Recently on a hunting trip to Western Kentucky I rattled in a nice 140"+ 8 point. He was standing over 300 yards away on the opposite side of a standing soybean field. I slammed the antlers together immediately beckoning him to snort furiously and begin running in my direction! He gave me a broadside shot and once I settled my pin I pulled through my release sending my arrow towards his vitals. That instant is the moment I drove 14 hours for. It's the moment we work for all year; the chance to see and get a shot on a nice mature buck. My enthusiasm and jubilee quickly turned South as would I, empty handed in just a few days. "Crack", was the first sound I remember hearing after I watched my arrow hit what I knew was not its mark. I had hit him square in the shoulder blade. As he turned to run my fears were confirmed when I saw a good 20"+ of arrow that failed to penetrate the thick bone of the old buck.
Did I hold too high? Did I flinch? Did he duck? Is my bow out of tune? Are the broadheads flying true? All these questions are asked when we come to the end of a blood trail where no deer lies; probably hundreds of yards before the end actually. If you have been bow hunting long enough you have without a doubt missed, or even worse wounded a deer. It is a sickening feeling in either instance. What should you do to ensure that the next shot opportunity has a different outcome? Here are a few tips:
BLAME YOUR EQUIPMENT
The easiest thing to do is the simplest issue, or non issue, to fix. There is no way this was a mental error or misjudgment of yardage right? The first priority is shoot your bow at a practice target. Shoot it through paper if it is available. Prove to yourself that it was indeed NOT your equipment. You must be confident and certain that when you release, your arrow will go where you willed it.
Now that you know it was not your bow, arrow, broadhead, release, rest, or whatever else you tried to blame it on focus on the real issue: You (ME). Recreate the shot that went awry. Too many times we are guilty of either not practicing from elevated positions during the off season or forgetting that trajectory changes the higher we climb. Two things to fix this: practice from a similar height and stand at home, and remember the higher you are the lower you'll need to aim due to the trajectory of the arrow. Most modern range finders have this "angle adjustment" feature in them so when you're in a tree it will tell you the actual yardage of the animal and more importantly the yardage you need to shoot for in relation to your height in the tree.
BLAME THE DEER
Deer are crazy fast. Let's face it. They have lightning fast reflexes and the ability to duck your arrow whether you like it or not. A few tips to help over come this are Get a faster setup. Obviously the faster the arrow, the less time the deer has to react. Aim a little low. When the deer ducks, he will hopefully be dropping right into the line of your arrow. Aiming where you want to hit may result in hitting the animal high. Lastly don't give them a "meh" unless you absolutely have to. Doing so stops them, yes, but it also puts them on alert. A deer that didn't just hear a foreign noise is much less likely to duck than one that is already stopped and waiting on another sound.
Situational practice is the best remedy and knowing where to aim can be the final solution. When you make a poor shot don't give up. Although it seems to be the easiest choice at the time. Practice these remedies to regain your confidence, change your strategy on where you're aiming and go redeem yourself!