Biggest Bowhunting Fail
General Topic
Contributors to this thread:
Scoot 29-Mar-18
INbowdude 29-Mar-18
elk yinzer 29-Mar-18
LKH 29-Mar-18
Will 29-Mar-18
cnelk 29-Mar-18
yooper89 29-Mar-18
Glunt@work 29-Mar-18
singlepin 29-Mar-18
x-man 29-Mar-18
midwest 29-Mar-18
ohiohunter 29-Mar-18
12yards 29-Mar-18
KSBOW 29-Mar-18
Jack 29-Mar-18
t-roy 29-Mar-18
MathewsMan 29-Mar-18
APauls 29-Mar-18
Treeline 29-Mar-18
Trad Rick 29-Mar-18
Lark Bunting 29-Mar-18
Bake 29-Mar-18
bigswivle 29-Mar-18
Treeline 29-Mar-18
Scar Finga 29-Mar-18
patience2spare 29-Mar-18
drycreek 29-Mar-18
Surfbow 29-Mar-18
JB 29-Mar-18
Jaquomo 29-Mar-18
Jack Harris 29-Mar-18
pav 29-Mar-18
Kurt 29-Mar-18
Tonybear61 29-Mar-18
LBshooter 29-Mar-18
WV Mountaineer 30-Mar-18
WV Mountaineer 30-Mar-18
SlipShot 30-Mar-18
Russ Koon 30-Mar-18
Buffalo1 30-Mar-18
Woods Walker 30-Mar-18
David A. 31-Mar-18
Owl 31-Mar-18
MBMule 31-Mar-18
MObow 31-Mar-18
Peej 31-Mar-18
Z Barebow 01-Apr-18
Pigsticker 02-Apr-18
Scoot 02-Apr-18
RSM 02-Apr-18
loesshillsarcher 02-Apr-18
KyleSS 02-Apr-18
dingo 02-Apr-18
Greg S 02-Apr-18
Windwalker 02-Apr-18
drycreek 02-Apr-18
Blake Patton 03-Apr-18
Nick Muche 03-Apr-18
Blake Patton 03-Apr-18
elvspec 03-Apr-18
ELKMAN 03-Apr-18
Treeline 03-Apr-18
Kurt 03-Apr-18
VogieMN 03-Apr-18
GF 03-Apr-18
VogieMN 03-Apr-18
Genesis 03-Apr-18
APauls 03-Apr-18
YZF-88 03-Apr-18
Chasin Bugles 04-Apr-18
Bowboy 04-Apr-18
MObow 08-Apr-18
From: Scoot
Most of the stories we hear about online and in magazines involve hunters succeeding in the field. I don't know about you folks, but most of my bowhunting days involve a lot more killing time than animals! On some of those days when I didn't punch my tag I've had some heartbreaks, where I thought I'd seal the deal, but failed. I've got every excuse in the book for these failures, but in the end the fault falls on my shoulders.

So, I'm curious to hear about some of these often unreported debacles and downers. What is your biggest bowhunting fail?

From: INbowdude
Ripped my left hamstring on a Bighorn hunt in Wyoming last fall. Tried to go back and it was flatland ready but not Wyoming wilderness ready. I'd call that a fail but only because I didn't harvest an animal. Guide did his part, wrangler did his, horse (I still hold a grudge against). Game was there, so were the grizzlies. Lots of memories just no shot opportunity and an injury I am still recovering from.

From: elk yinzer
I lived in DC for a couple years after college and combined with 70 hour work weeks during the fall I didn't get much hunting in during that miserable time. After about 6 weekends of working in a row, on Halloween weekend I had enough and called in sick when I wasn't. Only time I ever did that. It was a combo trip primarily driving three hours to PA to see my now wife, but I planned to get a quick afternoon hunt in. Geared up, drove out to my spot and realized my bow was still 3 hours away in my apartment. I guess packing up for the trip bowhunting wasn't all that was on my mind! It was at that point I determined that 70 hour work week DC rat race bullcrap was turning me into a city boy. I still went and sat in the tree for the afternoon. Of course a nice little buck I would have gladly stuck walked right under me not an hour after I got settled in.

From: LKH
While I lived in AK tried 6 years to kill a Dall with my longbow. Never a shot. Lots of fun. Not sure you can even consider it a failure.

From: Will
Get in the truck with "all" my gear. Drive 45' to get to hunting spot for that day. Get camo on, boots etc. Grab my stand and bow, hustle into the woods, climb a tree, and about 15' later, amazingly, see a deer about 75yds up the hill working parallel. I grab my bow, and suddenly realize... I never put the release on. I took it off... At home after a few practice shots, and never put it back on the bow where I store it. Doh.

Not a bowhunting fail, but here in MA you have to have a trigger lock on your gun during transport, and the law is not real clear about whether it has to stay on till you exceed the 150foot setback from a "maintained" road. Well, I get a bird going from a parking spot and grab my gear and head in. Not until the bird is about 50yds away, and I'm starting to get ready to shoot if he comes another 10-15yds do I realize that... the trigger lock is still on. I learned that day, that they do, in fact, prevent you from pulling the trigger :)

From: cnelk
Opening day archery elk season 2007 - Leave camp 2hrs before dark in the truck to drive to my hunting area 5 miles away from camp.

1/2 mi down the road my fuel pump goes out...

From: yooper89
Two things come to mind. First - In high school (circa 2004/2005) I had the opportunity to go bow hunting in South Dakota with my mom. My Digital Video Editing teacher told me he would excuse all absences so long as I filmed while I was out there. Well, first morning sitting in a slough, I had a big whitetail skirt the edge of the slough and cornfield. Figured since it was day 1 I would get some footage... SD has plenty of big deer and I didn't want to deal with Saturday School as a result of not getting any filming in. As he was crossing I grunted at maybe 15-20 yards and the buck stopped dead in his tracks - stood for about 20-30 seconds trying to figure out where the grunt came from. You couldn't have asked for a better setup - had him dead to rights. I got my camera up but didn't have enough time to get any good footage. Never saw another buck the whole trip. So not only did I miss out on a great deer at 15, but also ended up with terrible footage when I got back to class. Still had a fun time.

Second - this past archery season. First year since living in CO that I've had any real time to dedicate to scouting and hunting elk (I need to find a new career path!). Found a couple big elk - over 300" during a scouting trip in August so I was beyond excited to get out for a 10 day hunt. Come September, my time was limited due to the hurricanes (I work in disaster recovery) so I had to make the most of my trip which was cut down to 5 short days. Got in to about 80 yards on a real nice bull with about 12 cows in a big basin. I've had buck fever a few times in my day but nothing like what I was feeling at that moment creeping in with my buddy to my side. Wind swirled as we were setting up on the last 40 yards of the stalk and busted them completely out of the basin. Never saw/heard another elk the rest of the trip. Great learning experience, and has me itching to get back out this fall.

From: Glunt@work
The one (there are hundreds) that always comes to mind first is a nice 6x6 elk. I had yet to kill a decent bull and a buddy and I hit a great morning in the middle of elk. As we are chasing we get an unexpected response just uphill from us. My buddy is slightly downhill from me so he sets up to call and I set up to shoot. The bull comes on a string. As he makes his way to us he is snapping little branches weaving his antlers through some thick lodge poles. We hear the "tick...tick" as gets closer. He commits and stops perfect broadside at under 20 yards. I had one small pine to clear but plenty of room to the left of it to get in the vitals. Sure enough I center shoot that little pine and he runs off 50 yards and bugles his way up the mountain and out of my life. That place has been called "Tine Ticker" ever since.

Not the only elk I have missed but it was probably the most perfect blown opportunity.

From: singlepin
Last year, whitetail hunt in Indiana over Thanksgiving, I had everything meticulously ready for opening morning of rifle season. I normally bow hunt in that state but my job relegated me to only taking the Thanksgiving week off. So I grabbed all my gear, rifle, mag, etc, and headed out. Got in the tree stand, got situated, last thing to do is chamber a round - only I realized you need a bolt in your rifle in order to do that. I had flown from my home in Colorado and removed the bolt from the rifle for more streamlined packing. Luckily it was in the case where I was staying just a half hour away, but I didn't have it that morning. It was opening morning so I stayed in the stand anyway, just to scout. I thought for sure I would see the trophy of my dreams, but I actually just saw a few bucks that I would have passed on anyway. Lesson learned fairly painlessly. Fortunately, that's my only story of forgetting something vital on a hunt.

From: x-man
"Get in the truck with "all" my gear. Drive 45' to get to hunting spot for that day. Get camo on, boots etc. Grab my stand and bow, hustle into the woods, climb a tree, and about 15' later, amazingly, see a deer about 75yds up the hill working parallel. I grab my bow, and suddenly realize... I never put the release on. I took it off... At home after a few practice shots, and never put it back on the bow where I store it. Doh. Not a bowhunting fail, but here in MA you have to have a trigger lock on your gun during transport, and the law is not real clear about whether it has to stay on till you exceed the 150foot setback from a "maintained" road. Well, I get a bird going from a parking spot and grab my gear and head in. Not until the bird is about 50yds away, and I'm starting to get ready to shoot if he comes another 10-15yds do I realize that... the trigger lock is still on. I learned that day, that they do, in fact, prevent you from pulling the trigger :)"

Almost the same thing...I left my quiver at home.

From: midwest
Bull elk standing 15 yards away, relaxed, facing me, I'm at full draw for what felt like over a minute before he finally got a whiff and bolted.

Didn't know about the frontal shot yet. :-(

From: ohiohunter
I'll never forget the time I was stuck huntin out of a Ford Taurus. I was done hunting for the morning and was making my way out along a tall grass field/hillside and busted out a gorgeous buck... when he stopped a safe distance away to look at me, and giving me a decent look at him. He looked to be at least a typical 12pt with real good tine length and a handsome spread... probably easily scored north of 180". I thought for sure I'd get on him some time during the season, but as we all know too well... that was the last time I'd see him. So after this event I got back to my Taurus and loaded up and drove out the landowners driveway... took a right on the road, checked my side view mirror in time to see my bow skidding and spinning down the street. Most the damage was on the business end of my single cam... That sinking feeling of losing your weapon during the peak of the rut after seeing a world class animal on your hunting property... puke!!!

From: 12yards
2017. I'll just leave it at that. :^C

My first year bowhunting I was 14-13 I believe. Started with old york bow shooting fingers no sight. Had been a long season on several different sits had missed some does, one hunt in particular shot all the arrows out of my quiver. Anyway it was thanksgiving weekend and my dad was rattling for me. One of those perfect midwest morning frost everywhere stopped to rattle a double hedgerow. As soon as my dad crashed horns together a real nice ten point is coming on a string 140-180 who knows. Waited until deer was literally feet away before deciding to draw, and freaked out and ended in next county. Looked back and my dad had feel off his seat laughing, 25 years later have never had deer come to horns that good again! Something I will never forget, neither will my dad!

From: Jack

Jack's embedded Photo
He was the one in front.
Jack's embedded Photo
He was the one in front.
I've missed more than a few animals in my life with a bow, due to all crazy types of reasons, but my biggest fail? Last September I lost my best friend of over 50 years to cancer. We bow hunted everything together and were like 2 brothers. My biggest fail? Not, telling him how much I loved him, more than I did.

From: t-roy
Sent immeasurable amounts of money over the past 15-20 years in to Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah. Have yet to draw a premium tag! :^\ Does that count?

Back in the mid-80s, while elk hunting in Colorado, I spotted a big 6x6 (360s) all by himself, across the canyon from me. This was opening weekend (late August). I watched him to see where he was going to bed once it warmed up. He finally went up into the dark timber, so I hauled butt that direction and got close and waited, ate lunch, took a nap, etc. the wind was perfect.

Sure enough, he ended up coming back out to feed in the same general area. I was sneaking through the scattered small pines on the open meadow, but the shale was kinda noisy, so I got the brilliant idea to take my boots off, which did help. I finally ran out of cover, and the bull was contently grazing across a small swale from me in the wide open. I think it’s harder to judge distance on something in the open. I had forgotten my rangefinder at camp (it was one of those Ranging brand where you look through it at 2 mirror images and turn the knob till you end up with a clear one). Anyhoos, I couldn’t decide how far he was, and after 30-45 seconds, I finally decided he was at 60 yds.

He ended being closer to 50yds. I shot and hit him too high, up in the spine. He went down like a ton of bricks, rolling down the mountainside, with his front legs flailing to try to get back on his feet. His back legs were locked up. I’m running downhill, jumping over rocks and logs, trying to nock another arrow, and he’s getting farther away with each second. Finally, he stops rolling in a small grove of aspens, plus he has regained feeling in his back legs. He’s about 100 yds away staring at me. I got an arrow nocked and drew back just as he whirled and took off down the mountain. I ran down to a rocky outcrop just in time to see him hit the bottom and watched as he ran up the other side and finally disappeared over the top of the ridge a half mile away.

I turned and started back up the hill towards where my boots and pack were at, when I finally realized what the pain in my foot was. In all of the excitement, I didn’t realize I had sliced a silver dollar size chunk of flesh off the bottom of my right heel! That was quite the ordeal getting my boot back on and limping back to camp with my tail between my legs. Fortunately, you walk on the balls of your feet. I guess that counts as a double fail, so I got THAT going for me! :-)

From: MathewsMan
2011 Colorado Bighorn Ram hunt with my dad. We had numerous blown opportunities the first 9 days guided, but the killer was hiking my dad 4 hours up an avalanche chute to a spot we had patterned a big Full Curl collared Ram. We sat hours, and I was lying on the ground about 12 yards behind my dad with my bow on the ground and no arrow nocked. Just as I could hear the Ram coming up the chute (shale was sliding) Dad takes his release off the string (he cannot hear well). He spots the ram, puts his release on, and somehow comes to full draw which stopped the Ram. it was roughly 14 yards broadside in front of him- and the only 3' tall pine sapling is directly in front of the Ram's vitals. After about 2 minutes at full draw, the ram gets anxious looking at me and he turns to run- Dad's arrow goes between the front legs just under his chest.

The Failure for ME, was that I did not anticipate having to back him up, it was a slam dunk situation if the Ram showed. I should have had an arrow nocked and been sitting up ready like dad was- I was about 22 yards from this big ram- when he bolted and dad missed him- he ran out to about 50 yards broadside stairing back at us and had I had my bow ready I would have knocked him off. I'm sure somebody later killed him "X4" was the collar number, full curl monster Ram!

To add insult to injury, it was my dad's 4th Colorado Ram tag and he finally was going to shoot a huge ram with his bow after passing on numerous 3/4 curl 160 type rams on previous hunts we did together.

I can still see that image in my brain as clear as any hunting experience I have ever had. Kick myself in the ass for not thinking possibly something could happen and I would have a chance as well.

From: APauls
About 5 years ago, setting up a stand 2nd last day of the season with a buck decoy standing over a doe decoy. Wind is from the south but weather app says it should already be from the North, and should be north all afternoon. I've been screwed by this many times before. I decide "this is the last time I will trust the weather app" and I set up my stand based on the wind that SHOULD happen. Well, about 4pm an hour before dark I see a doe coming, and you guessed it, the wind has not switched yet. All that whole afternoon I'm squirming in my stand. She gets close to the setup and finally blows, but then I see what's behind her. Ya, a legit 180+ whitetail, looks like his 2's, 3's and 4's were all over 10" one of the largest deer I've ever seen in my life. They were coming to the decoys, but the wind screwed me big time.

Since that day I never ever set a stand based on what the wind should be, I just go with what it is at the time. He pranced out to about 120 yards, then stood there for a few minutes blew a few times, then pranced to about 350 yards (all in a field of snow) stood there for a few minutes, then finally ran out of my life never to be seen again.

From: Treeline
Been taken to school (or maybe out back to the woodshed) many times by big mule deer bucks.

The one that still stands out as my biggest fail was on a fabulous typical buck that I had watched and hunted for several years.

I have seen a lot of big mule deer and this buck was as perfect a typical 4x4 as you could imagine - great mass, good brow tines, deep and very tall backs, deep and very long fronts, about 26-28” inside, and super symmetrical. I have looked closely at the world record B&C typical mule deer and really believe this buck would beat the world record holder.

This buck ran with a group of 9 other bucks and there were a couple other whoppers in the group - one a big typical and one with big crazy caribou looking rack. The tough part about hunting these bucks was that they would feed on top of a barren rolling 12,500’ mountain that I nicknamed “the Breadloaf “. There was not enough topography or cover to get close to those bucks up there (several fails trying that approach). In order to see these bucks, you had to be on the top of the other ridge line across the valley from them. It is about 1,500’ down and another 2,000’ back up to get to their elevation from the glassing spot. They would sometimes bed up on top all day and sometimes drop down to treeline and roll around the nose of Bread-loaf to bed out of sight from the opposite ridge.

The third year I was hunting this buck, they moved around the nose of Breadloaf and I decided to try and find their bedroom and maybe get a crack at the big typical when they got up to feed. I made it across and slowly started working my way along still hunting and glassing ahead just at the treeline. I got to a good spot in a rockslide with some willows with a good view and sat to get a drink and a bite to eat. The sun was beating down on me in that spot so I decided to move down about 10 yards to a pine tree that would provide some relief from the sun and still have a good view if the bucks got up to feed.

I had glassed the area from where I had sat down and was sure the bucks weren’t close. I was wrong. As I slipped up to the pine, I saw movement underneath and all of a sudden, out blew that big typical! Literally from only three feet away! As he bounded away, his posse jumped up to follow from their well hidden beds. I didn’t have time to get an arrow out before they were down the mountain at full speed and out of sight. That really hurt.

I looked under that pine and saw that there was a hole burrowed into the duff that had been used, probably for generations, by bucks living on that mountain. I crawled under the boughs and figured out why it was such an awesome bed. There was no way for anything to get to it from up the slope, it was well shaded throughout the day, he could stay dry in a rainstorm, the prevailing wind would be in his face and he could see anything coming over about 180 degrees in front of the spot.

I was really disappointed in myself for blowing that kind of an opportunity!

As I dejectedly headed back, I heard the boom of a muzzle loader from around the hill in the direction that the bucks had run. I was sick thinking I had pushed them right to a muzzle loader hunter. I decided to go ahead and head that way to see which buck had been killed. When I got around the mountain and could see the other hunter, I recognized him so went on down to where he was working on a deer in the rocks. Luckily, it was the number two buck. I congratulated him and helped him pack the deer out. That buck ended up grossing over 210” and netting right at 200”.

I never saw that big typical again.

From: Trad Rick
The biggest failure I have made to many times is not even going because of busy work schedule, family time etc. etc. I made a promise to myself to get out more. The kids are now grown and it is time for me to get back into the swing of things.

From: Lark Bunting
Waiting until I was 41 before taking up hunting.

From: Bake
I missed a for-sure B&C elk in 2015. 370-380+. Just a beautiful giant 6x6. He’s the only exceptional animal I’ve ever had a chance at. And I blew it.

I don’t wanna talk about it anymore

From: bigswivle

bigswivle's embedded Photo
Haunts my dreams
bigswivle's embedded Photo
Haunts my dreams
The most embarrassing shooting I've ever done in my life. No excuses. He's still alive though.

From: Treeline
Bigswivle, then you still have a chance! Get him next season!

Actually, I learned a lot about high country mule deer by being so fixated on that big buck.

I passed on many lesser bucks through that timeframe. Several that would have definitely made B&C minimums. Heck most people wouldn’t believe it, but I passed on the #2 buck at under 20 yards - twice!

The knowledge gained in through those experiences with those big bucks above treeline was worth the price of admission. That experience definitely has made me a better, more successful bow hunter. So it really was not a failure after all...

From: Scar Finga
One year up in Kaibab, I had a shot at a true monster non-typical muley! He had an absolutely massive rack, tons of junk everywhere with a huge drop tine on the left side. He was about 45 yards away, and I had just walked up on him, I went to full draw, and waited just a half second to long. I didn't even think he new I was there, but he just bolted! They don't get big by being dumb! I was so mad at myself for years after that, he has haunted my dreams. He was truly the biggest muley I have ever seen anywhere! I do want to clarify that I am not saying he was the new world record buck, I just don't believe I have ever seen a deer with a rack that wide, that tall and with as many points as this buck had. It all happened so fast that I didn't even get to count the points, but I bet he had 6 or 7 on his left not counting the dropper, and 5 or so on his right. He just had junk everywhere!

It was a Sad Sad day!

This topic is depressing!

Oh, and then there was the time I tore my ACL and LCL at 12,000' in Wy on an elk hunt on the second day!

2008 - Patterned a huge typical whitetail early in the season, easily bigger than my best (152). Waited for the right wind and took the afternoon off. At 4:30 here he comes following a doe. When she veers off onto another trail, I think 45yds while he makes a scrape further back the trail. As he gets closer, I think, "No. That's only 40." (No rangefinder) Move my single pin slider, hit full draw and bleated to stop him. At the release, everything went into slow motion and I watched the arrow fall short about 3 or 4 inches low hitting him right at the top of the humerus. Sounded like someone hit a home run with a wooden bat!!! ZERO penetration. I felt like I was going to puke!!!!

When I found my arrow, it had split out and only the broadhead and insert were gone. only maybe 2inches of blood on the shaft. Saw that buck a week later chasing a doe - slight limp.

Neighbor kid killed a 176" buck the next year that had my Thunderhead still in his upper leg just below the scapula-humerus joint. Still hurts to think about it!!!! Also the last season that I ever hunted with Thunderheads...

From: drycreek
The other thread was kind of a head scratcher, but this one is easy.

Not taking a shot at a mature buck with palmated antlers because he saw me move to start my draw. Who knows if he would have ran, ducked, or just stood there and took it like a man. We'll never know because I choked and he just walked off ! I still see those giant hands sticking out of his head sometimes when I'm thinking of hunts I've had and animals taken or not.

From: Surfbow
I don't know if it was a 'fail' because it firmly planted the bowhunting bug in my brain, but I made numerous mistakes the first time I was out solo for elk and was able to call in a nice bull. I had no experience with the need to conceal myself to draw without spooking the animal, so I was sitting with my back to a pine and facing a small clearing about 20-30 feet across. The bull walked up and stood close enough that I could see the individual hairs on his chest as he stared a hole straight through me for what seemed like eternity, maybe 2-3 yards from me. I realized that if I so much as blinked he'd spook so I was stuck, after a while he calmly turned and walked back into the brush...and I never got him in bow range again.

From: JB
There have been a few... Worst one - I was in a double doe earn a buck hunt. Shot a big doe opening morning. Had a little (very little) doe standing there after I shot her. Hate shooting little deer and just couldn’t bring myself to shoot.

Fast forward to the next morning and I hear footsteps coming down the hill behind me. 1st thought is: man I hope this is a doe! Nope. Monster 9 point with a ton of mass. He stands below me without a care in the world. Walks out in front of me at 10 yards and looks up at me. I swear he flipped me off before he walked away.

From: Jaquomo
I waited and watched a muley buck for a week that I believe would have exceeded the current P&Y world record (Harms buck, which I have studied close up in person) by at least 10". Finally made my setup in a ground blind, panicked when a couple does came in behind me, spooked the doe he was following when they were still at 40 yards, never saw him again.

He was killed on the interstate a week later and five miles away. Those who saw the rack who know BIG deer said it was the biggest typical anyone had ever seen. And they kill some giants out there with rifles.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda......

From: Jack Harris
Biggest fail by far - trusting a RAGE back in 2008 to perform flawlessly on a chip shot on a really big NJ buck.... Only to watch it bounce off the buck harmlessly on a 45 degree angle quartering away shot (my favorite shot). Silver Lining- went back to fixed blades with amazing success ever since, never looking back. Now I shoot the BH I trust and make my bow tuned to shoot it. I never should have gone there... My whitetail wall is near-full now, no thanks to Rage...

From: pav
Has to be my Utah LE elk hunt in 2010. Got an opportunity at a big, heavy 6X5 with four days left in the season and could not pass him up. Buried my arrow up to the fletching, lower 1/3rd, behind the shoulder on a broadside shot. Dead elk. Light was fading fast and I decided to pull out and recover / butcher the following morning.

Returned to the scene shortly after daybreak. The bull had bailed off the ridge top into a thick oak brush canyon face immediately after the shot. I found his tracks, but no blood. Soon, the tracks mixed in with a thousand other elk tracks and still no blood. Spent three days crawling through oak brush looking for that bull....and glassing from the opposite canyon face...but never found him.

Posted my story on another website known to be frequented by Utah hunters. A few days later, a ML hunter sent me an email. He found the bull and my arrow on that same canyon face. Said he never would have found him if it weren't for the birds. He did not mark the spot on a GPS, but offered to meet with me and take me to the bull. My wife was scheduled for surgery that week, so I arranged for a game warden to meet the ML hunter. Something came up and the game warden never showed. The lost bull was lost again...this time for good. Very likely the one and only Utah LE elk tag I will ever possess.

From: Kurt
Three of us from CO drew NR WY antelope tags back in 1985. We knew the game warden in the area we were fact we were camping/sleeping in his garage. He had classified 10,000 antelope that summer, and knew where the biggest one hung out. He got us permission to hunt where the monster lived. The little water hole on the property was drying up so we hauled in a big cooler full of water to keep it going (his water from his tap in his cooler). The three of us drew straws to see who would hunt the property and water hole the first day, second and third days. I drew day two, with my buddy, a total rookie bowhunter on his first day bowhunting ever drawing day one.

Well, the rookie didn't get the monster on day one...never had a decent opportunity to draw on the big one as there were too many antelope around to get a clean shot, draw with all the eyes, etc.

I was super pumped to hunt the big guy on day two. In the afternoon he finally showed up, coming over the dike and stopping 15 yds away broadside. Canting the bow, I drew the Bighorn recurve back with the lower limb between my legs. At the shot, the arrow dived under the buck around his hoofs. The lower limb of the recurve had hit my left leg! The monster ran off and out of my life! Near sundown that day a nice buck showed up and I drilled him. The rains came and our third day was washed out so the rookie didn't get another chance (my other buddy was tagged out as well).

The game warden later told us that the monster buck was taken in rifle season and scored over 90" B&C. At the time the P&Y world record antelope was less than 87"...a tie between the Archie Malm's ND buck (later restated at about 88") and Judd Cooney's CO buck. Oh was a heck of an experience to get to miss a legit world record. However I often thought that if I'd have been shooting my familiar compound, I'd have got him.

From: Tonybear61
Shooting a doe just before the rut begins so my wife (who was in a ground blind 25-30 yds away) could share the experience.

She heard the shot and the doe running away. She called out "What was that?? "I just shot one." I replied. "No you didn't" she said. I replied: "Oh yes I did, come on over and I will climb down." A few moments later I hear noise close to the base of my tree, not my wife but a huge 10 point looking right up at me. He snorts softly and runs off. "What was that?" says my wife. "Oh you don't want to know " says I.

From: LBshooter
I grunted at a huge twelve pointer with his nose in the rear of a doe, he was about 70 yards away. When he finally heard me playing the grunt tube like a kazoo he ran back into the tree line.i thought I blew it and as I rose from a crouching position in tall grass I looked up and he was standing 20 yards in front of me drooling and his nostrils flaring. I froze and looked at him and he at me and I should have shot him through the chest but didn't. Watched him turn and run as the doe crossed the road and never saw him again. Fail? Yes, as far as killing a deer but a success to be so close and seeing such a great animal on public land.

Shot a mid 150-160 whitetail at 9 stinkin yards. From the ground. 9 yards. To this day I know I couldn’t have placed the arrow better. Saw it go in, watched him run 35 yards and stop, wobble, then tip over. Threw my bow and started war whooping. Acting a fool. Got on my radio and called my buds to tell them, etc...

While I was talking to them I looked up and that son of a gun was back on his feet. I threw my radio down and run and grabbed my bow. Too late. He had made it over a little rise. The blood was pumping. I thought no worries. I’ll just ease out and come back and get him right over that rise in an hour.

7 straight days of looking from daylight to dark later, I finally had to let it go. It gets worse though.

When we went back in an hour, we trailed him almost a mile in the next hour and decided to leave him. He was pumping good right upto the last 109 yards. We went back right before dark and I walked up on that buck bedded at 20 yards. He was so weak he couldn’t barely get up. It took him several tries. Only problem was I had left my bow in camp. Prepared to drag him. What a flipping moron I was. He finally struggled up and half walked/half stumbled out of my life forever. It’s hard being me when I think about that.

That should have read 100 yards. Not 109.

From: SlipShot
Went on my first hog hunt in Texas; novice bow hunter. Had not seen much the first two days and was getting pretty frustrated. I knew where some hogs had been frequenting. Build a nice ground blind and set out some corn. Couple hours later in came a group of hogs under 20 yards. Went to pull my arrow back slow and for the life of me could not get it back?! Hogs finally see movement and bust out of their. I figured it was nerves and my inexperience and sitting instead of standing; I have never had problems pulling my bow back. Another half hour and the pigs come back in. When I hear the pigs coming in I stand up. Not to be beat I I ripped the string back, settled my pin on the closes hog and hit the release. It sounded like a gun going off. My bow came apart, the arrow broke into 3 or more pieces. To say I was surprised would have been an understatement. At that time I did not have a backup bow, so that was the end of my hunt. Looking back I think what happen is when I tried to pull the first time I had a branch or something wedge between string and the cams. When I ripped it back the second time the branch rolled up on the cams. Releasing the arrow the string jumped off the cam destroying the bow. Insult to injury, for the next week I could barely move my left arm. The shock from the bow exploding went up my arm and hurt my shoulder and back.

From: Russ Koon
There have been so many over my 55 years of bowhunting.....

The one that pops to mind was the the time I had scouted seriously around a quiet 20 acre lake on a seclude property I had goten permission on, and had found a well-used trail crossing a small feeder stream near one end of the lake. Looked like a perfect setup for hunting from my canoe, if I could catch the perfect wind direction.

So I waited patiently and watched the weather reports until the prediction was for NO wind at all the and clear skies the next AM.

I had double-checked all my gear and was finally going to get a plan to come out right!

Arrived at the lake about an hour and a half before dawn the next morning, and the prediction was accurate, there was zero wind. I could tell because the fog was so thick. Hmmm....

Oh well, it will probably lift in time. Got my old reliable canoe off the top of my Scout as quietly as possible, and slipped it into the water. Took my best aim at the general area of the part of the lake was where that little stream came in, and paddled very carefully into the fog. An hour later, still paddling slowly and carefully with no idea of direction except dead reckoning (hadn't expected to need a compass just to cross a twenty acre lake!), I finally bumped against something in the water softly. and when I eased up alongside it until I was within about two feet and could see it in the still near darkness in the fog, it was a beaver lodge, and I knew it was the only one one on the lake and wasn't far from the creek, so I eased over to the shore that I knew was very close to that lodge and stayed within a few feet of shore until I had edged around to the stream. It was getting pretty light, but didn't appear to be sunup yet, near as I could tell, so I still had high hopes as I eased the canoe forward until it would go no further, and settled back on the seat with bow in hand listening to the woods coming awake, and still unable to see the other end of my fifteen foot canoe through that fog.

Proboably hadn't been sitting there more than twenty minutes when I began hearing the deer approaching in the stream bed gravel, and could hear them crunching the acorns.

Then I could hear them stepping into the soft bottom and the very small sounds of their hooves lifting from the clay bottom where I sat in the canoe. And then I could hear them climbing the muddy little trail out of the stream bed and up the adjacent hillside towards their bedding areas......and still couldn't quite see the other end of my canoe!

It must have been close to another hour later when there was finally a slight wind that helped the sun clear enough fog off that lake to paddle back to the Scout. Wasn't bad enough to have another Wily Coyote moment to dash my hopes, I had also managed to make it so I couldn't do anything except sit there stewing in my own juices looking at fog until I could see to leave!

From: Buffalo1
One time a reporter asked Jack Nicklaus about a putt he missed. The missed putt was recorded and beyond any denying. Nicklaus' response to the reporter was, "I don't remember missing that putt". Nicklaus chose to focus on the positive rather than the negative.

The moral of Nicklaus' response was don't even think on negative things- it waste needless energy does not promote vibes for positive to occur.

Every day I've been able to hunt and enjoy the outdoors has been a blessing.

From: Woods Walker
" I grab my bow, and suddenly realize... I never put the release on..."

That's the beauty of shooting with can't leave them at home! Even ME!

From: David A.
Had a 400" bull in front of me at 150 yds and let my guide talk me out of stalking him to instead try to catch him at a hot wallow nearby where we had a blind. It rained hard for two days and the wallow went cold. Never saw him again.

From: Owl
"Biggest fail?" Having javelina as your jinx species. Your white whale is a critter even average archers collect with ease. And not for lack of opportunity. Just consistently screwing up when it counts. That stings.

From: MBMule

MBMule's embedded Photo
MBMule's embedded Photo
The third day I ever bowhunted, I missed this buck, looking just like this in full velvet, at 27 yards just before dark. A big thunderstorm was coming in, and the dark clouds had already blocked out what was left for legal light. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have shot, “legal” light or not. He had been within range the previous two evenings as well, but not until after legal light. Had I not shot, he probably would have showed up again the next night, possibly with enough light to shoot. I’m almost glad that I didn’t get him. A bowhunter with 3 days of evening sits under his belt doesn’t deserve a buck like that. But I would have liked to have found him the next year, because I froze my arse off for the rest of the season trying to get him! I remember skipping school several days during the rut and sitting before sunrise to after sunset in temperatures close to -30F with the windchill. Couldn’t afford good cold weather gear back then so I just layered as much as I could. Probably looked like the camouflage Michelin man up in a skinny little white poplar tree.

From: MObow
At 12 or 13 was in a permanent stand in a huge oak tree that required your to enter through a large fork in the branches the stand was anchored to and you sat opposite the fork. A basket racked 8 point came into 15 yards and gave me a shot between the fork. At the shot I realized I missed but upon closer inspection I found the cut mark on my own tree. Still can't believe I did that. It could have been my first bow kill but I will always remember it even more than some of my successful hunts.

From: Peej
Not a bow hunting fail but a pretty good one. A friend of mine was hunting the rifle season and came out of the woods a couple of miles from his truck.He was hiking back when he had an urgent nature call. He dropped his drawers and just as he began to do his business he heard a rig coming up the road. He halted production and hobbled down over the bank and proceeded to do his business.All of a sudden he heard the rig stop and doors slamming,then driving off. Thinking to himself "what was that all about?" Then he realized he had leaned his rifle against a tree right next to the road. He never saw it again.

From: Z Barebow
Too many to pick from. I would prefer to leave the wounds scabbed over rather than picking at them.

From: Pigsticker
My epic fail was not hunting brown bear with a bow in Alaska when I was a resident.

From: Scoot
Thanks for sharing all of the stories above! I always think the stories of failure are really interesting and it never ceases to amaze me how we bowhunters can find new and creative ways to botch things. Some of the stories above sound remarkably familiar, some are different from any fail I've ever managed (thus far). It is interesting that the number of posts in this thread is less than the number in the success thread. I'm not surprised by that at all.

Buffalo, I completely agree with your last sentence- any day in the field is a blessing and some of my greatest days/trips/seasons ended without me killing anything more than time. But I don't approach life in the way you described above. Obviously it worked pretty darn well for Jack- he seemed to do ok for himself... However, I prefer to acknowledge my mistakes and blunders, try to understand what happened, and to learn from them the best I can, no matter how much they sting. Living in denial of them ever happening may work for some, but it's really just deluding yourself IMO. But whatever works for you is just fine by me! We all get through things in our own way and if that approach works for you, and for Jack, then I'm glad it works and you've got an approach you can rely on.

Like some of you, I've got more failures than I can recall in a short amount of time. I've thought about this one a lot and I can't figure out which of the many is my biggest.

I emptied my three arrow quiver at a doe at 20 yards when I was 12 years old- never cut a hair.

I fell out of a tree trying to hang a stand when I was in my 20's- broke my foot.

I didn't sit behind the tree my dad said to sit behind- I found a "better one". I then watched a dang big 10 pointer walk past "dad's tree" at about 5 yards. I essentially did this same stupid mistake twice (it took a long time to figure out my dad actually knew what he was talking about and I didn't actually know better).

I had a huge 10 pointer inside of 20 yards for several minutes when I was 12. I got drawn on him several times and didn't manage a shot. Slam dunk deal now that I have some experience under my belt, but I totally blew it at 12. Lots of learning has occurred since then!

Left my bow in my dad's pickup and rode to the stand in my brother's one time. Watched a big 10 walk right under the tree I was going to sit in from the front seat of my brother's pickup.

My most recent, and one that definitely is fresh in my mind, is missing the biggest buck I've ever dropped the string on this past Nov. He was/is a double drop-tine 12 pointer who is simply spectacular. I actually caught some fur/flesh on the bottom of him, but not enough to do any meaningful damage (to him, definitely not the case for my fragile little ego). I misjudged the yardage and missed low. My buddy saw him three weeks later and he looked as magnificent as ever!

The list goes on an on! This thread is great though! My son only seems to read/watch success after success in bowhunting and doesn't really appreciate just how hard bowhunting truly is! He's had plenty of struggles but also plenty of success for a 13 year old boy. I thought this thread would be a good read for him to put things in perspective a bit. It was a good read for me too.

From: RSM
Belly crawled across a few hundred yards of flat, barren New Mexico high desert to get within range of a bedded antelope buck. When eventually I got close enough, I gathered myself up, rose to my knees and drew in one smooth motion. One finger anchored into the corner of my mouth (still shooting fingers at the time), paused briefly, and relaxed. The string and arrow raced forward, pulling what seemed like half of my mustache off my face. In the brief moment I anchored, some errant, and former, mustache hairs incorporated themselves into bowstring. I don't know if it was my yelling or the arrow bouncing off the ground way short of the antelope and cartwheeling over him, but I swear the buck stood and looked at me with a profound WTF look before high-nose trotting across the plains and out of sight.

Shot over the back of a big Desert ram while hanging over a cliff with my guide hanging onto my belt. Wish I had that shot back more than any other.

From: KyleSS
Back in 2011 I drew a late season Alberta Bighorn Sheep tag for WMU 410. I hunted 29 days straight and got a shot on the 28th day. I didn't account for the wind coming down the avalanche shoot and cleanly missed the 42 yard shot. I wish I would have taken more time and snuck across the avalanche shoot and gotten in closer. It was the first and last shot I ever got at a legal Bighorn sheep.

From: dingo
Hey Scoot...speaking of kids. I love mine and spend time teaching them the way of the bow. I’ll never forget when I showed my little girl how to use a rangefinder. She was soooo proud of herself running all around the house and naming off yardage’s to my mounts with it.

The deer I hunt are hybrid mutts and don’t qualify for any kind of book but that isn’t why I hunt. Occasionally I’ll see a 12” forkie along with some small ones. On this particular morning I had the good fortune of spotting a dream buck. He was over 20” 4x4 with eyeguards in the velvet. Long stalk in the heat through thistles and red ants. Finally closed the distance to 45. Split the pins...straight up the leg, bottom 1/3rd and let her rip. Watched my arrow go under him and he disappeared into the brush. I rechecked the range 50 times. When I got home I shot at my 40 and 50 yd target and drilled them both. Then for kicks I ranged it. My 40 said 36...50 was 45. Then I noticed an “M”on the display. My ‘lil bundle of sunshine had changed the calibration on my rangefinder from yards to meters! What I thought was 45 yds was actually 49....enough for a clean miss.

From: Greg S
After about 5 years unsuccessful on elk I finally was in the right spot at the right time. Just inside the edge of timber on a bench. Bull chasing a cow toward me She came to 12 yards and turns broadside. He follows. I draw as his head goes behind a tree. As I’m looking to line up peep I start to move my fiber off the back of the release trigger...unfortunately I had lightened the trigger so much that this being the first time shooting it in the rain my finger stuck to the back of the release just enough that I had a negligent discharge and shot the tree. Not the bull. Another season of tag soup! That was 20 years ago. Finally broke the seal 5 years ago and have had fresh elk meat ever since. The first one is the hardest!

From: Windwalker
I've taken many animals with a bow but never a P&Y whitetail. Many bowhunters have but for me it just escapes me year in and year out. Over 50 years of bowhunting I've had several decent opportunities but I've always managed to screw them up. Maybe this fall in Kentucky where I've booked my 1st outfitted whitetail hunt it will happen. If not I will just keep on trying until I cannot pull my bow anymore.

From: drycreek
I've reread this thread and now I feel much better !

From: Blake Patton
53 days of hunting bighorn sheep in Canmore. In the midst of a blizzard and minus 10 degree temps, ran an arrow through a nice ram in 2014 but was unable to recover. Hunted 37 more days in 2016-17 without seeing a legal ram. Did manage to take a fall on the last trip of the mountain that left me with bruised and broken ribs. I still feel the pain - my ribs too.....

From: Nick Muche
Blake, those numbers are impressive irrespective of you not sealing the deal. The memories you've made trying must be incredible.

From: Blake Patton
Absolutely Nick!

From: elvspec
I'm going to speak for my hunting partner here. Last year we made a nice stalk on a group of antelope. Popped up over the ridge and I flashed the decoy. The boss buck started trotting out way and as I called out ranges my partner was making ready. At 32 yards the buck stopped and turned broadside. I said time to shoot and all of a sudden there was a loud "WHAP" on the decoy. I had no idea what happened and assumed that when my buddy shot the lower limb hit the decoy. I was still looking at the buck and he faltered for a second and I thought he was hit. As it turns out the only thing that was hit was the decoy which my buddy shot right through its plastic rump. Even after the buck ran off I didn't know what happened, it wasn't until I found a piece of plastic from the hole in the decoy(which I hadn't noticed) while looking for the arrow did my buddy fess up. All I can say is thank the good lord he didn't shoot a bit more to the right. That would have been the worst fail of all.

Had a buddy taking care of his morning "business" when I called a bull in for him. It got pretty hectic at 30 yards and in all the commotion of him fumbling for his release he fell azz backwards into his own $h!t... LMAO! (Still makes me laugh out loud)

From: Treeline
Elkman, I busted out laughing at that one!

From: Kurt
Blake, sometimes those rams come hard as we both know...hope your next hunt is one where you have pre-paid all the dues and you get an "easy" one!

From: VogieMN
Went turkey hunting in South Dakota with a bow, got set up under a big flock and when they started to fly down there were turkeys everywhere and moving around like crazy, so I panicked. Shot 5 arrows, didn't hit any turkey's and didn't recover 2 of my arrows.

From: GF
First morning, first hunt, first year. Pulling into the property, 2 does (probably fawns) were Right There. They bolted back into the field to my left behind a windbreak.

I pulled off, ran to the back of the old Wagoneer, and grabbed my bow, pulling one arrow from the Kwik-kee quiver, rather than just attaching it per usual... because you only get one shot, right?

I walked quickly up to the next break in the windrow, and there they were, one behind the other, looking like a 2-headed deer. I waited them out, and once I had a clear broadside on one of ‘em, I guesstimated the range (compound, but fingers/no sights) and shot a few inches over her back. And there they stood. I ended up easing to within 5 yards before they bounced out of there, offering 2 more shots before they left for good.

Years later, Elk Hunting; fork bull I had first spotted at about 35 yards walked right in to well within 10, and there I stood with not a stick of cover between us. I got my bow hand up and transferred an arrow from the Catquiver onto the string as he came in and stopped, head up, looking me over like “Damn, that’s an ugly stump.”

He started to walk away, crossing right-left at a purposeful clip, so I picked a spot, drew through my anchor as I was swinging on him... and bounced 1 blade off of a dead, 2” lodgepole.

I’m not sure, but I think that was the first year for a 4-point restriction in that unit - it never occurred to me to check beforehand - and that tree probably did that bull and me BOTH a favor.

All‘s well that ends well, I guess!

From: VogieMN
My biggest fail was deer hunting with a shotgun. Shot at a buck 2 times, missed both times, he was only probably 40 yards away. I get down from my stand and about 20 yards from my stand was a small sapling maybe an inch in diameter and it had 2 circular holes cut out of it about a foot a part of one another.

From: Genesis
Hot dogging with a 3 arrow quiver and missed a BC class muley twice without him knowing I was in the world .Heavy winds and the next stalk in heavy timber and a put a bad shot on him on a strong quarter away.Buck comes up hill and beds about 7 yards from me with an empty quiver.190+ for sure.

From: APauls
Oh Genesis that one hurts me just reading it! Different than hurts just that sickening I want to barf feeling.

From: YZF-88
I accidentally shot the wrong deer a few years ago. While I was stalking out of sight. The big buck switched beds with a little 3x3. I went to the same bed, saw tines and slipped an arrow into the crease while he was bedded. To my surprise, the big buck stood up and bolted from a shrub the little one used to be under.

Idaho moose hunt a few years back. Have made my share of bad shots and mistakes, a few of them bigger than others(wrong setting on rangefinder resulting in a miss on a huge ram is the first that comes to mind). All of them I can accept as part of the hunting experience.

The one I haven’t been able accept was my pissy attitude on that moose hunt. Slow hunting due to what my best guess was a delayed rut that year. Leading up to that hunt I’d made the mistake of thinking I was more or less ‘entitled’ to an archery bull being I had drawn a tag pushing 100% success on under an average of 2 days hunted. There were some other things that were out of my control that weren’t working in my favor as well but that’s a part of any hunt to one degree or another.

My greatest hunt successes have been always been a result of nothing more than steadfast resiliency culminated by a little luck and overcoming the obstacles and challenges along the way. Anyway, ended up picking up the gun on day 7 and ending it on the first bull I saw. Which happened to be 15 yards away....

Will never go into any hunt thinking slam dunk again. More importantly, a negative disposition won’t be allowed back on any hunt, ever.

From: Bowboy
Not having enough time off to hunt!

From: MObow
At 12 or 13 was in a permanent stand in a huge oak tree that required your to enter through a large fork in the branches the stand was anchored to and you sat opposite the fork. A basket racked 8 point came into 15 yards and gave me a shot between the fork. At the shot I realized I missed but upon closer inspection I found the cut mark on my own tree. Still can't believe I did that. It could have been my first bow kill but I will always remember it even more than some of my successful hunts.

  • Sitka Gear