The plan was to shoot a doe last night. There’s usually a decent buck or two on this farm, and I’d figured one might enter the alfalfa field where the wood’s edge is dotted with rubs. But nothing showed under my stand there on Monday or Wednesday. Instead, on both nights, I’d watched several does enter at the far northwest corner. So, heading out yesterday, I figured I should go arrow one of them. You know, just like that. Then with a deer in the freezer and the pressure off I could push into the woods a little to figure out where the bucks were staging.

With a perfect wind, I moved my stand several hundred yards down to the corner. I got set up, got settled in, looked out across the field, and oh my God there’s a buck standing right where my stand was. Of course there is. But at least he was headed my way. Little by little. He’d take a step, take a nibble, look around, and then take another step. After a half hour or so, he was at 40 yards and still coming.

Just then, out came the does. Paying no attention to the buck, they trotted to a lush patch of green 20 yards under my stand and parked themselves for a good feed—broadside. But by then I’d made my mind up to shoot the buck if I could. He’d closed to about 35 yards, but was still facing me. All I needed was for him to turn, or keep coming. Instead, he, too, put his head down for a long feed, and we all kind of just hung out there in the corner of the field. No worries, I figured; there was no way he was getting out of there without giving me a shot. And even if he did, I’d just take one of the does.

Then all of their heads snapped up. They stared for a second at the cornfield across the way—and whoosh. Like someone electrified the field, they convulsed and sprang simultaneously into the woods.

And that’s the problem with a plan.