I’m not saying that if I can screw up an easy bow shot, anyone can. But if I screw up an easy bow shot…. Well, anyway, this doe was 20 yards away and just barely quartering away. Easy, easy shot–and I missed by a good 8 inches, too far back.

I suspected it was a bad shot after I let it go, and I knew for sure when I got down and found the arrow covered in green alfalfa slime, presumably from the field where this doe had been feeding before she picked her way cautiously into the woods and under my stand, with a yearling buck in tow, last Friday morning. Both deer ran about 70 yards at the shot and disappeared into a tall screen of phragmites at the edge of the swamp.

I waited five hours, came back, followed the blood trail to the spot I’d last seen her, and there she lay, stiff, just inside the tall, grassy stalks. I got lucky. The shot wasn’t quite as bad as I’d thought, but bad enough that it could have easily resulted in a lost deer.

There are plenty of folks who can outshoot me with a bow; on the other hand, I shoot enough to reasonably consider a 20-yard shot a gimme–and it usually is. But it is all too easy to screw up in the field. There are many potential physical problems–an unseen twig, an awkward stance, an extra layer of clothing you don’t wear during practice. And then there’s the mental game. If Yogi Berra were an archer, he’d say that 90 percent of bowhunting is half mental. I say that 90 percent of bowhunters are half mental when there’s a deer in range.

I was half mental last Friday morning. At this stage in my bowhunting life, I thought I was through with only quasi-aiming at a deer. You know, punching the trigger the second you see the pin somewhere in the general vicinity of the vitals, maybe. But that’s exactly what I did.

And like I said, I got lucky. The truth is that as I’ve become a better long-range shooter on the range, I have toyed with the idea of stretching out my self-imposed field limit of about 30 yards in the whitetail woods (I’ve shot a little over that before, but not much). So in the end, this screw up is probably well timed. It has convinced me to keep it at 30.