First hunting experience (not good)

RockinU

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Jan 27, 2019
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Texas
I'm sorry it went like that for you on your first hunt, but as cliche as it is to say, and as hard as it is to hear...that's part of it. It's easy to forget when we are picturing how everything will go in our mind, that the base of what we are doing is killing an animal, and sometimes that can be less than glamorous. We all seek to minimize the suffering we inflict on the animals we hunt, but we are taking their lives, and sometimes suffering is an unfortunate side effect to that pursuit...and that's something that hunters have to learn to live with. Let it motivate you to work hard, get better, learn to control your emotions as best you can, and temper your expectations with some reality.

It was your first hunt, and you got a little shook up when things didn't go like you had imagined, that's understandable. You'll do better in the future, but that doesn't mean every shot you take with whatever you choose to hunt with will always go perfectly. I've seen plenty of firearm hunts go similarly to your hunt. It's good that you're upset about what happened, but you're going to have to wrap your head around the fact that this is a reality in hunting, and be able to move on from it...if you let it live in your head too much it will affect future hunts, and you don't want that. So steel your resolve with the knowledge that just because things didn't go like you wanted, that doesn't mean that you (or the outfitter) did something terribly wrong, this is just a regrettable aspect of hunting that you have to come to terms with, get back to your practice, learn your lessons, rebuild your confidence, and try again.

Good luck with your deer hunt!
 

LopeHunter

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Congrats on the harvest and recovery of the pronghorn. Things happen in life. And in hunting. That buck's death was not as swift as could be though an old antelope being pulled down by coyotes likely would suffer many times more. Nutrition for you and your family resulted.

I always keep a hunt diary and I do not hold my punches when recap lessons learned. Is painful to read back and see the learning curve when using new gear including archery items. Learn and get better and someday you may have a chance to mentor a new archery hunter to have a better experience on their first hunt.

Your first shot would almost certainly be lethal with both lungs punctured. Sure, a mechanical can create a larger wound channel but is not that simple since can be harder to get a mechanical to properly open and penetrate at some angles. I am sure the broadhead brand you used has brought a lot of animals to the ground.

I used to audit meat-processing plants for beef, swine and poultry. I am still a meat eater. I have had a handful of unfortunate shot placements. I am still a hunter and I get better and wiser as the decades roll on. Hang in there.

I tend to hunt with a rifle but have used a muzzleloader and archery. Archery was the most rewarding for me though my left elbow cried Uncle a few years ago and I simply could not practice without pain and my standards are I will practice numerous times with my bow prior to a hunt. And so it goes.

Congrats on the harvest. Sorry you experienced what you did. Hope you are able to head back in the woods at some point with the excitement you had as this hunt started.
 

MJE2083

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We all want to drop an animal with the first shot, but that's simply not the way that things go. It's totally natural to second guess yourself, especially being a new hunter. Give yourself some time and the feelings will pass. Credit to you for working hard to prepare yourself. You're not the first or last guy to have a bad experience, but the important thing is that you saw it through till the end and recovered the animal. I failed to recover an archery whitetail when I was 19 years old, I'll never forget it but I learned from it.
 

kansasdad

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Wichita
It would be a shame if you weren't upset by how your first harvest went down. I commend you for sticking with it, and finishing what was started. Your buck deserved at least that effort even though it was a hard pill to swallow. I also commend you for being brave enough to share the story on HuntTalk.

'Tis a good story to keep in one's mind when staring down the peep sight, through the iron sights or the nitrogen filled magnified tubes of a scope before releasing the projectile.
 

Cornell2012

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As everyone else has said, things happen. Your preparation sounded excellent and your first hit seems solid. You will learn from this experience for years to come. I regularly think of how things went sideways on me and how I could have improved.
 

NEWHunter

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Brookfield, WI
Sorry to hear this happened. Things like this can and do happen. Certainly lessons to be learned - like anything else in life.

I would encourage you to stick with it. I have taken a fair amount of game in my time and can vividly remember the two instances where I connected on a deer and a turkey and did not take them home with me. I’ve also been witness to a couple of other instances that did not go as had been planned. This is probably the hardest part of hunting.

I look at these things kind of like this: Based in your description you took an ethical shot. You did the right thing. And sure we all strive for that immediately lethal shot, but it doesn’t always happen. We’re out there trying to do a better job than Mother Nature. As we should, as we are on a different level than the wolves, coyotes, etc. Sometimes though, hunting results in a death on par with what Mother Nature and today’s world will provide. Starvation, getting hit by a vehicle, getting hung up on a fence, getting an infection from a fight, getting eaten while still alive by coyotes due to an injury/illness , etc. My point is, this antelope probably died as it otherwise would have. Keep at it, learn from this, do better next time. Good luck
 

JohnCushman

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South East Colorado
You didn't mention if you have a bowhunting certification. Many states require one. The ethical thing to do is to obtain one even if it is not requred where you hunt. You made some basic mistakes and so did your outfitter.

'Ethical' by who's standard? The only thing I found different about the course is shooting the iron buck target. I didn't feel there was anything above and beyond a rifle course as far as instruction or tips and tactics. So, what makes a hunter more 'ethical' for taking it?
 

Carl 9.3x62

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Laramie, Wyoming
I second pretty much what everyone else is saying, except using a rifle is no cure for buck fever. I've been hunting for 20 years and had the worst shooting experience of my career with a rifle two years ago. I will not divulge the number of shots I took, haha, but I can't blame anyone or thing but myself. The important thing is to learn from mistakes and keep going. Last year was a vast improvement with five animals taken with five shots. Don't give it up. Its all part hunting.
 

Cheesehead

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Dec 6, 2017
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As the great philosopher Tupac said, ‘keep ya head up’.
I really appreciate your honesty and transparency.
Use a gun for a while. Year or two. Some deny it but for most of us, rifle hunting is tons of fun. When you go back to archery, stick to a shorter range. Shit happens between arrows leaving the bow and hitting animals.
If it’s any help, we all have effed up stories of wounded animals. The important thing is to keep moving forward and fix the issues that caused the problems.
 

Ben Sellers

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Oct 29, 2018
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I said something about this in your broad head thread but it’s worth mentioning here. Were your broad heads absolutely razor sharp? Firing one into a target, in my opinion, can ruin one until it is resharpened. A dull broad head can fail to cut veins and arteries.
 
Joined
Mar 12, 2019
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Hi everyone,

After posting this yesterday I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. It was hard to get those words out, but it helped. I then took a long walk with my dog and things started coming back to normal.

What I wasn't expecting was the huge outpouring of support and the fact that this thread got as much attention as it did. I am really grateful for everyone here who shared their thoughts, stories, and let me know that my experience was far from unique. Reading through all of it really helped me a ton.

I think I'm now able to objectively look at things without a huge amount of emotion clouding my thoughts. Don't get me wrong, it still hurts, but I can at least now look at things a bit more clearly.

Lessons learned:
1. Give the animal at least an hour, if not longer based on the shot placement. The more I think about it, that first shot was fatal. I think my only exception to this rule will be if I hear a loud crash, and even then I'll give it half an hour. My thinking is that after the hour the antelope would have been either dead or close to it and we would have had more information on whether or not to pursue a second arrow. When you have to make a decision on what to do next, all you can do is base it on the information you have, and giving the animal more time might give you the information that you need.
2. This one is probably specific to me... don't shoot an animal in the late afternoon. I don't want to be fighting darkness again to try to recover and/or field dress an animal. Once I get more comfortable tracking and recovering game, this rule will change.
3. I will be changing my broadhead set up and retuning my bow. I don't blame the head entirely, but it was definitely a factor in what happened. With the same shot placement, I feel like a bigger cut would have dropped him sooner. I understand that anything can happen, but it is in my control to do as much damage as possible. The one thing that convinced me to switch things up was the blood trail. This was a double lung shot and I would have had a rough time recovering the animal had it not been out in the plains. A deer in the woods might have been lost.
4. I need to relax during my shots. That's literally the first thing I was told when I took private lessons. Any tension in my arms or back will (and does) result in the arrow doing funny things. I have a shot sequence that I go through at the range that first involves taking a big, deep breath before the draw. I felt like all of these steps went out the door the second the target was an actual animal. I think this is something that I can control by just focusing on calming myself and relaxing even when the shot opportunity of a lifetime presents itself. I got good experience on my first hunt on what it feels to have a big antelope in your sights, and I felt that each shot was progressively easier to take and better matched how a shot would feel at the range. The notable exception was when things went south and after I got shook up after the gut shot. I need to clear my head before each shot, regardless of how hard it might be to do so in the moment.
5. I need to practice shots out to 80-100 yards rather regularly. This is not a shot I would take unless my hand was forced to put another arrow into a wounded animal.

Ultimately, I'm starting to look at things more optimistically and positively. At the end of the day, I achieved my goal. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't glamorous, but I did it. Hell, I double lunged a nice antelope at 58 yards!

Another thought entered my mind last night that has stuck with me and convinced me to pursue my deer tag in two weeks... what example would I be setting for my kids if I quit now? For the record, I don't have any yet, but I think the point stands. I had so much love and excitement for the sport before Thursday, and I'm not going to let one bad experience ruin it. The excitement is starting to come back, and I'm going to hit the range next week. I'm going to give myself a week off, but I'm going to get back on the horse.

I know it sucks now, but I think it's actually probably a good thing that what I experienced happened when it did. I keep thinking about what would of happened if the first time something like this happened was on a solo hunt, where I would really be second guessing myself. Also, I now have the experience of what to do when things go sideways next time. It was a hard, but I think good, learning experience.

Finally, I think I've decided to have the horns mounted and to put them up in my office as a reminder of the lessons learned and that life has a way of teaching you them in the hardest ways sometimes. I also plan on moving the mount around so that it's always going to be next to whatever animal I most recently took as a comparison of where I started and where I am now. I want it to be a symbolic reminder that I took those lessons to heart and stuck with it.

Thanks again for all the support. I'm not giving up and I'll be back out in the woods here soon.
 

twsnow18

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Boise, Idaho
Knock down 4 or 5 elk and deer with your rifle, so your not shitting your pants every time you get an opportunity,
then transition back to bow. I think that might help. The rifle provides you more room for error, and very quick and humane
follow up shots. PS, still practice a lot with that rifle.
 

RockinU

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Jan 27, 2019
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573
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Texas
I'm glad that you're working through it, but I still get the feeling that you are giving this experience too much power. Learn the lesson and move on. No need to compare this hunt to every hunt into the future to remind yourself of anything. You gave up a gopher ball...it happens, toe the rubber and throw another pitch.

I've been around a lot of new hunters who seem to feel like they need it to be perfect, and the experience needs to be just like they envisioned. It's not always going to be, you need to accept that, and relax and learn to roll with the punches a little.
 

Fullquiver

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Jul 18, 2018
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If I could give you one point of advice.. Drastically shorten your maximum shot distances at game..

Targets aren't living breathing things and the true stress of putting an arrow on target with game is radically different than punching paper or shooting 3d.. Your adrenaline levels are spiked you're shooting form won't be perfect and you have to control the emotional component to choose the best shot all without any significant level of experience.. Not to mention now, you have had a bad experience as your first taste of this.. Which may create a great deal of doubt.. Archery is a close range gig, i am sure you will hear some guys tell you otherwise but keep your shots very close and you will greatly reduce the chance of a replay.. You may have to pass a lot of game but so what.. Its far better than a rerun of this event..
 
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Scarey

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Sep 22, 2018
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Idaho
There is nothing worse than wounding an animal and watching it suffer. As many have said, it happens to many of us. Your guide probably gave you the advice he felt would be best. The only thing he should have done was identify that you were upset and get your head straight before letting you continue to shoot. As unfortunate as the situation was, you now have a little more knowledge and will most likely not make that mistake again. The best thing you can do at this point is dust yourself off, research a little more and get back out there.
 

wllm1313

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Aurora, CO
You learn way more from mistakes than you do from successes.

I deeply empathize with your story, my take away was a deep disappointment in yourself. My first big game animal was a bear in Idaho, you weren’t required to keep the meat so I didn’t. I regretted that choice almost immediately. It was legal but it didn’t fit in my own personal ethics. I carried around a claw from that bear for years to remind myself not to take the easy way out.

You are going to value a clean kill more than most, and this experience will color the way you choose to hunt in the future.

Thank you for sharing your experience, I sure it was hard to own it.
 
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