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
Known primarily as an Alberta waterfowl outfitter and host of the popular TV show Hired to Hunt, Claudio Ongaro is also an avid big-game hunter.
“I’ve made more mistakes than I’d care to admit, including two no-brainer shots on big whitetails that haunt me to this day. On the first occasion, I threw a treestand on my back and hiked into the northern Alberta woods during the rut, looking for a massive scrape. Soon I was in my stand, rattling antlers at full throttle. Before I’d even pulled the antlers apart, a massive white-tailed buck suddenly appeared at 80 yards. I was busted, and within seconds he’d vanished.
Forty-five minutes later, for reasons known only to the buck, he reappeared at 65 yards, peering up in my direction, yet masked by a huge poplar. If I leaned hard into my safety harness, I could see the crease behind his front shoulder. It felt awkward, but solid, so I fired. It didn’t end well. No blood. No hair. A complete miss. It had been a gift from the deer gods, and I blew it.
Fast-forward 15 years, and I was in a treestand again in my go-to rut-hunting spot, my shotgun across my lap,. Responding to my rattling, a monster whitetail trotted in. He was walking to my left and below me, at only nine yards. I managed to shoulder my gun, then grunt. The buck stopped, and I was thinking I’d be at the taxidermist’s before noon as I squeezed the trigger.
I searched for the rest of that day and the entirety of the next to find the buck. All I had to show for my efforts, however, were light blood, bone fragments and a pit in my soul that haunts me to this day. This one stung more than any other, as I had wounded that magnificent animal. I was so close to quitting hunting that day. Time does heal all wounds, however, and I’ve hunted hundreds of days since then, more cognizant than ever of the potential for a miss.”