What is the better story:' Last day of the season I saw a buck, but decided the shot was not within my capabilities', or 'Last day of the season I took a shot I was uncertain I could make, and missed'.
Well...if you read a lot of Field and Stream and Bugle, you know the answer to that one...those magazines are full of ethical hunters, and 'Yeah, it was the last night of the season, and it was the biggest buck I had ever seen, but there was a twig in my way, so I passed up the shot'.
I guess I am not that guy.
My moment of truth was not at closing light, but rather the morning of the last day of the season. For a couple of days, I had been playing hide and seek with a group of deer...there was a doe, a spike, and then a larger buck I hadn't properly ID'd. A few times I saw them in the distance, and a time or two I jumped them out of their beds and couldn't get a clear shot through the shoulder high sage brush...but the last day of the season, I guessed right. Or close to right.
I picked a nice spot on one side of a draw, looking across at a few game trails...and right around 8 am, a doe and spike walked out onto the ridgeline, followed about 10 minutes later by the mystery buck, who turned out to be a nice looking 3 X 4. Nothing trophy worthy, but a nice legal buck.
Folks...I had that buck gutted, skinned, and dropped off at the butchers in time to make it home to watch the Patriots...in my mind.
However...after about 15 minutes that seemed like a lifetime, it because apparent that the deer were slowly but surely working their way up the draw away from me, extending the range.
Poop. I started trying to butt-slide my way across the slope...but sage and sharp rocks are not your friend when you are trying to be quiet. At best, I was able to keep pace with them, but I was not gaining distance...and I had a choice to make.
I figure my ideal range at 100-120 yards on a deer sized target. I figured this buck to be about 150 yards away, and uphill. Previous times I had seen him, he was 300+ yards away, which is an easy call to make. But...just 30 yards or so past my comfort level? Standing broadside?
I took the shot.
In a situation like this, the 'worst case' isn't a miss...it's a bad hit. Luckily...I didn't have to deal with that worst case...I saw the dust kick up a foot below the buck...but I was so far away the deer really didn't spook. Of course...now my reloads were 25 yards back down hill, where I had left my back pack before I started butt-crawling.
Well...the deer didn't stick around for that.
Dang, and double dang. I did some looking, just in case I had hit the deer, but there was no blood. By the time I paced things off, it looked like the shot had been closer to 200 yards than 150 yards...but...I still feel pretty lame. By taking the shot and missing...it's my skill and judgment that were lacking. If I had passed up the shot....well, then I would be a great sportsman who surely would have made any shots inside my range.
Poop, Poop, Poop.
Oh well...I'm home for the night for a shower, to wash some clothes, and reload the cooler. I head back out tomorrow morning to finish out the last 4 days of elk season. Opening morning of elk season, I saw a herd a 35 head out a distant ridgeline while sitting and glassing. It's a good 1.5-2 mile hike...but I figure I will load up my backpack with snacks and PLENTY of water and hike in...and sit, and sit, and sit.
And this time, I'll wait for the right shot.