-size hole an inch high at 100 yards. Lesson Learned: We wrapped the show, and I wiped down my gun. As I ran the oil cloth over the barrel my eyes froze in horror the muzzle was split nearly an inch! Here s what I figure. The day before I killed the Blob Buck, I had crawled for 200 yards up on another deer, but passed him up. I must have run the barrel into the ground and plugged the muzzle with dirt! I didn t notice it when I unloaded the rifle that night. Not only was I lucky I got the buck the next day, it was a miracle I hadn t hurt myself or the cameraman when I shot with the obstructed barrel. A more serious and sobering lesson I have never been taught. Now I always tape the muzzle of my barrel, not just in snow, but anytime I m crawling around. At least once a day and always at night, I unload my rifle, remove the bolt and peer though the barrel to see that it s shiny, open and safe. 60 American Hunter September 2009

4 Photo: The Three-Shot Goose Buck J. Scott Olmsted, Editor in Chief What Went Wrong: The worst shot I ever took at a whitetail was in the presence of my then 7-year-old son. Actually, it was two shots. The morning was calm; we could hear everything in the woods. About 10 a.m. I got that feeling hunters get when they know something is about to happen. Oh, Dad, look, exclaimed Haden, it s a Canadian goose! Shhh, son, I whispered, that s not a goose, it s a big buck. We were sitting on the ground. I scooted forward, carefully settled the fore-end of my rifle in the crossed sticks, peered through the scope and beheld a dandy 10-pointer. He had that stiff-legged walk bucks adopt during the rut, and he was heading downhill directly across from us. We sat on the opposite hill I needed only to draw a breath and begin my trigger squeeze as he stopped and turned broadside 40 yards downhill from us. The gun boomed, and the buck stood there. What the heck, I thought. I chambered another round, drew a breath, squeezed boom! Now agitated, the buck turned to face the other way. Perplexed, I chambered my last round. Boom! This time he bolted out of sight. We heard him thrash about, and he soon expired. When I examined him, I saw that only my last round, fired into his right shoulder, struck true. There was no evidence of my first two shots at his left shoulder. Lesson Learned: That hunt took place in 1998, which has given me plenty of time to think about it. I know I had a solid rest and steady hold. I know I took a breath, held it and squeezed the trigger. So to this day all I can figure is that I pulled my head out of the scope when I fired my first two shots. In my excitement I must ve failed to follow through. Which proves even gimme shots should be taken seriously with an emphasis on keeping your head down on the stock and focusing until the game is down. Sure Hit or Miss? Jeff Johnston, Managing Editor What Went Wrong: I d hunted Virginia s jungle-like Chincoteague Island all week about as hard as a man can hunt. From dawn till dusk each day I still-hunted the secretive little Sika deer amid snakes, blackwater swamps and menacing mosquitoes, hoping for just one opportunity to release an arrow. On the last day of the hunt, while crawling on all fours with water up to my waist, I spotted the legs of a sneaking deer. It was angling to my right where it would present a 12-yard, slightly quartering-to shot. Timing it, I rose to my knees, drew my bow, aimed at the junction of the animal s neck and chest and released the arrow. As time slowed down, I saw the fletching fly toward the stag, exactly where I d aimed. Like most bow shots, the animal immediately lurched forward and crashed off. Proud as a rooster, I radioed my hunting partner. Stag down, I said. Alright! replied my buddy. I ll be there in a few minutes. By the time my partner showed up, I was completely baffled. I couldn t find the animal, and I couldn t find even a speck of blood. I can t figure it out, I said, shaking my head as I rehashed the whole series of events, including my mind s vision of the arrow as it sped toward the animal s vitals. 61 American Hunter September 2009 Did you find the arrow? he asked. Yes, it s right here. Is there any blood on it? No, I said. I think I have deduced what happened here, Watson, said my buddy. What? You missed. Lesson Learned: A miss is always baffling. It was hellishly thick in there and my arrow could have clipped a branch. But I probably just committed the first bowhunter s sin: not focusing and narrowing the shot. And by not doing so, I blew the week s long, hard effort in an instant. When it s time to draw and shoot, think small. No, make that tiny. You certainly don t look at the whole animal, and you shouldn t look at the roughly 8x8-inch vitals either. Instead, focus on a 2-inch circle of hide inside the kill zone, just behind the shoulder and just above where the heart lies. Through the peep, your eye never leaves that spot until the arrow hits it, disappears and blows out the off-side of the animal. One other thing: Sometimes you miss for a host of reasons that you can t foresee or figure out. Well, don t dwell on it too long. I ve seen people try to analyze why they missed one shot until they lose all confidence and have no chance of making their next shot. American Hunter September

5 Photo: Michael H. Francis A Muley Too Close What Went Wrong: I shot my PSE bow every day last summer, come rain, shine or extreme Virginia humidity. I was prepping for my dream hunt, stalking giant, velvet-racked mule deer in the Red Deer Valley of Alberta. I talked to the outfitter and a lot of guys who had done it. To a man they said, Big, open country man, be ready for a 50-yard shot. And I got ready. By the end of August I was shooting tight groups at 40, 50, 60 and even 70 yards. I would never shoot at a deer at those latter distances, but I figured if I could hit 3-D lungs most every time at 70 yards, I should be able to skewer a real buck at 45 or 50 without much trouble. The first day in Alberta we stalked up on a huge 4x4 that for some reason turned and walked over a grassy hill right to us. He stopped broadside, and my guide, Terry, hissed, 24 yards. I drew and promptly sailed an arrow over his back. Lesson Learned: I believe archery hunting is 20 percent physical and 80 percent mental. If you are a decent athlete with decent hand-eye coordination, you can pick up one of today s new compounds, tune it with the right arrows and broadheads and practice hard until you can hit a 3-D target s kill zone most every time. The equipment is just that fast and good. It is the mental part that causes most of the trouble. My mistake was going to Alberta anticipating a 50-yard shot. Heck, don t anticipate anything. Sure, you need to prepare for the terrain, the conditions and the game you re after. But expect the unexpected, which I hadn t. I had gone so far as to pull the 20-yard pin off my sight! When the muley rolled up at 24 yards I was dazed and confused. I could have and should have planted the 30-yard pin low on his heart and killed him, but I wasn t mentally ready to do it, thus my misery. I will go back to Alberta with well-tuned tackle and physically prepared, having shot all summer at targets from 10 to 17 to 33 to 44 to 53 yards. I will go back anticipating nothing, expecting anything. If a velvet giant steps out at 24 yards or 49 or whatever, I will draw my bow, instinctively plant the right pin on him and shoot him dead, or so I hope. One thing is for sure: The less I think about it and just react to whatever shot the hunting gods give me, the better off I ll be. 3 Shots that Went Right What Went Right: Last November in Oklahoma I tracked a 10-pointer in a Nikon scope for three frantic minutes as he dogged a doe in thick scrub brush. He was about to get away when he stopped for an instant behind a hole the size of a coffee cup. Because of his angle, quartering-away left at about 120 yards, I aimed through the extreme right side of the hole, put the crosshairs back on his ribs and dropped him like a hammer hit with a 150-grain Scirroco bonded bullet. Lesson Learned: Take the first good shot you have at a big buck; if you don t, he s apt to get away. In this case the first clear shot I got was also the last one I was going to get. I stayed patient and focused enough to make the quartering-away shot in a split-second. What Went Right: In Iowa, I twisted sideways into a tree trunk, laid my Model 1100 slug gun in shooting sticks, set the butt-stock loosely on my shoulder and sat for two hours. Just before dark a 170-inch buck with a 12-inch drop-tine marched across the soybeans but hung up at 150 yards, just out of my range. I caught a flash to my right. A 160-inch 10-pointer strode in and stared across the field at the drop-tine buck. I swiveled my slug-gun 8 inches right and smashed the second buck with a Copper Solid slug. Lesson Learned: Expect the unexpected. And you ve got to be set up and ready to shoot any animal that suddenly pops up in the 180-degree arc you re watching. That way you don t have to make any big, fancy moves with your body, bow or gun. Just cover a buck or bull slowly and deliberately and drop him quickly. What Went Right: One morning on the Milk River in Montana, I had five different bucks under my treestand, hassling two does in heat. Deer have oval pupils that are set horizontally, which limits their vertical vision; still, with 14 sharp eyes within 60 yards of my 16-foot ladder, one wrong move would get me busted. As the deer ran around and grunted, I watched and tracked them as best I could, shifting my feet inches and increasing tension on the bowstring until I was finally able to come to full draw. Then I had to hold it another minute before I could ease my bow left 2 feet. One of the does caught me and started head-bobbing, but too late. I fired and double-lunged the second-largest buck. Lesson Learned: When there are multiple deer on the scene, watch them and react when you can. Make small, smooth body and bow motions, but be decisive about it. Ease into position, draw and, again, take the first good shot you get. ah 62 American Hunter September 2009