Mike: I’m sick. I shot a doe the other night but couldn’t find her. I looked all night and for the next day and half. Some blood at first, but then nothing. I feel so bad I’m going stop hunting for the rest of the year. Just wanted you to know, because I can tell from your TV show that being ethical and respectful means a lot to you.–John
John: A lot of people who are going about hunting the wrong way would have poked around a little bit and said, “What the hell, it’s just a doe, I’ve got more tags…” But you didn’t and I applaud you for that.
Losing either a doe or a 10-point buck is hard, but it happens, even when you seemingly do everything right. I am not afraid or ashamed to say I have lost some deer over the past 30 years. It makes you feel like s—. It brings a tear to your eye. It should or you shouldn’t be hunting.
But John, shake it off and get back out there this weekend. Don’t let this eat at your insides and wear you down mentally. Don’t let it make you less confident the next time you get ready to shoot. Pick a spot on the deer’s side, loose that arrow smoothly and confidently and follow-through with the shot. Drill that next animal, find it stone dead 70 yards away and you’ll feel good again.
I wish everybody I knew took the killing of a deer as seriously as you do. Good luck my friend. You can hunt with me any day.–Hanback
Can’t tell you how helpful all of your comments are. On Monday I shot a beautiful buck with my bow but even with a tracking dog was unable to recover it. I actually shot it in my backyard as I have about a 10 acre wooded lot. That was on a Monday morning. On Tuesday night at dusk the exact same thing happened only this time, my shot was true and he only went 50 yards. So the whole message of you get right back after it and don’t spend too much time dwelling on the bad situation was very good advice. If I hadn’t read your posts, I probably would not have shot that second buck.
That is a tough one. I had it happen to me this year on a nice buck I had been after all season. Very little blood trail and only a general idea of where he headed after the shot. Spent 3 days grid searching the cattails with no luck or sign whatsoever. No more trail cam pics of him either, I am sure he is dead somewhere where I could not find him. The next 2 weeks were tough, every time I closed my eyes I could see him standing there and then running after the shot, haunting. Finally I decided to sit in my treestand again without even considering taking a shot, just out trying to enjoy being on stand again and seeing deer again. I finally decided that I could move on and go after another buck, and I did just that. This time the shot was good and the buck did not go far. Still I was extremely nervous and unsettled wondering what if I don’t find this buck. It was extremely humbling and rewarding at the same time. It is not ‘just a deer’ to hunters like us but you can get over losing one. If you dwell on it too much it can really mess with you, especially the next time you get the opportunity at another deer.
Great advice Mike. I can honestly tell you that I have cried a time or two over this same issue. One thing, these are extremely tough animals; they have to be to deal with everything in their daily lives (and that’s without human hunters trying to get them). I made a pledge a couple seasons back to never, ever try to kill a deer unless I feel like I can do it without issue. I used to get really nervous before shots and this led to many situations where I didn’t kill the deer. I used to feel like absolute crap when I’d wound a deer and not find it. I don’t want to deal with those emotions ever again if I can help it. In many cases the deer will live, but not knowing (in the back of your mind) is excruciating
I lost one deer, a large doe, one Thanksgiving morning.
I felt absolutely terrible that morning when we couldn’t find her. I felt like I just committed a crime. In some ways, I think that I did. We searched and searched and searched, but could not find her. For days, I mentally punished myself over that doe. Wondered what went wrong and if she was out there somewhere suffering because of me…Man, what an awful feeling.
I was 12 years old at the time, and it happened on one of my first real deer hunts with my Dad, and one of my cousins. I was cold, and nervous, standing in an area, waiting for my cousin to drive deer toward me and my Dad. That doe charged through my area so fast, I thought that I was about to get run over by her. She didn’t see me, and I didn’t see her until she was about to run into me. I remember noticing the expression on the doe’s face change when she noticed me, and she did a lightening fast 90 degree turn to get away from me. I fired on reflex and fear, and didn’t hit her good enough.
I’ve heard several hunters say, “It’s just a deer”, when discussing losing a deer or damaging venison with poor shot placement. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. But, to me, a wounded whitetail is so much more than “just a deer”. I really can’t quantify the value.
Years later, I still think about that doe that we lost that Thanksgiving.