One morning in 2021, I got up late (screwed up my alarm the night before trying to give me 15 more minutes sleep as i was too early the previous day) and practically ran up the big hill to the meadow I wanted to be at first light. I made it but just barely. However, my mistake was I that had my binos & range finder inside my jacket instead of outside. I gave a cow call at first light and then a minute or two later saw a 320ish 6 X 6 coming down the 1/2 mile long meadow. I pulled out my range finder to try to get a distance on something in the meadow as a reference and it instantly fogged up. Bull keeps coming towards me on a steady walk. I finally get what I thought was a 50 yard reading on a brush just the other side of the main trail. (Literally was aiming the range finder and then holding it up to the sky to try to read the number) Bull hits the spot in front of said bush and stops broadside looking for the cow he had heard. I let the arrow fly and watched it skim right under his chest. (Range finder must have been on a bush this side of the trail, not the other so while I thought he was at 48 he was 55. Ugh!
He whirls and goes back from whence he came. I made a few pleading cow calls that I figured were in vain. However, while I'm kicking myself, I look back to the top of the meadow and now there is a 6 X 6 and a 7 X 7 walking down the same trail. (I'm starting to wonder if I am dreaming)
I quickly scurried on my hands and knees 30 yards to a couple pine trees on the edge of the meadow. This time they won't be 57 yards but under 30 and a chip shot. When they are 75 yards out I catch a flash of movement to my right and (Here is the bad luck completely out of my control) a stupid coyote comes trotting down the edge of the tree line and stops 5 yards in front of me, turns his head and stares at me. I thought, "I should just shoot you cause you are going to screw this up aren't you." Sure enough he whirls and runs straight at the two bulls which of course puts them on full alert. When they turn to go back to the private, I call at them, and while they stopped and looked back, they could tell where my calls were coming from and after staring a minute or two disappeared into the trees headed back to safety of the private land.
2022 was my second biggest mistake/bad luck experience. Same meadow at first light. Had been talking with a bull for at least 40 minutes. I had played it perfectly. Called just enough to keep him from going up to the private, but not enough to pull him in before legal shooting light which was 6:12. My watch finally said it was time, but I still couldn't see my pins clearly so I waited a couple more minutes. Finally could faintly see them so I gave him a pleading cow call and thirty seconds later he popped out of the oak brush broadside at 50 yards. I come to full draw ready to fill my tag, but to my horror, I can't find my pins.
What the Heck?
After a few seconds of confusion, I let down. Of course he sees the movement (and the lack of the cow he had heard) and heads back up through the oaks and into the private.
When I look down, I see the problem. I had fought my way through some nasty brush the evening before and my peep was now sideways in my string. Reason I couldn't see my pins at full draw was because I was trying to look through the plastic of a messed up peep.
So, now it is 2023 and once again I didn't draw any tags so guess where I plan to be 30 minutes before first light on Saturday? Wish me luck. I hope I'm due! (And yes, I have a new string and a new peep that I will be checking way too often. I've also measured the distance between the D loop and the peep and have the ability in a pinch to replace it.)
Good luck, and I hope the third time is the charm.
Exactly. That is what I have been doing. I have a small window to catch them before they get to the private but also have to stay below them so the morning thermals don't screw me up. It's a delicate dance that I'm hoping I have figured out. As for checking my gear, I'm pretty fastidious about that, just never had a peep move on me that way before. :)
Yes, I have hunted many years without a range finder and do pretty well. However, at first light, with nothing but grass, 50+ yards between me and the trail, and the intensity of the encounter, my guestimate likely would have been off as well. At least this way it was a clean miss.
I know I'm in the minority on this issue, but in my experience range finders can be more of a hinderance than an aide in a potential shot situation. I used to cringe when I guided clients who refused to take a shot until they had ranged the animal. I'm fine with using them to range markers ahead of time, I do it all the time, but not when an animal is within range.
I have a feeling the stars are going to align for you this year. I'm rooting for you.
But I am pulling for you with fingers crossed and best wishes headed your way! In any case, have the best time ever!
Me, I'm sitting out this year. Fork it. Got no buddies coming out to hunt with me and I am way over going solo anymore.
Anyway, third time was not "the charm," though I did have a great hunt and two really good opportunities at legal bulls plus a cool bear encounter. I'll post the stories when I catch up at work or maybe in October as I'm taking my wife and my 4 year-old granddaughter to Rocky Mount National Park this weekend to introduce her to bugling elk. :)