It happens to even the best of us. We asked 10 prominent Canadian hunters to share the story of their most memorable missed shot—and what they learned from it
Calgary’s Archie Nesbitt is arguably the world’s most accomplished bowhunter, having taken 231 different species and more than 100 world records.
“As a life member of Safari Club International and a member of its board of directors, I attend every year’s annual convention. One year, I had the objective of booking a trip to arrow and harvest a really, really big bull elk. The record book showed that my odds for success were best if I hunted in Arizona or New Mexico. Arizona is basically a once-in-a-lifetime draw. New Mexico, on the other hand, has over-the-counter tags. So, at the convention, I met outfitter Ross Johnson from Magdalena, New Mexico. He was obsessed with finding big bull elk.
I hunted with Ross for three years, and although I saw a 370- to 390-inch bull each year, I could never quite put it together to get the shot. It was all spot-and-stalk hunting, with miles and miles of walking in hot, very dry conditions over thick cedar- and juniper-covered slopes.
Finally, late one morning, I worked my way into bow range of a moving herd of elk, with a bull bugling regularly to help me identify the critical ambush location. I quietly got into position, and my set-up and the wind were perfect. One by one, the cows crossed in front of me. As expected, the big trophy bull was last in line. At first glance, I knew he was what I’d been searching for over the years. In my brain, I assumed I had him in the bag.
I picked my shooting lane, came to full draw and, as his shoulder came into view, released my arrow. The arrow left the bow straight and true, but halfway to the bull it came to a dead stop in the horizontal limb of a cedar tree that was a foot above my line of sight. It was depressing, to be sure—it was the only shot I had with my then long and heavy aluminum arrow set-up. It was the arc of the arrow that got me. I went home empty-handed again that year, but stuck with it and finally got my bull in a subsequent year.”