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Old Habits Die Hard

I started shooting archery about 16 years ago.  Once I hunted with a bow, I found myself so addicted to it, I actually get a little sick to my stomach when I think about hunting with a rifle.

I have never been the archer that claims to know everything; I know the general care, maintenance and function of it.  I have a lot of time in the field with stories about the "big one that got away", then I like to admit.  But when it comes to my equipment, I let the pros take over.  


I've been through a handful of compound bows.  The first two were borrowed in the very early years of shooting , then I graduated to my own "ladies" bow, with a minimal draw weight. That bow was followed by a more current model, that had a much higher FPS rating and a heavier draw weight. 

I shot this bow for about 11 years despite the efforts my son made to convince me to purchase a newer, "even better" one. 

My argument?  Why would I spend a ton of money on a new bow when I am perfectly happy and comfortable with this one?  (Keep that word "comfortable" in mind as you continue to read.)

This question was answered when I won a Matthews bow at the local Mule Deer Dinner.  I won it just 3 months before the start of our archery season, so I was excited to get set up and practiced up!  It was lighter, a smoother shot and felt great in my hand from the start. 

Daily, I would shoot dozens of field tips from distances ranging 10 - 60 yards.  We have a lot of open country here and stands are not a highly effective way to hunt the muleys, so practice for some longer shots is common. 

In all my practice, I was dead on.  I even robin-hooded a couple arrows.   


For months, I'd been watching a group of bucks that made me itch for the season to start.  Once opening day hit, with a friend at my side, I headed out to the area the bucks have called home. It was a short walk before I discovered they were bedded just about 125 yards out.  I moved in closer, but with the help of the unknown from the other direction, they spooked and to my luck, wandered my way.  I knelt into the sage brush, waiting for the distance needed for a solid shot. 

Anyone of these bucks would have been the biggest trophy I have ever taken with a bow, so I was not very picky. 

The moment came and I let my arrow fly as one of them gave me a broadside shot from about 45 yards.

"THWACK" that sound we bow-hunters love to hear.  I saw the back leg kick and watched him bolt  into the tree line below me. 

But wait!  He didn't stop there!  He and his buddies continued to run down the draw, through a fence, and into the next draw, only to disappear into the trees.  I knew my arrow hit higher than I like, but I thought it was still in the lung.  I mentally marked the spot of my last visual and started looking for blood.  We followed the blood trail for about a half a mile and darkness began to fall.  Even with headlamps, the search for more blood was pointless. 

The next morning, I was back at our last blood before dawn even broke.  Mid day, we took a short break to let the heat pass.  I punched my tag and considered this now a recovery mission. 

In the meantime, I decided to shoot my bow and figure out why my arrow flew a little high when I know I had my sight on the heart.  It didn't take 2 shots to figure out why.  The broad-heads were getting a little "Matrix" upon release and hitting much higher. 

The reason for this strange occurrence? 

I never practiced with my broad-heads  Only field tips.  

I can hear some of you screaming at me right now... "you ALWAYS practice with broad-heads"! 

You're right!  Most people do.  But remember when I said I had shot the same bow for 11 years?  It was only the first 2 years with it that I changed from field tips to broad-heads for practice before a hunt. 

It never wavered between the two.  This is how comfortable (there's that word!) and confident I was with my equipment

Except, this was not my 11-year-old bow.  It was brand new and because we  (especially me),  are creatures of habit, I practiced as I had for the last 9 years. 

Regardless, I still have a buck suffering somewhere because of my complacency.  I was devastated. 

I've always said, a clean miss is better than a bad hit.  And here I am with a bad hit. JH-MtntopView-a

Again, we went back to look for him.  Looking for more blood, a sign of struggle at fence lines, birds; anything, but no luck.

Until... a friend that was glassing the entire area from a high ridge with his high powered spotting scope called; "Julie!  I think I found him!  He's Running!  And his buddies are with him!" 

I found the highest point there was in the draw to see what he was seeing.  Not only was my buck running, but he was jumping fences like he'd never seen an arrow, let alone been hit by one. 

As we got closer and glassed harder, you can even see the wound in his side from my arrow.  I'd managed to hit that dreaded "no-man's land" just between the top of the lung and the back bone.  It makes for a sore deer but not a dead deer. 

Since then, I have seen him on multiple occasions and thankfully, this big boy is doing just fine. 

Even though the deer is alive and well.  This was a very hard lesson for me to learn.  I know better than this.  I felt so guilty that I called the game warden and explained what happened.  I have kicked myself over and again for not remembering the combination of a new bow and the necessity to practice with broad-heads  I'm even embarrassed to tell the story, but I hope my own complacency serves as a reminder for all of us.  Never take our equipment for granted. 

Happy Hunting and Shoot Straight!


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Regional Directors

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Julia Heinz
Alaska and the Yukon

Kathy Russell

Tammy Hartline
North Alabama, Mississippi p
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Synthia Wilson

Kim Hose
Rachel Baker
Beth Milligan
Jo Rice
Angelina Coopersmith
Jenny Paul
 Mara Osborne
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