Last night, I missed one of the better bucks I’ve seen from a New York bow stand — a nice, clean 10-pointer at least 3-1/2 years old. Few bucks around here live to see their second set of antlers, so the fact that he was a little shy of the Pope and Young Club makes him no less a dandy.

I’d made an aggressive move. With deer entering this small field from odd directions, I had been hunting it pretty conservatively. But yesterday afternoon I decided to move my stand to where most of the deer had been coming out and take a chance that any others might catch my wind.

Shortly after I got settled, I saw the top of a skinny sapling waving back and forth, just inside the woods and downwind about 80 yards away. It had to be a buck making a rub, I thought, and no doubt, it was one of the little bucks I’d been seeing in the area. But then he stepped out.

It’s funny. I just got back from bowhunting South Dakota, where I saw and passed up several not-quite-P&Y bucks; none of which (though fun to watch) really got my heart pounding. This one, no bigger, just about jolted me out of my stand. You just don’t see deer like this around here very often.

Eventually, he worked his way out in front of me at 40 yards. That’s a bit farther than I usually shoot at deer, but it’s a pretty easy shot for me on the range. Plus he was broadside and oblivious, and wasn’t going to get any closer. I took my time, remembered my form, picked the spot…and shot underneath him. He jumped a bit and walked off 20 yards or so, but then he went right back to feeding. When a forkhorn entered at the far end of the field, he waltzed over and sparred casually with the little buck for several minutes before fading back into the woods.

I’d blown it. Somehow I just made a bad shot, I figured. Dropped my bow arm, or something. Then about 45 minutes before dark, a doe popped out in front of my stand, maybe 20 yards. Easy peasy–but having just missed, I took extra-careful aim, squeezed…and shot underneath her. She, too, made a little hop, moved off, not even 10 yards, and went back to feeding.

I knocked another arrow and this time purposely aimed about 6 inches high…and shot underneath her.

I am congenitally absent-minded, which can make life maddening at times. Before I left for hunting yesterday, I took my lucky knife out of a drawer, intending to bring it, and then put it down somewhere. For the next half hour, I turned the place upside down trying to find the damn thing. I left without it. That’s frustrating.

But what is worse — what can really drive a person nuts after going to all the trouble we bowhunters do to get in range of a good buck — is to know perfectly well that you should always, ALWAYS check your bow’s point of aim after returning from a trip; then forget to do it.

Just now — too late of course — I shot my bow. It’s hitting about 10 inches low.