Lessons Learned: Complete Arrow Failure on Elk

bsnedeker

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Horrible ethics huh? You must be a mind reader as well. You have no idea what was going through the OP's mind at the time. He was in a very stressful situation, it is not right for you or anyone else to impose your ethics upon another hunter. It's very easy for a bunch of arm chair warriors to sit behind their keyboards and state what they would have done in that situation. The OP had a split second chance to make a decision. He didn't have time to ponder how the Rokslide Jury would judge him.
Lol....have you read his posts? No mind reading required...he narrated his entire thought process. So yeah, horrible ethics.
 

Stubborn_bowhunter

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Maybe it's one of those fancy new nanobot broad heads that turn into spiders like the matrix and then crawl around cutting shit up inside the critter.
 

KyleR1985

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I had to freaking taste the marks on rocks and branches to distinguish them from other small marks and imperfections on the rocks and twigs.

It's striking that you're willing to go to these lengths on a blood trail, and do zero functional testing of your arrow system prior to hunting. Not that you should have, or are expected to, it's just a strange juxtaposition...


He is clearly starting to clot up now but only after losing gallons of blood.
An elk wouldn't survive, or be able to go up a mountain anyway, after losing more than a gallon of blood. Much less gallons. Not picking nits, just clarifying some things for people reading who might think otherwise. For what it's worth - I can't see a scenario you do enough damage to the cardiovascular system of an elk to cause the loss of more than half a gallon of external blood loss, and it not be dead at the end of whatever blood trail you find.

Specific to a superficial wound (muscle hit only) - it could take several to many minutes to get that much blood out - it's likely clotting before letting that much blood onto the ground. Very unlikely scenario unless this animal is pushed constantly from the shot until recovery. You didn't do that.

Regarding any wound involving the chest cavity, specifically a one lung type shot, getting a gallon of blood onto the ground, means a chest cavity full of blood and severe loss of blood pressure/oxygen to brain= Dead elk. This doesn't mean a one lung hit is a definite dead on arrival animal. It means that a one lung hit with a gallon of blood on the ground he's definitely dead - you severed major plumbing in addition to that lung puncture. I've experienced a handful of one lung deer shots. The ones that bled like crazy were recovered because major plumbing was cut. The ones that didn't bleed literally just poked a hole in a lung. Those deer bedded, bled to death internally/drowned/couldn't get enough oxygen to the brain from a single functioning lung.

Elk are tough critters. But brains need oxygen. Blood gets oxygen from functioning lungs. Blood requires pressure to deliver that oxygen up to the brain. Any wound that results in such severe loss of blood as you've mentioned, would be really unlikely to not kill the animal who suffered it.
 

Zac

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It's striking that you're willing to go to these lengths on a blood trail, and do zero functional testing of your arrow system prior to hunting. Not that you should have, or are expected to, it's just a strange juxtaposition...



An elk wouldn't survive, or be able to go up a mountain anyway, after losing more than a gallon of blood. Much less gallons. Not picking nits, just clarifying some things for people reading who might think otherwise. For what it's worth - I can't see a scenario you do enough damage to the cardiovascular system of an elk to cause the loss of more than half a gallon of external blood loss, and it not be dead at the end of whatever blood trail you find.

Specific to a superficial wound (muscle hit only) - it could take several to many minutes to get that much blood out - it's likely clotting before letting that much blood onto the ground. Very unlikely scenario unless this animal is pushed constantly from the shot until recovery. You didn't do that.

Regarding any wound involving the chest cavity, specifically a one lung type shot, getting a gallon of blood onto the ground, means a chest cavity full of blood and severe loss of blood pressure/oxygen to brain= Dead elk. This doesn't mean a one lung hit is a definite dead on arrival animal. It means that a one lung hit with a gallon of blood on the ground he's definitely dead - you severed major plumbing in addition to that lung puncture. I've experienced a handful of one lung deer shots. The ones that bled like crazy were recovered because major plumbing was cut. The ones that didn't bleed literally just poked a hole in a lung. Those deer bedded, bled to death internally/drowned/couldn't get enough oxygen to the brain from a single functioning lung.

Elk are tough critters. But brains need oxygen. Blood gets oxygen from functioning lungs. Blood requires pressure to deliver that oxygen up to the brain. Any wound that results in such severe loss of blood as you've mentioned, would be really unlikely to not kill the animal who suffered it.
Totally agree with your assessment of the bull expiring. However there are plenty of hunters that don't test their setups that will try everything they can to find wounded game.
 

KyleR1985

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Totally agree with your assessment of the bull expiring. However there are plenty of hunters that don't test their setups that will try everything they can to find wounded game.
“Not that you should have, or are expected to, it's just a strange juxtaposition...”

This will be the first time I’ve heard of a feller on a blood trail licking rocks to determine whether a substance he sees came out of an elk or not. It’s not an indictment on his tracking skills, or archery tackle. It’s noting the delta between the attention paid to detail in each.
 

5MilesBack

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I agree......just because I'm pretty OCD about everything, not just certain things. I also believe that arrow failure is always our fault......not the arrow's. The arrows just are what they are......they can't change that........but we can, and should if they don't pass muster. Same for BH's. I've tested BH's that can't even handle being shot into and pulled from a foam target without losing blades. I've also shot arrows that broke into three pieces shot into a 2x6. Better to test first at home than on animals.
 

eye_zick

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Even a mile into the track he was still consistently dripping blood. At about a mile and a half, he kicks it straight up a steep mountain.


I'll offer an opinion here - dying elk dont go uphill after going a mile and a half. Once you see the blood trail going uphill, you need to validate if he circled around, almost as if he decided he cant make it uphill. There is some detail about your search once he goes uphill that matters to me personally, but I have no problem with the second shot, if you were certain you had done the first bull justice.
 

Jethro

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Set up sounds fine to me, but you must change arrows now. You can't have the doubt in your mind about how your equipment will perform. But you made the statement...

"Regardless, I know for certain that had I been shooting a superior arrow setup I would have harvested that larger 5 point bull. With two holes in his hide he would have expired. "

That simply is not true. Since you didn't recover the first bull there is no way to know what happened. Even you as the shooter have no evidence to support that statement. If in fact you made a bad shot, then it will still be a bad shot when using expensive arrows.

As to shooting the 2nd bull. Only 1 person gets to make that call and I wasn't there. Little quick for me based on the story given.
 

Zac

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I'll offer an opinion here - dying elk dont go uphill after going a mile and a half. Once you see the blood trail going uphill, you need to validate if he circled around, almost as if he decided he cant make it uphill. There is some detail about your search once he goes uphill that matters to me personally, but I have no problem with the second shot, if you were certain you had done the first bull justice.
I think I mostly agree, although I've seen only in shows some high hits that went up hill in order to keep the suck hole open.
 
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PLhunter

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I'll offer an opinion here - dying elk dont go uphill after going a mile and a half. Once you see the blood trail going uphill, you need to validate if he circled around, almost as if he decided he cant make it uphill. There is some detail about your search once he goes uphill that matters to me personally, but I have no problem with the second shot, if you were certain you had done the first bull justice.
This is where shit got weird for us as well. The bull had a trail. A decent trail to side hill on before he kicked it straight uphill. I tracked blood straight up the steep hill for a solid 400 yards. It was him going almost straight up and not turning around. This required crawling and marking previous blood it. The trail then went back towards the direction he was shot in for about 50 yards. Before then turning back on itself and going uphill again before finally sidehilling back to his original direction. From there he crossed a much easier to track environment and I was able to find pinpricks of blood on rocks with the rare occasional eraser sized drip. Even the pinpricks were getting far apart and so small that they required a taste to make sure. I tasted lots of spots that weren’t blood in the process. At this point he entered the timber where this amount of blood would be nearly impossible to find. At this point it was dark. The bull was shot around 8 am. The next day I was gridding for blood on the other side of that patch of timber in the rocks when the second encounter happened never found any. The second bull came out at almost exactly the elevation the first bull went in.

I have no idea why he turned straight uphill. He certainly bled less going uphill than downhill but I doubt he knew that. I was surprised by the move. That’s why his cut uphill held up the tracking so long it was unexpected. In the sage brush it was tough to find and determining a direction when he makes no sense is difficult.
 
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PLhunter

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Set up sounds fine to me, but you must change arrows now. You can't have the doubt in your mind about how your equipment will perform. But you made the statement...

"Regardless, I know for certain that had I been shooting a superior arrow setup I would have harvested that larger 5 point bull. With two holes in his hide he would have expired. "

That simply is not true. Since you didn't recover the first bull there is no way to know what happened. Even you as the shooter have no evidence to support that statement. If in fact you made a bad shot, then it will still be a bad shot when using expensive arrows.

As to shooting the 2nd bull. Only 1 person gets to make that call and I wasn't there. Little quick for me based on the story given.
I am quite certain I hit him forward toward the shoulder. Yes I can’t be 100 percent without getting eyes on the animal. Having seen what some setups do against bone and taking into consideration the deflection of my second shot by a simple rib. I think I certainly would have significantly increased my odds of having shot one be fatal. However you’re right in that it’s not a certainty.
 
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PLhunter

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Specific to a superficial wound (muscle hit only) - it could take several to many minutes to get that much blood out - it's likely clotting before letting that much blood onto the ground. Very unlikely scenario unless this animal is pushed constantly from the shot until recovery. You didn't do that.
An elk has about 5-6 gallons of blood. So they can lose quite a bit before losing consciousness especially amped up but yeah gallons was an exaggeration. Fueled mostly by blood splatters on rocks. A small volume leaves a big splash. I need to get the photos and video from my buddy from when the elk crossed the slide. It at least appears like a lot of blood and we were pretty far into the trail by then. Hate to say it but when I saw that trail across the rocks I let myself think we totally had him. Then well it pretty quickly slowed to a trickle.

Interestingly a human with a relatively giant brain sucking much larger amounts of oxygen can lose 30 to 40 percent of their blood before losing consciousness. They may not even notice losing 15 percent. Again that’s with a high maintenance brain. So an elk can actually lose blood measured units of gallons and keep trucking. Which is just bonkers.

As far as testing. I wouldn’t say I did none and certainly didn’t completely forgo research. Made sure my bow was tuned and that broadheads were matching field points even to long ranges. Other people’s test on the broadheads were positive and my arrow weight seemed light but acceptable. I did like the flat shooting and was reluctant to give it up. But yeah I didn’t shoot arrows into dead animals or into blocks of wood or concrete. These arrows in shooting practice seemed to break about when others do. Lol my buddy was talking about the near indestructible nature of his setup after my arrow broke in a juniper. Minutes later his breaks in the same juniper. Not saying it wasn’t much tougher but compounds are hard on even the best.

Certainly could have done more on the arrow front and I didn’t make a perfect shot. Guess the point of posting this rather humbling story was to have those on the fence maybe consider jumping over. I practiced a lot and was proficient. You should make the best shot you can. However, especially now I think there is value in setting your system up to give you a better chance even when you’re not perfect. Think rifle hunting. A perfectly placed 22 mag can kill a bull. However, if you don’t hit just perfect no one is going to be calling out the shot placement as the only factor. They’ll lambast you over the cartridge used. For some reason in archery we put everything on shot placement which is rightly number one but it doesn’t mean number 2 isn’t worth analyzing.
 
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PLhunter

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Addressing Ethics: I have now had the benefit of time that all you have enjoyed. I try to learn from everything in every way possible. My hunting buddy and I talked about this in detail right on the spot. The coulda, woulda, shoulda's all of us hunters do after every encounter.

The original shot: It wasn't a perfect situation but if ya'll are always shooting unaware elk exposed from hoof to back nose to tail every shot at under 20 yards then good on ya. As for me I will shoot an elk in that position at that range again. Otherwise, I might as well give up archery hunting because even that good of opportunity in general season is rare. I took the shot and do have a burned in freeze frame in my mind of the arrow in flight. Many have told me how bad the shot must have been but I can say I am going to try to make that shot fatal with heavier and better arrows because it potentially could be. All I have is that I know for a fact it wasn't far back and apparently wasn't perfect because he didn't die within any near distance.

Tracking: We waited for plenty of time and did a great to excellent tracking job. Never rushed it when I didn't find blood and always made sure that blood and direction were established before moving forward. There were some difficult patches even early but we made it through them all and picked up a good trail after. Post "gushing" over rocks got tough. That's when I got real concerned we wouldn't recover him. We had just had encouraging blood but he was closing up fast. I also wasn't encouraged about his decision to go uphill at every split. He invariably decided to go up instead of down when given a choice. Into the sagebrush clearing is when it got really tough. At this point, I think he may have lost a certain percentage of hunters. This required a lot of discipline to not get too far out in front and to stick with always having blood before moving on. Then the uphill turn. Here, I think you would have lost most remaining trackers. He had no reason and there were fresh elk tracks on the trail he should have stayed on. Blood was already minimal and I think most would have continued on the trail and assumed he just stopped bleeding. Instead, I stuck with the having blood before moving rule and eventually found a smear on the bottom of a branch on one piece of sagebrush above where he was last on the trail. Faint and off color but clearly taste like elk. At this point it gets ridiculous and we still somehow keep on him but daylight is burning fast and we are getting 10 yards at a time at less than a yard a minute. Eventually, it fully looks like he switched back on us. He is now on a trail and should have again stayed on it. Instead, under a tree that makes tracking tough, he decides to flip back on his route to head the direction he was originally going. Again, no trail there. No reason to turn up and back through sage. But he does it. This turn took a ton of time to overcome. Then it gets even tougher and I am forced to jump ahead more than I like because at this rate even if he was dead less than a mile away he would be fully rotten by the time he is found. I get lucky and find his path onto better tracking. Still tedious but much quicker. Then he enters a tougher spot than any I have overcome yet just before dark. I choose to glass for him the next morning by hiking to a good vantage point. Hoping he comes out into one of the clearings. He doesn't. I then post up my buddy to watch clearings from across the canyon so I can try to get back on his trail and he can see if the bull gets bumped. I grid the area for blood for about an hour when chapter 3 of ethics starts. I think there are at least 3 situations where 90 percent of the general hunting population loses the trail to break out and grid an area that would have been completely hopeless. Ultimately determining they lost the elk but gave it their best. Then the hunter would choose to keep hunting or not. At this point they could have said "lost the trail bad shot" and yall maybe woulda went "shucks that happens" better luck next time and congrats on getting a bull the next day. However, I did do the tracking and tracking skill or effort alone doesn't disqualify me from rightful criticism I am receiving.

Second Shot: I wasn't stalking this bull. I wasn't calling this bull in. I didn't glass this bull up and decide to move in on him. I was walking around looking for blood when I heard the bull. I did maneuver into position hoping it was the same bull. Somehow as we likely all have had happen the bull went from here to there quick and caught be by surprise. I expected him under me to only catch him angled uphill from me. My time physically seeing him was very brief and a very rapidly closing window. I made a decent shot quick. The decision time to take the shot was in seconds. Time I had to decide not take the shot would be measured in the same. The bull wasn't sticking around to be measured and analyzed.

In hindsight. Yeah, probably not the same elk. What are the actual odds? Not great! At the moment with heart-pounding head going a million miles an hour I was damn near certain it was the same bull. It came out very near where I lost the trail and here it was. Lucky me! I saw what I wanted to see. I didn't have time to really reflect on the odds and I saw what I wanted to see in an emotionally charged moment. I can tell you that in my mind if that bull turned and ran before I shot I fully expected to see my arrow in it and to lose it forever. Illogical as that may sound. I get excited when I hunt and I can't say we all think clearly with adrenaline. We do the best we can but shit happens fast a lot of the time and we are just reacting to it. In clear hindsight I would risk it being the same bull and not take the second shot. My statement likely would be the exact opposite were I telling that story though. I would be saying how I should have taken it and likely finding comments echoing that here.

Realities are this. That first bull was likely never going to be found. I think we all know that. I really wanted it and had a terminator like mentality. If it keeps bleeding even the most minuscule amount I will find this bull and kill it. That's what I was feeling. My next steps were already laid out with my hunting partner. I was going to look until around 10:30 am to 11:00 am for blood. If I didn't find any I would head on his last known bearing and grid out likely bedding spots with my partner on overwatch. We were a couple miles from the shot at this point and this bull had barely even stopped the whole time. He was only getting better and not worse. In all likelihood, he was too far for me to realistically get to and grid before we had to get the mules back. But there was maybe a chance. A damn tiny one but maybe just maybe. There is always a chance every time we end a search. Where that line is drawn is the devil in the details. Was the chance of bull number 2 being the same bull equal or greater than the chance of me finding bull number 1 another way? Maybe but both in hindsight were tiny. However, now we have two dead bulls by one hunter and not just one. That is a worthwhile ethical debate for sure.

Ultimately, we had two hunters with tags in the field and two bull elk were killed. No, I am not condoning party hunting. Just stating a fact. So in the future what will I do differently? In no order of importance here it goes.
1. Switch arrow systems. I get the perfect shot argument and it is an important area to focus on. I get on paper my arrows can kill elk. Hell, they did. However, more penetration really would have helped in this case and performance on bull number 2 was unacceptable for what I am after. I am not okay with the deflection off that rib.
2. Take a good look at when I will consider a tag filled vs keep hunting. I was already planning on leaving the bow in camp the next day if I didn't find the bull but having a preset rule can always help when making emotional decisions.
3. Would it have been better for me to be the one spotting and my partner who hadn't shot be the one looking for the blood trail? That way if this situation were to happen its win win. However, he has less experience with blood trails (though he was a great help in tracking) and he wasn't there when I last lost blood so maybe not a good option here but in the future it's worth considering.
4. Is shooting a bull a good idea this late into your planned hunt? We had to scramble pretty hard to get bull number 2 out and the way the tracking was looking for number one it would have taken a full day or more to get him were it ever to happen.
5. What can I do to continue to give back to elk, deer, and wildlife. I took two lives this season. I have an extra debt. What can I do beyond my current involvement in conservation to make sure I am doing my part seems how I took more than my share?

As critical as you all are on me I am just as much so on myself. I've mulled this over a thousand times. This was my first archery bull elk. Should have been a better experience but no I am not hanging up the bow and I will never be the guy who does everything perfect. I have killed dozens of deer and elk but still get pretty damn excited. Now onto my dad's bison hunt and my muzzleloader buck hunt.
 
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5MilesBack

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I shot a bull quartering away one time, the arrow lodged in the offside shoulder. That bull went up hill about 100 yards, then about 50 yards along the same elevation, and then ended up going up hill again (steep grade) a few hundred yards before dying. When he went sideways there were no blood specs at all....none. Then when he started up hill again, I assume his heart started pumping harder and then he bled again. If he hadn't turned up hill, he would have been awfully hard to find.
 

roosiebull

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Also just wanted to mention my anecdotal experience with the boutique setups isn’t limited to the femur shot. Last year my buddy put one through both knuckles of a cow killing her right in her bed. Another buddy had a clean pass through at 30 that stuck into a tree on the other side. He hit a rib.

For me the deflection and lack of pass through on shot 2 is a complete arrow fail. Shot one is harder to say without information but without a doubt shot 2 shows there is massive room for improvement. I’m not going to accept a setup that pings off a rib like that. Even if it meets paper requirements.
Congrats on your bull, bummer about the one you didn’t get. My best suggestion (seriously not being a jerk) is take blame off the arrow and accept it was the shot… change arrows if you feel like it, but that’s not a bad arrow setup, those shafts are not the toughest, but neither are the Valkyrie shafts.

your equipment didn’t bail you out, but I don’t see it as a failure either, just not a great shot. I know the feeling, and we always want something to take the heat off of ourselves, but you are better off owning it and learning
 

Billy Goat

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Congrats on your bull, bummer about the one you didn’t get. My best suggestion (seriously not being a jerk) is take blame off the arrow and accept it was the shot… change arrows if you feel like it, but that’s not a bad arrow setup, those shafts are not the toughest, but neither are the Valkyrie shafts.

your equipment didn’t bail you out, but I don’t see it as a failure either, just not a great shot. I know the feeling, and we always want something to take the heat off of ourselves, but you are better off owning it and learning

This is a good response.

Some arrows will definitely hold up better, but in truth if you hit heavy bone, it generally wasn't a well placed arrow. And that setup should have plenty of energy if you hit in the correct spot and arrow is launched straight.

I have seen over 20 elk killed with beman ICS hunter arrows, likely the same shaft as the Easton Hexx. I'm not saying I'm a fan of that shaft, but they work.
 

Get-n-birdy

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Trailing a 5 point bull you put an arrow in, with all the taxing emotions, self doubt and toll it takes mentally and physically, then a 5 point bull comes out from the direction you are trailing a 5 point bull you put an arrow in, and that 5 point bull that just came out has an arrow in it, that's easy math. Put another arrow in it.

Trailing a 5 point bull and a bull comes out with no arrow in it or is a bull you're 100% sure isn't the same bull and you shoot, totally different scenario.

Tough situation.

Learn from it and take the criticism to heart. Hard lessons learned are easily remembered in my experience.

Sounds like most hunting when things don't go as ideally as we'd all like. We tend to blame the equipment. Being open to the situation, examining and dissecting the devil in the details is the learning curve of life. If everything happened perfectly, and the arrow/broadhead combo had punched through deflating the chest cavity taking out both lungs, there' be no question of it just being a perfect scenario. You put your own ugly out there and respect that. That's not an easy thing to do, but it's an easy thing to criticize without being there.
 

Zac

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I found the VAP's to be very fragile when I was shooting the Valkyrie system as well. You always have to give up something in order to gain something else. That being said the VAP was supposed to be more durable than that the X Impact they were using prior.
 

cured_ham

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I have seen over 20 elk killed with beman ICS hunter arrows, likely the same shaft as the Easton Hexx. I'm not saying I'm a fan of that shaft, but they work.
Totally agree with you on all point but FYI the Hexx is a different shaft. ICS is now the Easton 6.5 AccuCarbon. Hexx is a lighter GPI shaft (and more brittle) marketed to let people increase FOC. I have shot both ICS and 6.5s and they are very durable, Hexx not so much
 

Billy Goat

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Totally agree with you on all point but FYI the Hexx is a different shaft. ICS is now the Easton 6.5 AccuCarbon. Hexx is a lighter GPI shaft (and more brittle) marketed to let people increase FOC. I have shot both ICS and 6.5s and they are very durable, Hexx not so much


I don't keep up with Easton much. I was thinking that's the shaft we were talking about.
 

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