Failing Forward!


Jun 3, 2007
This deer was my daughter's first hunting failure!

As we all know we aren't perfect, and things can always go wrong when hunting. My daughter who started hunting deer seven years ago at the tender age of nine, has been blessed to successfully take a lot of deer in those years. However, at the age of 13 she had a cow elk tag in the same unit this buck was taken and she quit on the hunt after only a day and a half of hunting.

Now I had failed her in not preparing her for the hunt with the proper gear, and for the mental and physical challenges she'd face on her first western big game hunt. Even though we live in Colorado, the only tags she had an filled were a buck pronghorn tag, and her Oklahoma white tail tags. The gear I had for her was heavy and bulky, and I really didn't have her proper hunting clothing for the mountains. The gear was the easy fix, but the other things would have to be on her.

I helped her to prepare physically and mentally by allowing her to go on a few ram scouting missions with a buddy of mine who had drawn a bighorn tag. She started to get the fever for the hunt after helping my buddy scout this ram he took on the opening morning of the hunt. It reminded her of what she was going to have to deal with when her season opened on the 3rd of November.

I was unable to take my daughter on this hunt so I relied on my buddies in the above picture to help her. I work for the railroad as a locomotive engineer and I'm on call 24/7 365 so I have no scheduled days off. Also due to family medical emergencies earlier this year I was out of personal days and all but one week of vacation scheduled for the week of Thanksgiving. So my job was to get her to hunting camp on the 2nd of November.

Her first two days of season while unsuccessful she saw a lot of deer, and we brought her down Sunday night so she could go to school. All week she begged us to let her ditch school so she could hunt, and we finally reached a compromise and let her ditch half a day on Thursday so she could make the evening hunt. Luckily she attends a rural school that only has class Monday-Thursday so she didn't miss much.

Saturday morning on November 10th we received a text message from out daughter with this picture attached and a simple text "I got my deer yesterday."

Now like I said I'm out of vacation but because I have no scheduled days off I'm allowed a few days every month that I can take off without compensation. To quote Paul Harvey, I felt getting "The rest of the story" was worth the lost wages. So I drove up to deer camp Saturday evening to do just that.

So to the story part, one of the guys in camp took this deer the evening my daughter went back up to camp.

He said that he had spotted his buck running with my daughter's. Since he had a nice non typical he decided to shoot the four point pictured, but he was sure my daughters buck was still in the area. So the guys made the plan to go find this deer for my daughter the next day, and their plan to find him worked.

One thing I failed to mention was that in my quest to help my daughter I got her a light rifle, a Howa Alpine in .308 Win. With scope and mounts the rifle only weighs 7lbs .02oz, and that brings challenges learning to shoot it well. We found the factory 125 grain NBT Nosler ammunition shot really well in her rifle, but we failed to make the time needed to get her proficient at shooting a light rifle. She shot it very well from the bench but we ran out of time to practice field and improvised shooting positions, and to wring out the load beyond 100 yards. I knew the speed from my chronograph was right at 3020 fps and she was dead on at 100 yards, so I left my buddies with this info and they were confident they could work with that.

So at daylight they started into the area this buck had last been seen and they finally found him about mid morning. This buck was hard to get a shot on as they said he was always sneaking and putting a rock or a tree between him and my daughter. They finally got her a shot at 280 yards but he was downhill from her position, when my daughter shot her bullet missed the mark low and only took out one of the bucks front legs. What ensued was a few miles of tracking a wounded deer that didn't want to die. Several more shots were fired and he soaked up four more hits before giving up, and the pack out lasted well past dark. This was the first time my daughter had failed to fatally wound a deer with her initial shot, and it weighted very heavily upon her.

When we were driving home on Sunday afternoon after breaking down deer camp, she finally told me she didn't feel like she deserved the buck and she didn't know if she wanted to hunt anymore. Luckily we had about three and a half hours left to work through her feelings. We discussed about us failing to make time to properly practice with her rifle. I also told her as hunters we all fail to make a good shot it isn't a matter of if but when, and it's what we do after that bad shot is what's most important. I told her that by continuing to track and finally bring down her buck made more of her a hunter than any of her one shot kills had. I could tell by the end of our drive she was starting to feel better about her deer, she still wasn't happy with her shooting but that's okay I told her we can make time to work on it.

So the following week I took vacation to take the family down to Oklahoma for our annual deer hunt to finish off the hunting seasons. My daughter hunted three out of the seven days of my vacation and managed to fill her three tags. She took a small buck while I was in the blind with her. I was unable to hunt with her when she filled her doe tags as I had the flu and was unable to leave the hotel room.

On the way home from Oklahoma she asked if I could find her a late season pronghorn doe tag for December. So I'd say her pity party is over and I guess she'll continue to hunt. She also realized failing at something isn't the end of the world, and there is a valuable lesson in our failures if we take time to learn it.
Some failure! She did alright! Congratulations to your daughter for a successful season. Remind her that the only people who have no failures are those who never hunt. If we hunt, we all suffer those embarrassing moments when everything conspires against our success. She persevered and tagged her mulie, and he is a beaut! I know a lot of people who would give anything to add such a trophy to their score. Again, congratulations to the young huntress. She is moving toward a great life as a huntress. I know you are proud of her.
Her failure will motivate her to practice more so that she is better prepared for longer shots from field positions, which will not only build her confidence, but improve her skill level and knowledge of when and where to take, or not take, those difficult shots on game in the field. This will make her a better hunter and markswoman.

It shows great strength and character to have followed through until the successful end of that hunt. But also of her being able to work through her emotions and continue hunting successfully, and wanting to go yet again! A little help from Dad also went a long ways in that decision! Good on both of you!

All hunters fail in the field at some point, regardless of age, gender, level of experience and circumstances. Some are minor, while others are monumental failures. As you explained to her, it is how we choose to react to those failures that demonstrates our character and ability to perservere through those difficult challenges to hopefully eliminate or mitigate future reoccurrences. And no matter how hard we try to teach some of these lessons to our kids, friends and family, unfortunately, they will never truly learn it for themselves until they experience it first hand and can fully appreciate the lesson for themselves. It can be hard to watch, but it is very satisfying to see them work through it and grow.
No failure at all, she can be proud of a fine buck. I have had many misses and bad hits in 60 years of hunting and making the perfect behind the shoulder shot in a hurry from a field position is hard to do no matter how much you practice. Anyone who hasn't had this happen has not shot at very many animals.
Good on her for following up after the initial shot and getting the job done !!!!
Two kinds of hunters in this world, the ones who have made less than perfect shots on game and those that are going to.
Her desire to follow up and finish speaks volumes to her character.

Rifle marksmanship is learned over a lifetime of trial and error on targets.
Get some more ammo loaded for her and get her out shooting more often.
taylorce1 thanks for the great story I just wish photo bucket would quit messing around, even though I have the fix on my computer they would time out.
You gave her good advice and I don't see it as failure but just part of the hunt.
This is a great story! Congratulations to your daughter and to her hunting companions for locating the deer, getting a shot, and then recovering the wounded animal. Also congratulations on the three white tail deer. She has had a great hunting season so far and a great learning experience. Kudos to you for talking her through her concerns about continuing to hunt. Overcoming the difficult times is what builds character. She is learning that not everything in life comes easy all the time. Sometimes it takes work and perseverance for a great outcome.

The life lessons that arise from hunting, and especially the humbling when things don't go precisely as we planned, are priceless. So good that your daughter not only is learning this, but that her dad is standing with her to ensure that the immediate disappointment doesn't overwhelm her. Congratulations all the way around.
Well I'm impressed. You've raised a fine young woman. Excellent work, great story.

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They say the first hunters were "persistence hunters"....I think the good ones still are.

Fine job!
I could only repeat what has been said. Well done for your continued mentoring and to your daughter for her persistence. She has a story to tell and lessons learned. That's what life is about.. Great deer and beautiful smiles. CL