Buck Fever. Some hunters get it all the time, some only in the presence of a remarkable trophy. Some hunters never experience it at all. I feel sorry for them. That rush of adrenaline, the shakes, the rapid shallow breaths. To me, it is the final surge to the climax of the hunt which ends with the downing of the animal. After the successful shot comes the relief and satisfaction of the accomplishment. Later will come the reflections on the actions that brought you to this point. But it is those moments before the shot that lodge in your memories. Buck Fever is the glue that helps the memories stick, for me anyway.
So, what if you get Buck Fever so bad you can’t shoot straight? What do you do to calm yourself enough to make an accurate shot and clean kill?
There are a few things you can do prior to your hunt to lessen the effects of Buck Fever.
You might want to skip that big ol’ cup of Joe before you leave for the deer stand. Coffee is loaded with caffeine. If you are already a little jumpy because of that Thermos of coffee you downed trying to stay warm and then throw a dose of adrenaline fueled Buck Fever on top of it, you’re likely to have trouble staying on target. Try decaf coffee, non-caffeinated tea or hot chocolate instead.
Get plenty of practice with your rifle. Know how it shoots with your hunting loads at various ranges and positions. Engaging in shooting sports competitions is a great way to build up your skills. Confidence in your gun or bow and in your abilities will help settle your nerves in the field.
Get plenty of sleep before your hunt. Lack of sleep leads to irritability and stress. Deer hunting is supposed to be a relaxing and enjoyable. Being tired and stressed out in the deer stand is in no way helpful to you. You are more apt to make mistakes when tired which will only lead to greater stress and frustration and possibly, severe injury. Not to mention, if you fall asleep on the stand, you just might miss the deer of a lifetime.
If you drink, limit your alcohol intake the night before for all the reasons listed in the previous paragraph. It should go without saying that guns and alcohol don’t mix.
Practice in the off season. Go sit a stand when you can’t hunt and pretend to line up your shots. This also gives you a great chance to scout and observe deer patterns that might help you in the Fall.
Now you are in your deer stand and out steps the biggest buck you’ve ever seen. You can feel your heart skip a beat and then WHAM! ….on comes the rush! Your breathing sounds like a woman in labor and you’re shaking like a bird dog trying to pass a peach pit. What can you do?
Look way. Look at your feet. Look at your gun. Don’t stare at the animal. We are visual creatures. We are predators. Keeping the animal in sight just reinforces your Buck Fever. Look away for a few seconds and take a deep breath. Let it out slow. Then recheck the animal. Repeat as often as necessary.
Visualize your shot. Bring your weapon to bear and line up the shot. If you are still having trouble keeping calm. Pull back, breathe, and try again. Don’t rush the shot.
Have a little faith in yourself. You’ve practiced and prepared. Remind yourself of all that practice at the range and trust in your abilities.
I still get Buck Fever when I hunt. I love it. I think the day I quit getting that rush is the day I quit hunting. I hope I never have to. My golf game sucks!