Monday, December 19, 2011

Bowhunting...and the Inevitable Fall of the Overconfident

I like this spot.  And during my first bow hunt here, I ended up with a half-dozen or more deer within 10 yards of me toward the end of legal shooting time.  Of course, I screwed it up by drawing my bow as one of them was pretty much staring at me, but it was an amazing hunt nonetheless.  You can read more about it here and here.

So obviously I went back.  But my attitude was totally different the second time.  During the first hunt, I was in the woods by 2:30pm, and the deer didn't move out of the woods until 4:15pm.  So on the second try, I brought my climbing tree stand, didn't arrive until 4:10pm, and wasn't set up in the tree until nearly 4:30pm (sunset at 4:45pm).  What the heck was I thinking? That was my first mistake, and it probably impacted the outcome of the hunt.  Keep reading - maybe that's not a bad thing, in this case.

Second mistake - I also ignored the weather.  My first hunt was on a crisp (about 42 degrees), clear day that followed two days of horrendous downpours.  The deer were hungry and on the move.  Second hunt?  Sunny and 55 degrees, the day after a warm, full moon where (I imagine) the deer fed all night in safety.

Third mistake, as I mentioned, I brought my climbing stand, which I hadn't used in 4 years.  At least give me credit for checking it out a few days before hand and noticing that a cotter pin was missing (a dubious replacement was procured from the Home Despot).   I was in a hurry and out of practice - a bad combination. I simply wasn't comfortable in the stand, and once I was physically ready to shoot, I didn't feel 110% confident that the stand wouldn't give way if I had to lean against it to take a tough shot.

I don't know what I would have done if a big deer would have walked under the stand.  Honestly, I probably wouldn't have taken a shot, because a poorly shot deer in this area means that you will be retrieving that animal from someone's multi-million dollar waterfront  lawn, as they are sitting down to dinner that night.

So, what went right? Gosh, not much.  The deer never moved out of the marsh.  Even if I had spooked them, I would expect to see a few of them moving out of the marsh, far out on my flank to the east or west.  As the sun began to set, the swamp filled up with songbirds - mourning doves, cardinals, and juncos - all hungry and just getting into town, I suppose.  But no deer.  No squirrels. No rabbits.  Nothing furry at all!

At the end of the hunt, I was left staring into the dark and with a feeling that I used to know well, but have drifted apart from as I've become a more competent outdoorsman over the past 10 years.  A sense of not knowing whether the evening's failure was a result of natural "things," or whether I created the failure myself. 

Looking back on it, I realize that I made a choice after the first hunt - the choice to be overconfident.  I should have operated from the standpoint of, "Everything went right last time except the shot - let's do it exactly the same next time."  Instead, I let my overconfidence push me simultaneously in the directions of laziness (arriving late in the afternoon) and ironically, "unneeded challenge" (dusting off my climbing stand with no recent practice).

I plan to try it again.  I will hunt from the ground, as I did the first time.  I will pick an ideal weather day, as I did the first time.   I will arrive early, as I did the first time.  I won't try to utilize new (or old and recently untested) gear to "make it more interesting."  Let's see what the outcome is!  I may not harvest a deer, but at least I'll have an open mind to learn something new for the next hunt after that.


Alex said...

You've gotta go into the woods saying:

"I will not see deer...I will not see deer"

That takes care of the overconfidence.

In order to see deer, you need to busy yourself with things like texting, falling asleep, or looking a birds through the binoculars.

Keep at it...I've gotta feeling you're gonna stick one soon.

tugboatdude said...

Being over confident isn't a great attitude but neither is doing the same thing over and over.I'm pretty sure you are really close to getting that spot down but you may have to keep an open mind and tweak it a bit.I'm hoping you get one because I'm running short on jerky!

Eastern Shore Outdoors said...

I have a feeling that you will coalesce the pros and cons and your next related post will be on the "upswing"

Kirk Mantay said...

Thanks for the support guys! I am pretty lucky in my life that I usually end up challenging myself with things I can actually achieve, and I'm spoiled enough to be really disappointed when I do something dumb.

All things being equal, it's unlikely I would have killed a deer on this night because they just weren't moving. I didn't help my own odds, but....oh well.

I'll keep you posted this week!

Kirk Mantay said...

And Alex, I used to be the master deer stand napper - that's how I came to be a staunch supporter of safety harnesses (I've NEVER not used one...not once).

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