Gear failure causes miss – Hunter takes it in stride.

By John Willoughby, Outwrite Contributor

So there I am, in the Congo… Ok, it wasn’t actually the Congo. I was at my In-Law’s farm this weekend, it was my first time up North to hunt this year. I have been out close to a dozen times on a friend’s property southeast of Grand Rapids, Mich. So far I’ve only seen five does while in the blind and none were close to being in range.

I took my daughters up to spend some time with Grandma and Grandpa while Dad got some time in the tree. After getting skunked Saturday morning I was getting a bit ansty that the epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) had hit hard up there as I’m sure it has down by me (although a friend has seen just as many deer this year as he normally does and he doesn’t hunt too far from me). I was back in the stand a few hours before sun down hoping to at least see something, even better if it were in range.

About 6:00PM I heard a rustling in the leaves behind my tree. The weather had been pretty wet and I’d been hearing drips from the trees and leaves falling (which make a lot more noise than one would think) so I didn’t get too excited until I heard a stick snap. I took a look over my shoulder and got a glimpse of grey. I was straining so hard to look over my shoulder without moving my head too much or scootch my body around that I started to go cross-eyed. I finally got a look at a little button buck but I think he got a look at me too. He stopped and bobbed his head around. I’m not sure he actually busted me but he was plenty nervous. He headed back behind me so I waited and waited to see if he would show himself again so I could get a better look. I heard him snapping twigs and prancing around behind me but he never came around to my side of the tree. I was pretty happy just to have gotten a look at a deer that close up without being in my car at 70mph.

I passed some time watching the Blue Jays, crows and woodpeckers flying around my patch of the woods (and maybe catching up on Twitter (@jwilloughby)). I heard another stick break and sure enough, coming in right straight at me was a nice buck. I believe it was a six point and it had a pretty good size body on it. He walked right toward me and stopped off about 25 yards in front of my stand to rub his head on a low leafy branch and pee down his leg a bit. He didn’t scrape the ground before he left his scent which I thought was curious. He walked a little closer to me and was nice enough to turn broadside at a touch over 15 yards.

Now, the night before the girls wanted some snacks so we stopped at a local department store to pick up some things. I, of course, had to mosey through the sporting goods department and found some lighted nocks on sale. Since the ones I had bought last year had run out of battery life I picked up the last package on the rack. I was a bit nervous about using them because one of them had broken either in the package or when I was putting it on my arrow on Friday night but the other one seemed to be okay. It turned on and turned off like it should.

So, I drew back with my new lighted nock anticipating being able to watch that streak of light pass right through behind his shoulder. I could almost taste the back straps. I got to full draw without him even flinching and settled my pin on a patch of hair above his left front leg and pulled the trigger on my release. Thwack! No streak of light, and no jump from the buck. He ran up the trail about 25 yards,looked back my way and just stood there. Even though he hadn’t shown any sign of being hit I kept waiting for him to topple over. He stood there for half a minute or so then turned and started walking along a ridge between me and the creek (always out of range). I grunted at him a couple times and got him to stop and look back but couldn’t get him to come back any closer.

I sat in my stand for a while feeling terrible and beating myself up about missing a shot with such a perfect setup. After about ten minutes of self-loathing I figured I better climb down and find my arrow while I still had a bit of light to make sure I didn’t graze him. I let down my bow, unhooked my safety harness and climbed down. I found my arrow right away and what did I discover? That nock that I had bought the night before had broken. Shattered right off the string sending my arrow way off the mark. My loathing had a new target. I won’t mention the company that made that piece of junk because I haven’t contacted their customer service yet but suffice it to say that I will not be depending on their equipment for my hunts in the future.

Sunday morning I had three does walk by my stand but the only time they were in range they were moving too quickly for a good shot. So my weekend had a bit of a roller coaster of emotions. I got to spend some good time with the girls and some good time with the woods. I saw as many deer in two days as I had seen all season and had gotten a shot at a nice buck. Not a bad way to spend the weekend, and hey, if everything worked perfectly every time it wouldn’t be hunting, would it?