Didn’t get your deer this year? Fear not; use this helpful guide to save face with family and friends…
As a deer biologist and someone who has worked in the hunting industry for nearly 30 years, it’s safe to say I’ve seen my fair share of “grip and grin” photos of successful hunters with handsome bucks. And along the way, listened to countless entertaining stories of those conquests. I’ve also heard some very interesting excuses—apologies that always seem to leave an impression.
Since witnesses are rare when it comes to misses, “almosts” and “oops” deer, the degree of truth conveyed is generally left to the discretion of its conveyer. Some hunters “fess up” the real truth regardless of circumstances, while others will go down with the ship before admitting any hint of incompetency, buck fever, or hunter error. Not surprising, it’s the latter, typically, who produce the most-memorable excuses. These hunters consistently experience amazing situations—some so improbable it boggles the mind—that it reminds me of a famous saying I learned as a young wildlife student many years ago. It states, “Wildlife management is as much art as it is science.” So too, is the crafting of the perfect deer-hunting excuse.This is where the men separate themselves from the boys. More specifically, where the artistry of excuse-making is on full display. Anyone can come up with a run-of-the-mill excuse—such as “my scope was off,” or, “the deer jumped the string,”—but true excuse artists are much more creative. They always have the perfect explanation regardless of weather, weapon type, time of day, location—or pretty much any other scenario.The “science” portion of excuse-making comes in deftly working in a hint of truth, or likely probability, to make the recipient believe it could actually be true. Master excuse makers go a step further. This crew likes to combine a touch of truth with very vivid details. Often, things so wild and outlandish that they simply must be true. Being that good takes practice, of course, so I thought I’d share some of the “master class” wisdom—broken down by scenario. This is the easiest way for you to hone your own excuse craft—and prepare for the next time you need vindication. Your offense might be something as common as shooting a buck much smaller than you had described to the group you rallied to help track back at camp, or maybe, having to explain why your season-ending dinner plate holds yet another bitter helping of tag sandwich.Blame The Gear! A good place to start (for all beginning excuse practitioners) is blaming your gear. This is one of the most tried-and-true techniques, though a bit mundane. What follows are a few reliable crutches to consider. I’ve tried to include a few for archers, muzzleloader hunters and firearm hunters—as every hunter needs help occasionally.
“My lower bow limb hit the side of the stand (or tree, pants leg).”
“My bowstring hit my rangefinder (or binos) just as I released.”
“My mechanical broadhead failed to open upon contact.”
“Had a misfire (bad primer, no powder, old shell, etc.).”
“Percussion cap got wet, so my muzzleloader wouldn’t fire.”
“My treestand squeaked just as I fired.”
“My rangefinder stopped working (or the battery died).”
“Must have gotten a bad batch of scent elimination spray; somehow he smelled me upwind.”
The Elements Are At Fault. Another solid excuse portfolio is blaming the elements, as every hunter can relate to the environmental challenges experienced while afield. Here are a few dandies.
“Wind shifted at the last moment, causing the buck to bolt.”
“It was getting dark and I couldn’t see my crosshairs clearly through the scope.”
“The angle of the sun reflected directly in my eyes.”
“It was so cold I was shaking, and my eyes were watering.”
“Huge gust of wind blew just as I fired.”
“There was a limb in the way so I couldn’t shoot.”
“Moon phase wasn’t right.”
“A spider crawled onto my face just as I shot.”
“A bird flew into my arrow just as I shot.” The Deer Did It. Not surprisingly, the deer themselves are a great source of excuse fodder.
“The buck took a step just as I released, causing me to hit him too far back.”
“He jumped the string (or ducked the arrow).”
“He only showed me the good side of his rack.”
“He was a cull buck with bad genetics.”
“He was injured, so it was a mercy killing.”
“He swapped places with a smaller buck at the last minute.”
“Thought he was going to charge if I didn’t shoot.” Those Who Conspire Against Us. Passing the blame to others makes for another solid cornucopia of excuses.
“That wasn’t me who shot—must have been another hunter or a POACHER!”
“My kids must have bumped my scope.”
“My buddy rang my cell just as I released the arrow.”
“My wife won’t let me hang another deer in the house, so I passed.”
“The cameraman wasn’t on him, so I couldn’t shoot.”
“Those refried beans my brother-in-law cooked last night came out at the wrong time.”
“The farmer drove by on his tractor eating a doughnut—just as I shot.” Blame Yourself? If you feel the need to accept some personal responsibility, but want to soften the blow, here are a few good ones to consider.
“Forgot to load my gun.”
“Used the wrong ammo.”
“Thought he was further (or closer) than he was.”
“Just didn’t pick a spot.”
“Used the wrong pin by mistake.”
“Was asleep when the buck came by.”
“Accidentally double-loaded my muzzleloader and shot right over him (this one will get you sympathy as well, as you could have been hurt).
“Had to shoot fast, or he was going to get away.”
“Closed the wrong eye—my only good one.”
“My arthritis kicked in at the last moment; trigger finger just locked up.” Ethics Will Set You Free. If none of the above excuses fit the bill, you can always take the high ground and fall back on your commendable ethics.
“He just wasn’t big enough; already have several bucks just like him on my wall.”
“He wasn’t old enough; needed another year or two.”
“Already killed a deer this season; thought I should let someone else take him.”
“Just wasn’t in a killing mood, so I watched him instead.”
“He didn’t present me with an ethical shot.”
“Didn’t really need the meat since my brother-in-law became a butcher.”
“Didn’t want to pay another taxidermist bill.”
“He was too old and skinny; the meat wouldn’t be fit to eat.”
“The shot was just too easy; wouldn’t be fair to take him like that.” If you study this article carefully, you too can become an expert excuse-maker. Like all aspects of hunting, it will not happen overnight—or come without some work and dedication. However, nothing worth doing is supposed to be easy. This is, however, your chance to be creative and uniquely original. Another tip? Avoid the stale “old standby” excuses—they are so yesteryear. Just as the best storytellers are the hit of every camp, every evening gathering around the fire—you can be the one in your family or group to carry that torch into the future. The one every member looks forward to hearing from back at camp—whether you come in from the field packing a trophy buck, or even better, a few salty tales of the one that got away.