A story, an outcome, and maybe a change of direction

neffa3

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Apr 17, 2015
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Wenatchee
Part 1.
The story is a short one. WY GEN tag, in grizz country. Did a little digital scouting and one on the ground scouting trip to whittle down the areas. Setup camp with bulls bugling close by, had a couple of opportunities that night and the next morning.
20220918_181755.jpg
then a massive camp from Kansas showed up and ruined the basin with their generators, sxs, and drunken shouting.
1664386298785.png
so we moved. Luckily hunting WY is so good as to not require backpacking "in deep" just find somewhere no one else is hunting.
1664386389254.png
We then proceeded to have the best elk hunting I've ever experienced. Consistently lots of opportunities on bulls. Unfortunately most of the bulls were <6. We ended up killing the second biggest one we saw (sorry no pic), my little cuz's first archery elk. And had opportunities on the largest.
The terrain was easy. Far easier than anything I've hunted before. But also not conducive to glassing.
1664386554155.png
So we relied on walking around and calling and stalking, or just calling (which resulted in our 6 pnt).
1664386654448.png
1664386675295.png

We saw some other wildlife (g bears and moose)
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Some other sign.
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1664386850420.png

Part 2.
We all shot bulls. The 6pt mentioned above (again sorry no pics). Despite all my plans, which included a long hunt, shooting close, and holding out for a large 6, I ended up shooting a broken off 4-pt at 60 yards on day 3. Hit was high but complete pass through. Sucking chest wound I could hear. He seemed to bleed quite a bit from the entrance (but not the exit) and walked slowly off. Unfortunately after an hour and a half, and ~400 yds of blood trailing we bumped him out of his bed (~1 qt of concealed blood in his bed), and never saw him again. We gridded that day and came back and gridded again the next. Nothing. I didn't hunt anymore.

Part 3.
Based on my complete ineptitude to execute both a plan and a bull, I am rethinking both archery and hunting in general. Not that either isn't effective or fun or a worthy pursuit, but maybe just not for me. All the practice in the world doesn't seem to alleviate my mental inability to make good decisions in the moment. A lot of people refer to it as "buck fever." It feels more than that to me. But even if it's not, it doesn't seem fair or ethical to continue to pursue this hunting, and specifically archery, endeavor if I cannot make coherent appropriate decisions in the moment when the results of which are likely to be life threatening to the animal I'm pursuing. And this isn't a knee jerk reaction to a bad experience, I've struggled with this "fever" my entire life, with several regrettable moments to show for it. There are cold blooded killers among us, those who can think clear and critical under stress. I'm just not one of them.

So for now, I think I'll hang up the bow. Maybe leave the rifle in the safe. And allow my free time to be consumed with my kids and a bird dog who is always game to take a walk in the woods. I'll still chase birds later this fall. Maybe by next spring (more like this winter) I'll feel like putting in for some tags again, but I think it's more likely that I'll be taking an extended break from big game.
 
Last edited:

seeth07

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Oct 14, 2016
Messages
2,354
Location
Markesan, WI
Part 1.
The story is a short one. WY GEN tag, in grizz country. Did a little digital scouting and one the ground scouting trip to whittle down the areas. Setup camp with bulls bugling close by, had a couple of opportunities that night and the next morning.
View attachment 241896
then a massive camp from Kansas showed up and ruined the basin with their generators, sxs, and drunken shouting.
View attachment 241897
so we moved. Luckily hunting WY is so good as to not require backpacking "in deep" just find somewhere no one else is hunting.
View attachment 241898
We then proceeded to have the best elk hunting I've ever experienced. Consistently lots of opportunities on bulls. Unfortunately most of the bulls were <6. We ended up killing the second biggest one we saw (sorry no pic), my little cuz's first archery elk. And had opportunities on the largest.
The terrain was easy. Far easier than anything I've hunted before. But also not conducive to glassing.
View attachment 241899
So we relied on walking around and calling and stalking, or just calling (which resulted in our 6 pnt).
View attachment 241900
View attachment 241901

We saw some other wildlife (g bears and moose)
View attachment 241902
View attachment 241903
Some other sign.
View attachment 241904
View attachment 241905

Part 2.
We all shot bulls. The 6pt mentioned above (again sorry no pics). Despite all my plans, which included a long hunt, shooting close, and holding out for a large 6, I ended up shooting a broken off 4-pt at 60 yards on day 3. Hit was high but complete pass through. Sucking chest wound I could hear. He seemed to bleed quite a bit from the entrance (but not the exit) and walked slowly off. Unfortunately after an hour and a half, and ~400 yds of blood trailing we bumped him out of his bed (~1 qt of concealed blood in his bed), and never saw him again. We gridded that day and came back and gridded again the next. Nothing. I didn't hunt anymore.

Part 3.
Based on my complete ineptitude to execute both a plan and a bull, I am rethinking both archery and hunting in general. Not that either isn't effective or fun or a worthy pursuit, but maybe just not for me. All the practice in the world doesn't seem to alleviate my mental inability to make good decisions in the moment. A lot of people refer to it as "buck fever." It feels more than that to me. But even if it's not, it doesn't seem fair or ethical to continue to pursue this hunting, and specifically archery, endeavor if I cannot make coherent appropriate decisions in the moment when the results of which are likely to be life threatening to the animal I'm pursuing. And this isn't a knee jerk reaction to a bad experience, I've struggled with this "fever" my entire life, with several regrettable moments to show for it. There are cold blooded killers among us, those who can think clear and critical under stress. I'm just not one of them.

So for now, I think I'll hang up the bow. Maybe leave the rifle in the safe. And allow by free time to be more consumed with my kids and a bird dog who is always game to take a walk in the woods. I'll still chase birds later this fall. Maybe by next spring (more like this winter) I feel like putting in for some tags again, but I think it's more likely that I'll be taking an extended break from big game.
Don't feel bad about this - I'm exactly the same way. I was losing it big time on my wife's elk hunt we just got back and I didn't even have the bow in hand! Something about big animals in close proximity. I just get WAY TOO excited to think straight when I'm the one that has to shoot. If I'm just helping, I have all the fun and actually think better to help my partner (almost always my wife) out. Its different for me with a rifle and especially with deer. I've just harvested so many deer with a rifle that I have that excitement under control and can handle it. But elk are totally a different story...
 

rogerthat

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Aug 29, 2015
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1,098
I appreciate your candor in telling this story. Your the type of hunter we need out there.

Not sure if this will work for you but just something to think about. With archery you can set hard fast rules and stick to them no exceptions. Otherwise the arrow stays on the bow. 1. Limit yardage to very close shots 2. Only broadside 3. Only relaxed animals that don’t know your there 4. Only if your raging excitement is under control.

I will use a basketball euphemism, you are only going to dunk it from here on out. This may mean you never shoot again but sounds like your like me and I would rather leave that arrow at the bow than risk a poorly hit critter. You can apply this to rifle as well. Just food for thought as we all are figuring out what works for us and it is always changing.
 

MTLabrador

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Apr 16, 2020
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Montana
Oof. That’s a rough ending man, I’m sorry. I’ve been there too. Hope you can have a better experience next time.
 

Bigjay73

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Oct 28, 2017
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Denver
I think if more of us were this honest, you would realize just how much company you had in this boat. Sorry things went awry, such a horrible feeling, pretty sure anyone who has hunted for a minute can unfortunately relate. This topic, (stepping back from hunting), sure seems to have come up quite a bit lately, something in the water.
 

BuzzH

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Jan 9, 2001
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Laramie, WY
I think any archery hunter that's being honest all have similar stories.

Sort of why I limit myself archery hunting and how much I do it and why I mostly rifle hunt these days.

Rifles are much more forgiving, allow for quick follow up shots, etc.

I would give yourself some time to sort things out. You strike me as the type of person that tends to be a little bit tough on yourself.
 

neffa3

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Apr 17, 2015
Messages
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Location
Wenatchee
I appreciate your candor in telling this story. Your the type of hunter we need out there.

Not sure if this will work for you but just something to think about. With archery you can set hard fast rules and stick to them no exceptions. Otherwise the arrow stays on the bow. 1. Limit yardage to very close shots 2. Only broadside 3. Only relaxed animals that don’t know your there 4. Only if your raging excitement is under control.

I will use a basketball euphemism, you are only going to dunk it from here on out. This may mean you never shoot again but sounds like your like me and I would rather leave that arrow at the bow than risk a poorly hit critter. You can apply this to rifle as well. Just food for thought as we all are figuring out what works for us and it is always changing.
It's all about #4, you can't even think about any of them if #4 isn't under control.

This is the same issue that ended my basketball career. Some of us are Jordan with the step back against the Jazz and some of us dribble the ball off our knee trying to hold in lead at the end of the game.
 

Nameless Range

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Jun 6, 2013
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Western Montana
Looks beautiful. I am sorry about the lost bull. It is a cliche, but true to say it is "part of hunting" to lose an animal. I have a gut reaction to your statement about hanging up the bow to try and talk you out of it.


But instead, enjoy your fall in other ways. Bird hunting, which I always have an antagonistic relationship with in September because one feels they should be looking for elk, is out there for ya. Fall fishing, which folks sadly rarely do because they are hunting, despite it being the best time of year to do it, would be more available for you. You can still participate with family and friends in the hunt, and whether hiking, backpacking, or exploring, the Golden Ale of Fall is still there for the taking.

Thanks for sharing.
 

westbranch

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Sep 11, 2017
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ID Panhandle
I appreciate you sharing that. I also had a WY general tag and my hunt last week was similar to yours. Lots of elk and bugling. Morning of 3rd day had a big 6 pt bull at 20 yds but no clear shot. Was shaking like the aspens that were all over the hills. And then morning of 5th day I had a younger bull with what should have been a layup shot, hit too far back and low. Long story short, bumped it over 3 hrs later and could not get a follow up shot. Waiting a few more hours and was not able to find anything gridding and the heavy rain came in that afternoon and continued into the next day. Mentally rough while solo.

I still plan to rifle hunt and have a couple ID elk tags and deer tags for this year. But need to work on my archery going forward which I have worked on a ton the last few years already. Will plan to focus on ID elk "B" tags next year with some limited archery time.
 

neffa3

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Wenatchee
I think any archery hunter that's being honest all have similar stories.
Does that make it better? I've been around hunting and hunters long enough to know this isn't unique. But that shouldn't matter right?
I would give yourself some time to sort things out. You strike me as the type of person that tends to be a little bit tough on yourself.
I am, always have been. One of my many flaws. As Ken says, time will likely soften the feeling.
 

2rocky

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Jul 23, 2010
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Buzz stated my opinion better than I could.

I'd say an unrecovered fatal archery wound death is greatly less traumatic to the animal than one inflicted by any other large predator. After seeing how a Grizz can move an elk carcass, the likelihood of finding a dead archery bull of raghorn size past 24 hours is going to be slim to none.

All you can do is all that you can do. The fact it concerns you means you are the kind of conscientious bowhunter we want out there. Not a shoot and release repeat offender.
 

MTTW

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Montana
I had a similar experience 35 years ago and hung the bow on the wall. Took it out 12 or 14 years later hoping that I had matured enough to pass an iffy shot. I hadn't. The bow has been hanging there for 20 years.
I went out last week and got within 50 yards of a very big bull with no bow. Made me think about it. Went back yesterday and the bow stayed home.
I will see if I can find him in rifle season. The odds aren't good.
 

2rocky

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Neffa, put it up against what percentage of the fish you have ever released off your hook who may have died...as Rinella put it:

This is because a certain degree of catch-and-release related mortality is unavoidable. Some fish, such as catfish, are pretty damn hardy and catch-and-release mortality rates are fairly low. But others, such as trout, are wimps. They are very susceptible injury, exhaustion, or oxygen deprivation from being “played” by an angler. Every summer, on the rivers where I guide, dead trout begin showing up on the stream bottom with increasing frequency as the season progresses. As water temperatures increase and oxygen levels decrease, more and more released trout, especially the big ones, don’t survive being caught. Some poorly handled fish may die shortly after being caught once, but others may take hours or days to die after being caught multiple times. Sure, rubber nets, barbless hooks, careful handling, and keeping fish submerged before release diminishes injury and oxygen deprivation. But imagine twenty boats, each with a couple anglers, floating the same five miles of river, every day, all summer long.
 

CPAjeff

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Dec 31, 2017
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Beneath these Western Skies . . .
Sorry to hear about losing a bull - I had the same thing happen back in 2016 on a limited entry hunt here in Utah. I still think about that experience and what I could've/should've done differently.

Keep your chin up. If you feel like taking a break, then by all means, take a break. Only you can make that decision!

Most of all, thanks for sharing your story!
 

HeartbeatofAmerica Freak

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Almost Arkansas…..
Does that make it better? I've been around hunting and hunters long enough to know this isn't unique. But that shouldn't matter right?
For me, it didn’t make it any better and is a significant factor in me not bow hunting much at all in the last 5-6 years.

For what it’s worth, a hunting buddy of mine is completely opposite me. I can screw up the easiest archery shot in the world, but shit just dies with the rifle. He’ll kill anything with his bow and screw up the easiest layup in the world with his rifle. 🤷‍♂️
 

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