I missed a deer today, during a comedy of errors.
I sat in the stand from before daylight till about 10:45, when I looked at my watch. I decided that I had been in the woods long enough and started packing my knapsack. I noticed movement to the front of the stand, and looked up to see a doe step out of the brier patch about twenty yards from the stand.
I've never seen a deer step out there, and I've been hunting that stand for three years. You could have knocked me over with a feather, but she turned her head and looked at the stand and I froze. She turned and started quartering away from me at a slow walk. The pipeline in that spot is about 40 yards wide, so I put down the thermos and reached for my rifle.
I was carrying the Savage 110, in .30-06. It's my favorite and I shoot it a lot, but I don't ever think that I've shot it at a close target, and this one was now about 40 yards from my stand. As I brought the rifle up, she looked over her shoulder at me again. I froze. She turned her head toward the opposing brier patch and I got the rifle to my shoulder. Found her in the scope. Centered the cross-hairs on a spot just behind her shoulder. Squeezed the trigger. Nothing but a little click.
The safety was still on. That rifle carries the Accutrigger and if the trigger is tripped while the safety is on, it disables the rifle. You've got to lift the bolt, reset the trigger, then slide the safety to fire. I did all that as the deer continued her mosey, quartering away. I realigned the cross-hairs on that spot behind the shoulder, fired the rifle and watched her squirt into the brier patch. I heard her busting brush, knew that I couldn't miss a deer that close, and continued closing the stand. I had a deer to process.
After a suitable period to let her lay down and die, I climbed down out of the stand and walked to where I had last seen her. No blood on the ground. I began a thorough search, crisscrossing the area. No blood, no hair. I expanded the search till I had covered the better part of four or five acres. No deer, no blood, no hair. I searched for over an hour, very carefully, criss-crossing the area and came to the simple, unmistakable conclusion that I had missed a deer in a classic nearly broadside shot, at the extreme range of about 50 yards.