By Alex Comstock
Over the course of 365 days, there are so many things that go into putting yourself in the position to be at full draw on a mature whitetail buck. But all of it can seemingly go to waste in a split second during the moment of truth if you aren’t able to seal the deal. From what I’ve seen and through talking to a lot of people that have consistently put down mature bucks, it seems to be there are people out there who seem to always get it done in that moment of truth, and there are some who simply struggle in the moment. You could be the best deer hunter in the world, but through a series of split seconds, it could define what you end up killing and what you wish you could have back.
What Makes The Moment of Truth So Crucial
It’s November 9th, and you’ve spent the last six days hunting everyday, all day. You are mentally worn out, but know it’s one of the best times of the year to be in the woods. As the sun crests over the horizon, you catch a glimpse of antlers moving your direction. You automatically know it’s one of the giants you’ve been after all year. The buck is hot on a doe’s trail, and closes the distance rapidly. As he does so, everything in your brain starts going haywire. You reach for your rangefinder, but can’t seem to get out of your pocket. Hands shaking tremendously, you struggle to clip your release on your string. You finally get it clipped on, pull back, aren’t sure of the range, and guess the buck to be at 30 yards. You let out a grunt to stop the buck and send the arrow only to watch it sail over his back. The buck bounds out of your life, and you’re devastated. It’s the third time in the last four years you’ve blew a shot.
That whole scenario could have played out in the matter of twenty seconds. What makes that moment so crucial is you could have done everything right for the past twelve months to put yourself in that position, but then messed up arguably the most important twenty seconds. Below I’m going to go through the same scenario, but in a little different way.
It’s November 9th, and you’ve spent the last six days hunting everyday, all day. You are mentally worn out, but know it’s one of the best times of the year to be in the woods. As the sun crests over the horizon, you catch a glimpse of antlers moving your direction. You automatically know it’s one of the giants you’ve been after all year. The buck is hot on a doe’s trail, and closes the distance rapidly. As he does so, you take a deep breath, quickly identify where the most likely shot is going to take place, range the spot at 26 yards, eyes dart back to the buck and he’s just about to where you need to shoot. You clip your release, pull back and wait for the buck to appear in the shooting window. As soon as he does, you give him a quick grunt to stop him, send the arrow and watch it disappear in the sweet spot. Moment later you’re watching the buck take his last steps and you’ve done it…
You can imagine how the rest of the second scenario would go. And it’s vastly different from the first one. Think about that for a second. You can be the best deer hunter in the world, but if you aren’t good at handling those short moments when it really counts, your success rate could be quite low. If you are good at mastering those moments, odds are your success rate will be quite good.
So How Do You Conquer The Moment of Truth?
This folks is the million dollar question. If it was a cut and dry answer, I think we would all be stone cold killers, but it’s just simply not the fact. There are a lot of layers to the question, but as a hunter that has dealt with not doing well in the moment of truth in the past, but has improved, I’m going to give you my honest opinion.
Mindset: I think it all starts with a mindset. You HAVE to be ready at all times, and be expecting to shoot whatever you’re after that certain hunt. The times in which I’ve messed up those precious moments and either missed or had my shot not hit where I wanted it to, I wasn’t necessarily ready for something to happen. That’s a critical mistake, because then you get taken by surprise, and that’s when the panic and rushed movements come in. If you are always ready for something to happen, when it finally does, you’re thinking more clearly and know what has to be done in order for the encounter to end successfully.
Slow The Moment Down: As I’ve improved during the moment of truth, another thing that has stood out to me is simply slowing the moment down. This could mean a lot of different things to you, but to me, it usually means controlling my breathing and literally saying “slow down” to myself over and over. As I say slow down, I start trying to figure out when I need to be drawn, where I think I’m going to get my shot, and continue to take deep breaths and control the breathing. Ultimately, whatever you can do to slow the moment down will help, and for some of us, that might simply take repetition.
Preparation: The last thing I want to touch on to help you master the moment of truth is to be prepared. Range everything while in the tree. Check around your stand for any twigs or limbs that could get in your way when drawing. Draw your bow back and check to make sure you can comfortably get drawn back and shoot where you think you could get a shot off. Just like anything else in life, the more prepared you are for something to happen, the better you’ll likely perform.
A few seconds can determine whether or not you kill a deer or watch it run away from you. Think about that…after twelve months of work, it could all get messed up by a few seconds. As hunters, the last thing we want to do is screw it up in the most important moment. The moment of truth is a crucial part to hunting when talking about success. Don’t let it become a hindrance to you. Conquer it.