I am haunted. Not in the way you see on Ghost Hunters or on one of those low budget horror films, but in a very real – nightly kind of way. I’m haunted by the woulda, coulda, shouldas. Specifically the “what ifs” are related to a certain whitetail buck I encountered during my 2011 season. Some of you may remember him – “Six Shooter”.

I imagine many of you can relate. That “one that got away” can often consume our thoughts as we try to figure out what went wrong. I certainly fall into that category. Four times I had “Six Shooter” within 50 yards and I just could never close the deal. What should I have done differently? What did I do wrong? How I could I let him slip through my fingers?

These questions and more rattle in my mind quite often – and unfortunately they are most likely pointless now. As best I can tell, while Six Shooter evaded me numerous times, I believe he met his demise. So now I’m left wondering where I went wrong. More importantly though, I realize I need to focus on what I can do right next time.

While Six Shooter may be gone – I know there will be plenty more bucks in the future that will haunt my dreams as well, and it’s these woulda, coulda, shoulda moments that I realize I need to harness as lessons learned and then apply to future seasons. So if you’re like me and have been visited in your dreams by a buck of days gone by, don’t dwell on the negative. Rather focus on the lessons you learned from these experiences. Make an effort to take at least one learning from a missed opportunity, and it can still be salvaged as a positive experience. After you’ve thought that through, wipe away the frustration and relieve yourself of the guilt and negativity. This is hunting – not shooting. Things go wrong and more often than not, we’re not going to get our buck. Live, learn and let it go.

So next time you’ve got one of those “hauntings”, use it as a time to focus on ways to improve, rather than a time to dwell on bad luck. If you can do that and keep a positive attitude, there’s a good chance your nightmare encounters will be far fewer than your dreams that come true!

Do you have a buck that’s been haunting you? Tell us about it in the comments!