Every hunter misses shots at birds or animals. It's a fact of life in the hunting woods and fields. If a person has never missed, he or she hasn't hunted very much or they have a bit of a problem with the truth. Missing is caused by many factors. No two shot opportunities are alike, and a variety of external and mental conditions can contribute to the miss.
I've had my share of misses. Some occurred when I was hunting solo, and worse, some easy misses happened when I was hunting with other people who witnessed the miss. When the latter happens, you swallow your pride and hide your embarrassment. Of all my misses, four stand out in my memory. I'll share three of them here. One has a much longer story that I'll describe in a separate blog.
I was hunting sage grouse in Wyoming, many years ago. There were six of us; my companions were all game wardens. At the time I was a wildlife biologist. It had been a good day. Everyone but me had taken a limit of three sage grouse. I needed one more. We were headed back to the trucks when my little Brittany went on point. I eased up behind the dog as everyone watched. The big grouse exploded from the sage, and I took what was an easy shot as the bird flew straight away -- and missed it cleanly. It was a long ride home.
One of my favorite turkey hunting spots is the Black Hills National Forest shared by South Dakota and Wyoming. I've hunted there more than two dozen seasons. On this day I was hunting with Pat McManus, the famous humor writer who wrote a column on the back page of Outdoor Life magazine. Now then, Pat claims everything he writes is the truth, but those of us who know him believe otherwise. So if you're hunting with Pat, you want to make sure everything goes well. No telling what he'll write in his column. So when a big gobbler came in to the call, and Pat wasn't in position to shoot, I took the 25 yard shot. Piece of cake, I thought as I squeezed the trigger. Imagine my shock and bewilderment when I saw the shot pattern fly far to the left of the bird. After the gobbler disappeared, I turned to look at Pat. He was grinning, and he must have seen the pain in my face because he never mentioned that miss in his column. From that day forward, Pat has always been my hero.
The pronghorn antelope presented the perfect shot. I was filming the hunt for my TV show, and my cameraman was ready for me to shoot. The buck stood 90 yards away, offering a perfect broadside shot, and I was steady on my shooting sticks. I couldn't believe it when the bullet flew over the buck's back. I cussed after it ran away, and tossed my cowboy hat to the ground. My cameraman was not sympathetic, judging by his remarks. I watched as the buck, who decided to chase some does, stopped at 250 yards out. I told my cameraman to get on him, and took the shot, dropping the antelope neatly. I had vindicated myself. And by the way, I didn't edit out the miss from my show. It was there for all to see. It is what it is. I expect to miss again. It's a fact of a hunters' life. Unless you're the Lone Ranger or Roy Rogers.