Tips & Tactics

Plan B

Plan B

By Ken Piper

Have backup plans in place for essential gear.

I was hunting with an outfitter in Illinois about 15 years ago. He dropped me off at the edge of a pasture with good, clear directions on how to get to the stand. And oh, what a great-looking stand it was. Even in the dark I could tell I was going to like the setup.

After getting settled in the ladder stand and screwing in my bow hanger, I reached for my bow so I could put on my wrist release ... which wasn’t there. I buckle my release around the handle of my bow so I can find it quickly in the dark, and so I know I always have it with me. Except it wasn’t with me just now.

I crossed quite a few barbed-wire fences on the long walk in to the stand, and I can only guess it came off during one of those crossings. I’ll never know, because I never found that release.

The loss of the release wasn’t what was bothering me at the time, though. What was I going to do if a giant buck walked by? Would I try to draw and shoot with my fingers? I hadn’t practiced that, so would taking such a shot be ethical? The correct answer is, of course, no, but I didn’t want to face that dilemma.

I sat in that beautiful spot for four hours hoping I wouldn’t see a deer. Thankfully, I didn’t.

But I learned an important lesson that day, and that is to always have a backup plan for critical gear.

I now carry an identical release in my pack. I also carry a smaller backup flashlight. For gun hunts, I keep a few extra cartridges in a zippered compartment in my pack. I never touch those and don’t use them to load and unload my gun. They’re strictly there in case I forget my main ammo supply (which has happened while swapping jackets in changing weather).

In short, anything you can do to foil Murphy and his stupid law, do it! If there is a gear item that can foil your hunt, have a backup somewhere, even it you keep it in your vehicle – a rope cocking device for a crossbow comes to mind, as does an extra copy of your hunting license. The farther you travel to hunt, the more important these backup items are.

Planning for the worst isn’t limited to gear, though. It never hurts to practice shooting your bow with your fingers, even if you use a release. Try it and at least see where your arrows hit. Gun hunters aren’t immune. Practice shooting your gun with your opposite shoulder/eye a few times. You never know when a buck might approach from a sharp angle to your off-side. I know several hunters who took big bucks with opposite-shoulder shots.

Incidentally, practicing to shoot with my fingers paid off for me a few years later. I had shot a decent buck and waited until the next day to start tracking. The weather had gotten warm overnight, so I put on a lighter jacket. Once again I found myself far from home without my release. Why I hadn’t strapped it to my bow can only be attributed to the excitement of shooting a buck.

When I finally found my deer, it was still alive, but a follow-up shot with fingers finished the job and made a happy ending to a memorable hunt.

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Copyright 2021 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd