Missed shots confound hunters

By Angelo Stambene Published: December 19, 2013 | 6:50 pm 0

When most people wake up at 4 in the morning with the wind howling and the snow blowing outside, they roll over and go back to sleep.

Hunters are not most people, though; they put on layers and head out the door. After finding a good spot, they wait, shivering with jaws clenched, while surveying the landscape through binoculars. A perfect shot means the freezer will be full. A miss? The only good to come of one is the story you'll tell later.

Even experienced hunters are not immune to missed shots. Ron Yoder has been hunting for more than 20 years, but the 54-year-old missed a shot last season that has kept him up at night.

During late rifle season in December, Yoder was looking to fill his elk tag. "It was later in the day and I was looking for a place where I could sit the next morning. I found an open meadow that I thought looked good, and I was milling around when I found a blown-down tree" said Yoder.

He decided that the tree would provide him cover, and thought that elk might come looking for food in the meadow. While wiping snow away to make a comfortable place to sit, he spotted an elk in the meadow.

"I blew my elk call and they stopped, so I shot at one of the cows from about 125 yards, and of course they started running. My gut instinct said I didn't hit it, but I didn't know how it was possible that I didn't."

After landing a shot, hunters typically look for blood trails, spots on the ground where the wounded animal has bled. "I walked up to where she was and I could find no hair, no blood, no sign of wounded elk. I followed the trail and there was snow on the ground, so I would have been able to see a hit, and there was just nothing" said Yoder.

As it began to get dark, Yoder knew he would have an increasingly difficult time finding any signs of the cow, so he made his way back to camp.

"The next day I went back to the area, and I searched in widening circles, but I still don't know what happened, it was like a dream in a way. That experience haunts me a lot, and I still wonder about it," Yoder said.

Known as "ghosts of the woods," Yoder's elk was not the only one to disappear after a hunter's shot.

Wayne DeLabarre encountered such a ghost when the 66-year-old was hunting in the San Luis Valley with his son and his son's friend. "I dropped off the young guys to let them go to the top (of a mountain) and I was sitting watching an open area. They didn't get but 100 yards from me when they kicked out a little four by four (a male with four pointed antlers on each side), and he wasn't 50 yards from me."

DeLabarre was thankful for such a close shot, "I pulled up (my rifle) and fired it on him, aiming at the vitals (behind the front shoulder), and he just looked at me for a second and started running off," he said.

Confused but undeterred, DeLaBarre chambered another round and fired. "I shot again and finally he went down. When I got up to him the only hole in him was the one when he was running. Apparently I missed him at 50 yards.

"That gun had to be way off," DeLeBarre said, laughing. "It was unbelievable, how do you miss at 50 yards?"

To be a good hunter one must learn, adapt and sometimes change what you're doing. And after his miss, Yoder adapted.

"The thing I did was get a bigger gun."

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