A Missed Shot Leads to a Better Opportunity

by Mike Marsh

Opening Day 10-Pointer

Like most hunters, when I miss a shot, I want to make sure that it was indeed a miss. On opening day, I missed a coyote, but the missed opportunity led to a trophy buck.

On opening day of the eastern region gun season, I had seen two does and a spike buck. But having taken two deer with a muzzleloader the previous week, there was no hurry to take another meat deer.

At 9:00 a.m. an animal appeared 150 yards distant. Thinking at first it was a deer, I was in no hurry to raise my Remington 700 .30-06-caliber bolt-action rifle. Then it appeared to be a dog, perhaps a fox.

It turned out to be a coyote. I had seen coyote tracks in wet ground as floodwaters generated by tropical storm Nicole receded.

Coyotes are seldom motionless and this one was no exception. The wind was blowing, swaying my tree stand. I lead the critter as it scurried along. When I took the shot at 230 yards, the coyote suddenly stopped. The crosshairs were too far in front so the bullet missed.

I climbed down and found the bullet strike and tracks of the fleeing canine. Had I taken the coyote, I would have called my wife, Carol, for a photo session. She was hunting another stand 250 yards away and we exchanged text messages about the event, which she initiated when she heard the shot.

Returning to the stand, I replayed the events, aligning the crosshairs on the point of the bullet strike. I lowered the seat to provide more height for steadying the rifle across the stand’s shooting rest, adjusted the scope’s ocular lens for better clarity and reset the parallax adjustment.

At 9:50 a.m. according to Carol’s next text message, I was presented with another opportunity. A doe stepped out of the woods where the coyote had run away. I aligned the rifle, which was still unsteady because of the wind swaying the stand.

The doe glanced over her shoulder as she slipped into the woods on the other side. A buck took a couple of steps, sniffing the spot where she had been standing. The  buck's antlers were massive enough to show the buck was a trophy to the naked eye even at 230 yards. Since I had just scoped out the doe and declined to shoot, the rifle was still on the shooting rest. I had only to re-cheek the stock, align the crosshairs and touch the trigger. Had I not been so well prepared, the buck would have followed the doe out of sight. But the 150-grain Hornady bullet dropped the buck instantly when it struck the deer right behind the shoulders.

Had he been the coyote, I might have missed. Had I hit the coyote, Carol would have come to help with photos and the doe and buck would have been spooked away. The buck fell on the exact spot the bullet struck after missing the coyote. It’s amazing how a chain of events, including a miss that had me second-guessing moments before, can lead to taking a 10-point buck.