Patrick Meitin has degrees in journalism and range and wildlife management. He’s been an outdoor writer, specializing in bowhunting, for more than 20 years. An expert with both traditional and modern archery equipment, Meitin lives in northern Idaho with his wife, Gwyn, and their two Labrador retrievers.
Missing is Part of Bowhunting
I just read "Fred Bear's Field Notes," again. It occurs to me anew how archers of old weren't afraid to miss like we are today. It strikes me especially, reading Bear's book, how often you'll read lines something to the effect of, "Took very long shot, missed well wide."
Howard Hill, who as far as I know never publically admitted to ever missing, was fond of saying, "If you want to kill, you have to put some wood in the air." Wood is an arrow of course, and the implication, in my mind at least, was regardless of range or conditions. These archers of old understood shooting a bow and bowhunting were very difficult endeavors and that missing was part of the drama and intrigue of the sport. Sometimes you had to just leave things to chance.
We don't have that luxury in the times we live in, under the figurative microscope of those who would love to take away all we hold dear. Every bowhunter strives to take only "high-odds shots" at perfectly broadside animals well inside our "maximum effective range." Attend a bowhunter education course, or receive a letter to the editor because of something controversial you've penned, and you'll hear a lot about ethics, responsibilities and "humane kills." That's our modern bowhunting contract, used in many cases to justify every manner of technological device conceived by the outdoor industry to make us more efficient killers.
But missing is still part of the game. If it were not there would be no fluttering hands, no pounding pulse, no labored breathing at the sight of a behemoth buck or bull or billy or boar ambling our way. There would be no uncertainty, no suspense, no drama. Only predictible boredom.
Yet to read modern writing regarding shooting a bow (and I include myself here) you may come away with impressions that missing an easy shot is downright shameful, evidence of duties shirked and practice neglected. In many cases this is absolutely correct. More often though, it's a matter of simple brain farts, nerves most of all, part of earning your stripes as a bowhunter. Missing, despite all the archery industry can conceive to allow us to shoot faster and farther, is still part of bowhunting.
So, you really don't need to relate those little white lies to friends in camp or your outfitter about an easy miss -- or "forget" to tell your sad tale at all. The deer didn't jump the string. You didn't nick a branch. The sun wasn't in your eyes. You just missed. That's all. You're in good company; with men such as Fred Bear, who missed his share of trophies and was man enough to tell us all about it.
Yes, we strive to be the best we can, to make every shot count, to eliminate as many misses as possible. But to miss is no shame. It's a lesson learned; one more step forward while becoming a bowhunter, and all the responsibilities that entails today.