How can hunters deal with a missed shot?
We’ve all been there.
The trigger is pulled and either the buck is still standing there looking confused or he’s trotting off in search of calmer pastures. It’s a miss – not a sign of blood or indication that you even came close to hitting that nice buck you’ve been hunting all season. Now what?
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Do you shoot again or wait? Is your gun malfunctioning for some reason or did you just make a mistake?
There are always tons of questions about why a shot misses, but the answers never really make us feel any better. A miss is a hunter’s worst nightmare and how each hunter handles life after a miss varies as widely as the reasons for the actual miss itself.
There are a few standard steps that need to be taken after every miss, just to make sure your next shot won’t have the same outcome.
If You Can, Take a Second Shot
Depending on the situation, you may get a second shot when you miss. If so, take it. If you’re lucky, that may be all it takes to bring down that nice buck or tom you’re after. If you miss a second time, you know you’ve got bigger issues. Missing a second shot may indicate trouble with the accuracy of your weapon and not something like an errant trigger jerk or flinch.
Determine Where You Hit
If you aren’t lucky enough to get a second shot and the animal trots off into the sunset unharmed and fully educated, it’s time to figure out what went wrong. One of the first things you need to do is figure out where your shot impact occurred. If you hit a limb between you and the animal, try to find the limb. If you shot over or under the animal, see if you can locate the point of ground impact where the bullet entered the dirt.
The best way to start this task is to mark where the animal was when you shot and scour the area around that spot for damage. Look to the left and right from the ground to around six feet high to see if your bullet scratched a tree or limb on the way. If you don’t find any signs of tree damage, look behind and in front of the spot where the animal was standing to see if you can find where the dirt has been kicked up from bullet impact.
By determining the location of impact vs. the intended point of impact, you can more easily figure out where your gun is shooting in comparison to where you thought it would hit.
Check Your Weapon
Regardless of the success, failure, or lack of a second shot, you should always shoot your gun after a miss. Of course, if you intend on continuing a hunt (and the miss didn’t scare everything away), you may have to wait until you return to camp or it’s safe to take another.
Misses are often caused by guns with loose or malfunctioning scope mounts or other issues. The quickest way to determine if your weapon was at fault for your errant shot is to put it through the motions in a controlled environment.
Check your scope mounts and the screws that hold everything in place. If you can turn them by hand, you’ve probably found your issue. If not, shoot your gun three to six times to see how it is patterning at your normal sight-in distance.
If the gun is shooting accurately and you didn’t find any tree or ground damage in the woods, you may never know what caused you to miss. However, it is always better to be safe rather than sorry, so shoot your gun until you feel confident in it again. It’s better to waste a few bucks on ammo than to head out to the woods with a gun you don’t trust.
Don’t Let it Get to You
Missing is a fact of life for every hunter. Hunting is a game of chance and there are times when things just go wrong, including shot accuracy.
The most important thing to remember is to keep your head up and not let a single miss get you down. There is always tomorrow and keeping a positive attitude is crucial for hunting success.