You missed! Now what?

The 10-point you’ve been dreaming about for months steps from the corn just as the sun is setting. He walks straight down the trail towards your stand. You draw back and center on his vitals. As the arrow releases the shot feels good. But…OH NO! OH GOD NO! The arrow clips a branch halfway to the target and veers off course. It obliterates a squirrel that was just an innocent bystander. And, you’re crushed.

We’ve all missed. Confidence comes easily when you’ve smoked a few wall hangers in a row, but it’s also easy to start second-guessing your abilities after a poor shot. Here are a few things to keep in mind after a miss.

It’s a good thing.

The fact you shot means you’re doing almost everything right. Of course it’s easy to become frustrated. After all the hours of prep in the off-season, the hunt fell apart at the last moment. In reality, you should be more upset after a day in which you didn’t see any animals at all. A miss is a very good day of hunting, not a bad one, and the fact you were in range makes it more likely, not less likely that you will close the distance again. Keep your head up.

What happened?

You may have a good shot mechanically, but err because of some overlooked factor. For example, this season I shot below an antelope after accidentally ranging the grass in front of it. This type of miss shouldn’t shake your confidence. It says nothing about your ability to shoot a bow, you just need to account for one more element before the next shot. We often have to learn these in-the-field lessons the hard way. Don’t stress.

Miss Happens.

As Adele would say, “Go easy on me.” Don’t beat yourself up. Nobody with more than a few seasons under their belt is batting 1000. It’s how we handle failure that determines future success. Archery expert John Dudley describes, “Developing calluses” when shooting. Just as we make our hands tougher, we also make our minds more durable by putting them to work. A miss allows for the opportunity to become a more resilient hunter.

“If I’d just done ________ !”

“I would be back home in a warm bed, posting pics on Facebook and my ex-girlfriend would leave Todd for me.” Nothing significant would change if you’d hit the deer. Enjoy your next day of hunting, and if she left you for a guy named Todd, you probably don’t want her anyway.

Often the mistake was made well before the shot. You may have alerted the deer with noisy equipment or overlooked shooting in your jacket during the summer. Avoid the thought that only one small decision derailed the hunt. It’s more likely that the issue was there all along, and this hunt merely exposed the problem.

Final Thoughts

Life is just one hunting trip broken up by a few months of work in between. The knowledge you gain from one season feeds into the next. You might have overshot a forky today, but the lesson could lead to harvesting a mega-forky next season. Time will tell.

As Red Green would say, “Remember, I’m pullin for ya. We’re all in this together.”


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