I wanted to write about something that has likely happened to all of us. If it hasn’t then odds are that unfortunately your time may be coming. While reading one of my favorite forums a gentlemen was detailing his recent struggle while searching for a wounded animal that he ultimately was unable to recover. It reminded me that hunting can really put us through some trying times. It’s during these times that we have to stay strong and keep our head in the game
No true hunter wants to wound and animal. Many of us will pass up marginal shots just for that very reason (and we should). The burden of knowing that the animal will not be recovered and potentially the meat will be wasted (or worse) is heavy. It happens and we must learn from these experiences and come out better than we were before. That’s how we minimize these instances and improve.
I lived in Michigan for several years after college and really got back into bowhunting once my studies were complete. I hunted public ground and wanted desperately to kill my first deer with a bow. I put in a ton of hours and effort in hopes to get that first archery animal in the books. Let’s just say it was a struggle and I followed several fruitless blood trails. It was heartbreaking mentally to me. My enthusiasm wavered and while I never considered giving up hunting I was extremely discouraged. Fortunately I had an Uncle and great friend to confide in to keep me going. Thanks to their support I forged on and reflected on all those botched efforts and have since filled my freezer many times with deer killed with stick and string. I learned that first doe knew I was there and was way to jittery for me to take a shot. She was ready to bolt the instant that bow went off. I learned that it was too dark for me to take a shot on that nice buck I wanted ever so badly. I learned that I shouldn’t have shot at another buck because he was still moving. I learned another doe was really outside of my effective range. All of these things may sound trivial to you but at the time I was learning a lot…unfortunately the hard way. However, without those moments I would not be the hunter I am today.
I have also seen where you have absolutely got to be unrelenting in your recover efforts. I’ve followed an elk for 5 hours straight uphill after the initial hit where we were ultimately able to recover the animal. I’ve had to leave a trail that I thought had dried up only to come back the next day and realize the single lung hit old buck had doubled back on me. I eventually found him and realized that determination to recover that animal paid off. I followed where I know a hit deer ran to find no blood. Through intuition and persistence I found the dead animal only 100 yards away. I stayed positive and kept my wits. At the time I felt defeated but I knew I owed it to myself and to the animal.
I have highlighted both failures and success above but my point is that I took something from each experience. It hurts and it is not easy. You have to believe in yourself and push forward. If it was easy everyone would do it. Wounding and not recovering an animal is not an exclusive club. It happens. We don’t have to like and should be remorseful. Whatever you do though, don’t give up too early and certainly don’t give up on yourself. Stay the course and as my dad still to this day tells me, “keep your head up”. Success will find you.