I was in my booth answering questions and selling books after a seminar. There was a good crowd and I was busy, but I noticed a young man standing off to one side of the booth. He was obviously waiting for the crowd to thin out before he approached me. Shy, I figured. Finally, with nobody left at my booth, the young man approached and asked me a couple of questions about rattling for deer. I answered his questions, but I could sense that there was something else on his mind. Finally the young man got up his courage and just blurted it out. “Do you ever get ‘buck fever’,” he asked?
“All the time,” I answered. “And I hope I always do.”
That response opened the floodgates and over the next few minutes the young hunter told me about having missed what should have been an easy opportunity at a big buck during the gun season.
“I’ve waited two years for a shot at a buck like that, and then when I get the chance, I just blow it. I’m still mad at myself,” he finished.
“Son,” I said, “there are 3,000 deer hunters in this auditorium right now and I can guarantee you that at least 2,500 of them have experienced some form of buck fever — it’s the other 500 I feel sorry for.”
Buck Fever: A Jolt Of Adrenalin
The young man looked at me real funny and then asked me why I would say something like that. So I explained to him that what we call “buck fever,” is a very natural, but sudden jolt of adrenalin. It is a wonderful feeling. Drug addicts die in the gutter trying to achieve it. And I have always felt sorry for those deer hunters who never experience that rush during an encounter with a deer, especially a deer, which they are going to attempt to shoot.
“But you shoot a lot of deer,” the young man insisted. “How can you do that if you get “buck fever?”
“My buck fever kicks in AFTER I make the shot,” I told him. “In fact, my right leg gets to jumping so bad, that if I am standing when I make the shot, I have to sit down after the shot or risk flopping right out of the treestand.
“But it was not always like that,” I continued. “When I was new to deer hunting, the fever would grip me before the shot, just like it did you. That is when buck fever causes problems. Just like you, I’ve missed some easy shots when the fever had a grip on me.”
“What can I do about it,” the young man asked?
“Well for starters, you can start shooting some deer,” I said. “For two years you have been holding out for a big buck. But a young hunter needs to hunt for any deer, not start right off hunting for big bucks. Take advantage of the antlerless tags available. Experience is the best cure for buck fever and the only way to gain that experience is to shoot some deer. If you are going to hold off for big bucks only, odds are that you will never have enough opportunities to combat buck fever. Just get out there and hunt any deer. If five years from now you decide that you want to limit yourself to mature bucks, wonderful, but young hunters who start right off holding out for big bucks, just cheat themselves out of a lot of enjoyment, and stand a much greater chance of choking when they do encounter a big buck.
Practice Builds Confidence
“Another thing that I have found very helpful is practice,” I continued. “If you shoot a lot with your gun or your bow, you will have confidence that you can make the shot when the opportunity presents itself. Hunters who are not real sure about their shooting ability are besieged by doubt at the moment of truth and doubt and buck fever are a bad combination.
“A mental trick, which has worked well for me,” I explained, “is to focus my attention on the precise location where I want that bullet or broadhead to impact. In the case of bowhunting, I try to focus on one hair, or a slight crease in the hide. If you focus on the entire animal, or in the case of a buck, the antlers, you are inviting a bad case of buck fever.”
Other people arrived at the booth to buy some books. The young man asked me to sign his cap for him and then he shook my hand and thanked me.
“No,” I said, “it is I who should thank you. You see, it is young hunters like you who give me hope that this passion for whitetail hunting, which burns in my heart, will burn on through hunters like you, long after I am gone.”
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