My list of mistakes or things I wish I would have known is so long it’s almost embarrassing. Worst hunter on earth RIGHT HERE!!! When I started - it was bad!!!!
I wanted to throw out the “BIGGEST” Mistake I ever made.... this is more of a “mindset mistake”. something maybe even some folks wouldn’t admit. maybe 21-22 years old??? I shot a few big bucks but I think I had only been hunting where deer older than 1.5 lived, for maybe 4-5 years. (I Started at 14 or 15 and self taught- walking around like an idiot ruining Every hunt I went on, long story.). Anyways - so by this age I had seen and shot a few nice bucks. Hunted IL for first time & before that maybe 2-3 years in a “decent area of MI”. IL- about 2001.... Had the most incredible typical come in, I mean... HUGE. So, I was rattled.... to be expected. Like anyone would be.
let me back up again a bit..... I’m maybe 21 years old or so. I had “I gotta get a buck pressure” in my brain. “I wanna shoot a big one” in my core. I watched videos where the “legends” slayed some mammoths & that was just “amazing”. Lil jealousy of folks that shot giants, pressure & I wanted to “be the man” at that 21-ish years old. Maybe I had shot a 125” deer to date.
Now back to the deer... as he was coming in..... my mind started to go the wrong place. I vividly remember saying “I’m gonna get this thing. This will be so awesome to show my buddies. This buck is gonna be biggest any of me or buddies have ever shot, etc etc.”. My mind was NOT on making the shot. Or all the tiny little things up to that point. Ego, excitement, “the next day after I got him”, etc was on my mind. I hurried it up to close the last little bit “so I could finish him”..... I made noise, I moved too much. He got spooky, I lost my nerves and made more noise, moved more. Tried to draw and make a further than ideal shot..... I didn’t even get my bow all the way back.... he was RUNNING the other direction fast.
I’ll try and describe what was going through my head... I was so glued to the pressure, I was so rattled. I did NOT stop & slow myself down “all that matters is the shot, be still, patient, don’t do anything to spook him, you name it.” I was not calm. I was not the example of a “seasoned, patient, crafty, calming & confident hunter”. I was thinking a day ahead & I was an idiot. Idiot eaten up by big buck pressure, a lil bragging, proving myself & wanting to show folks my giant. I was immature. It cost me, NO JOKE, a 200”+ typical and that’s no joke. BUT.... it would have been the EXACT SAME if the deer was 160”. Not one bit of different result.
Since then, my process & attitude have changed with age. Yes- I think me 2020 was there now- that deer would be done. But- I wouldn’t be thinking of what I was and I wouldn’t be out with “pressure” & making the stupid mistakes in my head that could have been avoided. Now, I “don’t care” if I get a buck or not. Now.... when a big deer comes in..... it’s all focus on 3 Things...... 1) calm down to make the kill shot, wait, wait wait 2) dont make any dumb mistakes (be turned right, don’t have junk dangling or things that make noise or move, etc. ) 3) make the shot. All that counts. Put it in money zone. I Don’t think about anything else. Myself of 2001 & 2020 are 2 Totally different hunters.
clearly time Changes us all. Hopefully if someone deals with say, “jealousy”, hopefully over time that person works through it. Or pressure. Or target panic, Whatever it is. I made myself rethink all this shortly after that buck. I didn’t change this slowly over 20 years. I immediately realized what an idiot I was & how my attitude, goals, priorities & tactics needed to change. I’d say equal parts attitude/mental + hunting tactics both rapidly changed. Made hunting a lot more ENJOYABLE & successful. Sorry on the long rant of kinda a random example but a very specific mistake & lesson of my growth as a hunter.