PSE’s Albert Quackenbush’s Missed opportunities lead to success
By Albert Quackenbush
Riding the pine. Sitting the bench. Waiting your turn. Everyone has their own way of saying it and no matter which way you look at it, well, it’s never as fun as actually playing. For the past couple of weeks it has been difficult finding time to get into the forest. To be honest, it drives me a bit insane because the weather has turned cooler, much cooler in fact. It has been considerably cooler in the mornings and evenings, which is perfect hunting weather in Southern California. Instead of hunting, I have been reading and reminiscing about hunting.
I work hard to hunt here. There is a wealth of public land and a plethora of hunters. The deer are tough to hunt and live in rugged country. Finding these areas to hunt can be found with hard work, but can also be found be sheer luck! One of my local deer spots I stumbled upon by sheer luck through a friend. It is loaded with deer, but it’s also surrounded by non-huntable areas. I have been reading about how some of my fellow hunting brethren have gone deer hunting and have seen deer, but have had no shot or they have shot and missed. Sitting here thinking about these scenarios brought back to memory my last hunt from last year.
A few weeks prior to me sitting in my deer spot, my good friend had shot and killed his first deer with a compound bow. His vocal excitement could be heard for miles. He was so excited that he jumped up and down while yelling, which spooked the remaining deer off. There was no way to contain his joy and I was proud of him for all of the work he had put in. Now, I was sitting in the same spot, patiently waiting for a deer to walk by.
From my experience in this spot, my gut feeling was that I would start to see deer walk by between 9:00 and 10:00 AM. Sure enough, close to 9:30 I watched a far hillside as three doe ambled down the steep face on the trail I expected them on. They were still a quarter mile away, but it gave me time to prepare. Too much time really. As I sat waiting, I looked for a spot to let an arrow fly once the deer walked by. The trail was a mere thirty yards from the bush I was hiding near, but would that be enough?
Early that morning, I had erected a small turkey blind in front of my position to break up my pattern. To be honest, I wish I had brushed it in better because as the deer got closer and closer they knew that something was different. The deer around here aren’t like whitetails. They get spooked, but not like a whitetail. These deer just remain cautious and when you have three of them together you have to be aware of all three sets of eyes. As the deer drew closer and got within range, I drew my bow and waited for the lead doe to walk into the opening I planned for. The lead doe slowly walked into the lane and then I saw it; the small tuft of dried weeds sticking up right in front of her vitals. The weeds were at least ten feet closer to me and instantly my mind told me not to shoot. I let down and when I did the deer spooked about ten yards and stopped, but none of them gave me another shot. It was the last day of the season and while I had drawn my bow, my tag would remain empty.
A few weeks later, I sat down with a few gentlemen for lunch when the subject of me letting down came up. One gentleman, a former hunter, questioned why I let down. He brought up a good point that I was shooting a powerful PSE Bow Madness, a heavy arrow, and was only thirty yards from my target. Why hadn’t I just shot? I felt incredibly content when I told him that I was not about to wound a deer. I wanted to kill it with one shot, not have to track an injured animal. I mentioned it was a sharp downhill angle, the noticeable weeds, and the fact that the deer were on alert. He shook his head and said that he didn’t understand why, but that he was a rifle hunter and not a bow hunter. To be honest, it wouldn’t have mattered if he was a bow hunter. The opportunity that had presented itself was mine and mine alone. I had held the choice in my hands and I opted not to shoot and I was content.
With all that being said, I want my fellow hunters to understand that a successful hunt doesn’t always have to end with a shot. Sure, I would have loved to have filled my tag, but I had found a spot, located deer, and had drawn on a mature doe. I won’t say I wasn’t disappointed, but I also felt sure of my decision to pass on the shot. In a couple weeks I’ll be headed back to that spot and I hope this year the odds are in my favor.
Albert Quackenbush has been bowhunting for more than 28 years. He shares his adventures on his blog, www.SoCalBowhunter.com, and also writes for Bow Adventures e-magazine. He is a Pro Staff member for DIYbowhunter.com, Piranha Custom Bowstrings and Field Logic. He is a member of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, California Deer Association, and is a Life Member of the North American Hunting Club.
Albert was born and raised in New York State where he learned to hunt everything from squirrels to whitetail deer. He currently resides in Southern California with his wife and daughter and hunts year round.