It was early enough in the afternoon that I wasn’t quite mentally prepared when a yearling doe materialized out of the brush and made her way steadily toward an open shooting lane that would put her well within range of my bow. I quickly composed myself, lifted my bow off its hanger, clipped on the release and got ready to shoot. “Too easy,” I thought as she paused in the open and looked back and away, giving me a chance to draw, aim and fire.

The loud “crack!” that followed surprised me as much as the deer. After she trotted off unscathed I quickly surveyed my surrounding so see what could possibly have gone wrong. My bow still seemed to be intact and in working condition. Then I saw the arrow, 40 feet away and 20 feet up, sticking out of a tall sapling that was halfway between me and where the deer formerly stood. In the excitement I never saw the tree, and had I tried to hit it I doubt I could have. That’s the way it goes sometimes.

We all hope that our scouting efforts pay off and at some point a carefully placed tree stand will offer a shot opportunity, and that the shot will be true. However, the hunting gods have a twisted sense of humor and every so often they make interesting things happen.

I recall one frosty November morning when I decided rather than sit in a stand I would pick up a track in the snow and follow it, more scouting than hunting. Sure enough, I picked up fresh tracks of two deer in the snow and was just sorting it out when a doe burst from cover. Cursing myself for moving too quickly I glanced up in time to see a fine buck standing not 30 yards away. Love was in the air and his attention was focused on the recently departed doe rather than me so I drew my bow and made a shot. The hand is quicker than the eye and the arrow still quicker. Nonetheless, I saw that arrow head straight toward the deer, then make an obvious diversion away from it at the last second. There was no sapling this time and to this day I don’t know how it was deflected. All the same, I was dejected.

Shot opportunities are too few and far between to be squandered so it’s important to check and re-check equipment during the course of a hunt. Like most things I learned this the hard way on yet another fateful afternoon hunt when another doe presented a chip shot. As I drew back my bow the arrow came off the string, and off the bow, clattering down through a maze of branches and sending yet another deer safely on its way.

With deer, as with traffic cops, sometimes it’s the ones you don’t see that get you. When a decent buck appeared and made his way toward me I had ample time to slowly stand, lift my bow and prepare for a shot, unseen from my elevated perch, or so I thought. The snort directly behind me was so loud and so close I nearly fell out of my stand. Unbeknownst to me a doe had slipped in and while the buck was unaware of my presence, she caught me moving and sounded the alarm, leaving me alone and quite shaken.

Occasionally things work the opposite way. Trekking into the woods one afternoon with a climbing stand over my shoulder I spotted a small buck working its way downhill and into a swamp. Standing motionless, I watched it enter a small patch of firs and lie down, and a new plan was hatched.

It took the better part of an hour to stalk within bow range of the bedded buck. Then, with no more cover to conceal myself and plenty for the bedded deer, I had no choice but to wait it out and hope the deer would stand. As if reading my mind, the deer stood and stretched, offering a perfect broadside shot. This time I saw the arrow sail cleanly over its back, and once again I watched the white-tailed salute of a departing deer.

I searched long and hard for my errant arrow without success and so retraced my steps, and those of the deer. “I was there, the deer was here,” I told myself as I tried to re-enact the action. Looking down I saw a speck of red. “Blood?” Certain I’d missed, it left me confused, until I began moving slowly down the trail I thought the deer had taken on its hasty retreat. More blood, and a little farther, the deer.

In the age-old battle of man vs. beast, the latter wins most of the time. So many things can go wrong, but often enough to keep us going back they occasionally go right. And even when they don’t, we sometimes win. As they say in sports, “a W is a W.”

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