Pre-celebration parties are over rated. Never celebrate before the reason to celebrate has actually arrived, thus my first lesson learned this year: don't celebrate prior to finding your animal.
The second and more important lesson learned:
ANGLED SHOT PLACEMENT IS IMPORTANT
I shot a doe on the mountain this year. I didn't recover her. This is my story.
Do you remember the day I alluded to in my recent video where we headed to a mountain lake? This was the day I released an arrow. That morning Troy and I decided to take a bit of a break from climbing to the top and stalking the "big boys." Instead we were going to try something different and spend the morning at a nearby lake. Actually, it was more me than Troy that wanted to venture to the lake, because I had been viewing this little lake from above all week and I wanted to see it for myself.
I didn't realize how far the lake was from camp, because when looking down from the peak it didn't seem that far. It was just over this "hill" through those pine trees and that clump of aspen trees. And when you no longer have the advantage of looking down to get your perspective of the land, it is easy to end up on the long route instead of hiking straight towards the destination. Therefore, what should have taken an hour quickly becomes two, and your little morning adventure turns into a day-long trip.
We did reach the lake mid-morning which allowed Troy to get out the spotting scope and see what the "big boys" were up to in the drainage basins above us. I got to "play" with the fish and soak in the sun. It was a nice relaxing afternoon. After eating our lunch, it was time to head back to camp and prepare for our evening hunt. This time we were taking the short straight route back to camp.
Since we felt confident in our way back this time, I told Troy let's just walk slowly through the woods taking our time and maybe I would have a chance at a bedded doe. So, with an arrow at the ready I began to lead the way.. elmer fudding it over logs. As we were only about 100 yards into the aspen on the edge of the lake, a doe stood up from her bed. The shot opportunity presented itself perfectly. I had a visual of her entire body with her head concealed by an aspen. She was frozen sensing something below, and since I couldn't see her eyes, I knew she couldn't see me either. With my husband standing right next to me, I calmly told him, "I've got a shot. I'm going to take it." Since he had a visual of her head, he was stuck and couldn't move to range the distance for me. "It's okay. I've got it," I said and was able to range her prior to the full draw moment. The distance = exactly 30 yards. So, I could drill her using my 30 yard pin without having to make any adjustments.
Did you catch the mention that she was looking DOWN on us? There was a pretty steep incline, but since my range finder has an angle setting I knew my range of 30 yards was accurate. Without the angle setting, the range would have been 43 yards. I felt confident because I had been practicing these angle shots frequently.
I remember the whole thing. It is a moment burned in my memory. The shot felt right... Pin securely set in the kill zone. String on nose. Bubble level. Back muscles taught. Follow through. Trigger releasing. It felt right. She jumped sky high. The words flew out of my husbands mouth, "You DRILLED her!" And I remember saying, "It looked a tad bit high." Seeing the question in my eyes, Troy quickly assured me that it was a great shot! He was proud of me.
We waited 30 minutes before making our way up the short distance to the top of the hill. I went first. I found my arrow and quickly became excited b/c there was blood on it and it was broken.
My excitement was short lived. As we looked around in the immediate area where the shot made impact, there was only a few small drops of blood. That was it. If I had hit lungs as it appeared I should have from below, there would have been a lot more blood. There wasn't. It was going to be a long day. Knowing that with a minimal to non-existent blood trail we needed to sneak back to camp and possibly give her time to expire without pushing her deep into the woods. So, with the question lingering in my mind if I had just fed the bears and coyotes that evening or if I would recover my deer, we took the "short" trip back to camp to change clothes, lighten our packs and prepare for hopefully packing a deer back to the truck.
Without dragging this story on, the end of it is this: We didn't recover my deer that day. After searching and combing the area all day without a blood trail to go on, here is what we think actually happened. With the angle of the shot and my gut feeling that I shot just slightly high, I probably hit the "no-zone" or "no man's land" - the zone right in between the spine and lungs resulting in a muscle, non-fatal shot. She probably lived through it or I suppose the cycle of life continued by filling the stomach of a bear or coyote.
Here is where shot placement and angle are critical. Everyone knows that when bow hunting, to wait for the broadside or quartering away shot. Think about it... you need to ensure that the path of the arrow penetrates through to the kill zone. If the animal is quartering to you, this is a terrible shot b/c it means that a gut shot is likely. However, what about the up and down angle shots? The important part here (which I neglected to think about) is to consider the exit wound. Think about it. If I shot slightly high, I suppose I could have nicked one lung, but what about the other one? If you are shooting high, think about the steepness of your angle and take that into consideration. I should have accounted for it and shot a little lower. It is a lesson learned.