Last week I shared highlights from my whitetail hunt at The Kentucky Proving Grounds with my friends from GrowingDeer.TV. I promised that I'd tell you more about a bad shot I made on a doe during my first evening sit, so here goes ...
Two fawns and a doe approached my stand an hour before dusk. They were within range, but on high alert. I was still getting acclimated to the property, and the last thing I wanted to do was rush a shot. I'm not the type who's too concerned with "getting on the board" at hunting camp; hunting is hunting, and sometimes things don't work out. Yeah, it's a bummer to go on a hunt and not tag out, but fear of going home empty handed is no excuse for taking a bad shot. But I unintentionally took a bad shot later in the evening when the same three deer walked directly under my stand.
The doe approached behind the two fawns and stopped not even 10 yards from my stand. The shot was steep and she was quartering slightly toward me, but I was convinced that I could pull it off. I hit her right where I aimed—behind the shoulder. It was a marginal shot at best. The excitement got the best of me and I was overly confident ... that's the only way I can explain it.
We followed the blood trail for hundreds of yards. There were steady droplets with some mini puddles here and there, but it became less promising with each step we took. Suddenly, "There she is!" I spotted eyes, but they weren't the dead eyes that I anticipated. We jumped the doe and she hobbled over a hill. We had no choice but to hold off the mission until the following morning, with hopes that she'd die from the single-lung hit I had made at the stupid angle.
The painful result of shooting at a quartering-to whitetail from a steep shot angle.
The next morning we scoured the miniscule blood trail drop by drop. My head was hanging low, but I still had hope. "There she is!" This time she was expired.
I'm thankful to say we recovered the doe, so I'm not left wondering what her fate was. However—and not every editor is willing to admit this nasty fact—the excessively warm overnight temperature made a mess of her. Judging by the foul condition of her meat, it simply wasn't worth the risk of trying to consume it.
Shot angle is critically important. The vertical angle is crucial by itself, but it also compounds the importance of the deer's body angle. Ideally, I'd say to avoid steep shots on deer altogether. If you still decide to take a steep shot, make damn sure you're deadly confident about how the arrow will penetrate the deer based on its body angle.
We learn a new lesson every time we enter the whitetail's world. Some lessons are just much tougher to stomach than others.
Respect the game.