Whilst in Kansas, I took a Hail Mary shot–I think the sixth of my career–at just a hell of a whitetail. If you’re not familiar with the term, Hail Mary refers to a shot at a distance in which prayer is required. A friend and I were sitting in a blind with about 15 minutes of shooting light left when we saw a really sensational buck 500 yards-plus away, up on a ridge. There was no chance he was going to feed within shooting range (300 yards and change) before the light ran out, so we decided we’d best try and cover the 200 yards on foot, and fast.

Up the ridge we walked, and when we were what appeared to be 300 yards away, but turned out to be 380, the deer saw us and got ready to sprint. There was no time to do anything but shoot, which I had to do offhand. I missed. The bullet, as nearly as I can calculate, went under him because I misjudged the distance. If I had held on the very top of his back I might have had him.

We checked and there was no fur, no blood, no sign that he had been hit. There was no sound of the bullet striking, which is unmistakable. If we had not been standing in the open, and he had been farther away, say, 450 yards, I might have gotten several more shots, because at those distances, animals don’t associate the sound of the gunshot with the crack of the bullet passing by, or the bullet strike in the dirt.

If I’d gotten him, it would have been a Shot for All Time, and I would have been a hero in my own mind. As it is, I get to eat my own liver and wish I’d judged the distance better. As a rule I stay away from Hail Marys because there’s always the chance you’ll gutshoot an animal, but in this case, I think it was justified, and if I had the chance I’d try it again. Holding, of course, a lot higher.