By Sitka Ambassador Steven Drake
Should have. Would have. Could have.
This weekend, I had three stellar shot opportunities on mature bulls and managed to bungle all of them. But I learned a few lessons about what I should have, could have, and would have done differently.
1.) With the wind in our favor, Kyle and I fixated on the two stud bulls below us and dropped down off the ridge. Midway through our approach, we slammed on the brakes. To our left was a mature bull quartering away and looking right as us. He had wild symmetrical kickers – extra points that flew way out to the sides. He couldn’t figure out what we were and just watched as I turned, ranged, and drew my bow. I locked my pin right on the crease, which would have been fine if he were perfectly broadside. But since he was quartering away, all it took was a slight move on the elk’s part, and my arrow hit nothing but dirt.
I SHOULD HAVE focused in the moment and remembered to aim at his back ribs. With the sharp angle my arrow would have gone right into the boiler room. Of course, it could have been worse: It’s always better to make a clean miss than a messy wound.
2.) I sat in the middle of a heavily used game trail with a bull fast approaching. The stud six ran the switchbacks up the trail, and at eight yards it became obvious that there was an Optifade roadblock in his path. After a short stare down at full draw, with only the bull’s head visible, he bolted. I stopped him at ten yards with a cow call, but he only offered a half-second shot opportunity before disappearing for good.
I COULD HAVE gotten off the trail a few yards and hid myself amongst the rocks and shale, making my presence less evident.
3.) On the third bull, I ate my own advice. I always try to take my pack off to make the shot, if the situation allows. A quarter mile from camp, right off the ridgeline was a whopper 6x7. I had the range and drop dialed, and would have been comfortable with the shot, but not with a 40-pound pack on. So I decided I’d move in closer. I got within forty yards, drew my bow, and waited for the bull to take two more steps. And then the wind switched. One minute I had him dead nuts, the next he got my scent and was gone.
If I WOULD HAVE dropped my pack, opening weekend may have ended differently.
But you know what? I'm glad for the lessons. I've got more knowledge and wisdom for next weekend!
So how about you? Have you learned any lessons from should have, could have, would have scenarios?